U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged the Trump administration not to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, saying the deal would have long-term benefits for the U.S. economy and even its security.
Speaking to an audience of students, civil society and business leaders at New York University, Guterres delivered his subtle pitch to the U.S. administration, which has said a decision about whether to stay in the 2015 agreement will come soon.
"If one country decides not to be present — I'm talking about countries with an important global reach, like it is the case with United States or China — if one country decides to leave a void, I can guarantee someone else will occupy it," Guterres said in response to a student's question about dealing with the Trump administration's skepticism about climate change.
Guterres said he was engaging with the administration and Congress to try to convince them that it is in the United States' interest to stay in the deal, which seeks to keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius.
"There are many good arguments that in my opinion should lead an administration that has a concern to put its own interests first, and the interests of its people and its country first, to invest in what is necessary to preserve the global reach of its economy and to preserve the security of its citizens," Guterres said, alluding to Trump's "America First" policy.
"And so my argument today is that it is absolutely essential that the world implements the Paris Agreement, and that we fulfill that duty with increased ambition," Guterres said during his prepared address.
He said the science was "beyond doubt" and that the effects of global warming already were being felt around the world.
Nearly every country has signed on to the Paris Agreement, and a majority have ratified it. The accord entered into force last November. In addition to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, it seeks to mitigate the effects already felt by global warming.
"The sustainability train has left the station," Guterres said. "Get on board or get left behind. Those who fail to bet on the green economy will be living in a grey future."
He praised China for its "massive shift to other forms of energy," saying the country had made a "very strong bet recently in greening its economy."
The U.N. chief noted that renewable forms of energy were growing in use and decreasing in cost.
"Last year, solar power grew 50 percent, with China and the United States in the lead," he said. "Around the world, over half of the new power generation capacity now comes from renewables. In Europe, the figure is more than 90 percent."
He said 80 percent of the world's energy still comes from fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal — and that would not change overnight. But it is important, he said, to engage the energy industry and governments to use those energy sources as moderately as possible while making the transition to renewable, clean ones.
"I think they are working towards having an answer for that, and so we'll wait and see what that answer is," Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters earlier Tuesday when asked about the administration's plans.