United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warns that “we are digging our own graves” as he calls on countries to act to protect the planet from global warming.

More than 120 heads of state and government are gathering in Glasgow for a two-day summit at the start of the UN's COP26 conference.
More than 120 heads of state and government are gathering in Glasgow for a two-day summit at the start of the UN's COP26 conference. (AFP)

The COP26 climate summit must act to "save humanity" and protect the planet, UN chief Antonio Guterres has said, warning that currently "we are digging our own graves".

Top on his list of summit priorities, the United Nations secretary general said on Monday, countries must keep the Paris deal goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius alive.

Calling for decarbonisation of global economies and the phase out of coal, he said world leaders need "maximum ambition" to make the summit a success.

"It's time to say: enough," Guterres told world leaders gathered in the Scottish city of Glasgow for the conference.

"Enough of brutalising biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves."

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about COP26 

High tensions

More than 120 heads of state and government are gathering in Glasgow for a two-day summit at the start of the UN's COP26 conference, which organisers say is crucial for charting humanity's path away from catastrophic global warming.

Tensions are running high at the summit over funding shortfalls and unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines that prevented some delegates from attending.

Guterres called on rich nations to meet their promises of providing $100 billion a year in climate funding for poorer nations.

He also urged global leaders to do more to protect vulnerable communities, adding that nearly four billion people suffered climate-related disasters over the last decade.

"That devastation will only grow," he added.

READ MORE: What’s at stake for the Global South: COP26 jargon explained

1.5 degrees Celsius cap

Thousands of delegates queued around the block to get into the summit on Monday, negotiating airport-style security in the locked-down city centre.

US President Joe Biden, India's Narendra Modi and Germany's Angela Merkel were all set to deliver speeches expected to reiterate the need for urgency.

COP26 is being billed as vital for the continued viability of the Paris Agreement, which countries signed in 2015 by promising to limit global temperature rises to "well below" two degrees Celsius, and to work for a safer 1.5C cap.

With a little over 1C of warming since the Industrial Revolution, Earth is being battered by ever more extreme heatwaves, flooding and tropical storms supercharged by rising seas.

Pressure is on governments to redouble their emissions-cutting commitments to bring them in line with the Paris goals, and to stump up long-promised cash to help developing nations green their grids and protect themselves against future disasters.

READ MORE: Rich countries claim massively reduced emissions. Should we believe them?

Source: TRTWorld and agencies