Countries must re-prioritise climate change or the world faces catastrophe, the UN chief has told BBC News.
Secretary General António Guterres was speaking in New York ahead of a major climate conference in Egypt.
“There has been a tendency to put climate change on the back burner,” he said. “If we are not able to reverse the present trend, we will be doomed.”
The conference, known as COP27, will bring together countries to discuss tackling climate change.
Mr Guterres said that current global problems such as inflation, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the high prices of energy and food were distracting governments.
“Bring back climate change to the centre of the international debate,” he urged.
The UN chief insisted that leaders should not abandon key goals, including keeping global temperature rise to 1.5C, in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
He said he would like to see both King Charles III and new UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attending COP27, saying King Charles has been a “constant voice” calling attention to the problem of climate change.
He also called on the US and China to work together at the conference, saying the world relies on their leadership. In August, China said it was ending co-operation with the US on climate change after a leading US politician visited Taiwan.
“This is the defining issue of our time, nobody has the right to sacrifice international action on climate change for any reason,” he warned.
“We need to tell the truth. The truth is that the impact of climate change on a number of countries in the world, especially hotspots, is already devastating,” he added.
Governments must deliver the $100billion of finance promised to developing countries facing the harshest impacts of climate change, Mr Guterres insists.