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UN Pins Hope on Young People for Future of Planet

FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 17, 2019.

In his New Year's message, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented a gloomy assessment of the past year and pinned his hopes for a better future in the year to come upon the world’s young people.

Guterres said he looks forward to 2020 and the decade to come with a mix of dread and hope. While welcoming in the New Year, he suggested the uncertainty and insecurity of what lies ahead is cause for reflection and concern.

He said he considered persistent inequality and rising hatred, a warring world and a warming planet as ever present threats to stability and peace. He said climate change is not only a long-term problem but a clear and present danger. He said the world cannot afford to see the present generation fiddling around while the planet burns.

“But there is also hope. This year, my New Year’s message is to the greatest source of that hope: the world’s young people. From climate action to gender equality to social justice and human rights, your generation is on the frontlines and in the headlines. I am inspired by your passion and determination. You are rightly demanding a role in shaping the future and I am with you. The United Nations stands with you — and belongs to you,” Guterres said.

In September, the United Nations presented its top environmental award to a global student movement known as Fridays for Future. The movement, inspired by Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, is demanding action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are leading to climate change.

Guterres, who views global warming as a grave threat to life on Earth, champions the young activists who are agitating to forestall such a catastrophic outcome. He said the world needs young people to keep speaking out and to keep thinking big. He urged young people to keep pushing boundaries, to keep up the pressure.

He ended with “I wish you peace and happiness in 2020. Thank you.”