(Adds dropped letters in final paragraph)
By Megan Rowling
NEW YORK, Dec 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tackling
climate change is the "biggest economic opportunity" in the
history of the United States, no matter who holds political
office, said Hollywood star and environmental activist Leonardo
"There are a few, very prominent people that still deny the
overwhelming conclusions of the world's scientists that climate
change is largely human-caused and needs immediate urgent
attention," he told a U.N. awards ceremony on Friday evening.
But "the truth" about climate change has spread like
"wildfire", he added.
DiCaprio's comments, as he received a prize for his work as
a global citizen, did not refer to U.S. President-elect Donald
Trump by name but were a thinly-veiled reference to his views
and climate-sceptic cabinet members with oil industry ties.
Earlier this month, 42-year-old DiCaprio and the head of his
foundation met with Trump and his team, reportedly arguing that
support for renewable energy could create millions of jobs.
Trump has suggested climate change is a hoax and raised the
possibility of withdrawing U.S. support for a new global accord
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which most scientists believe
are driving up sea-levels and more droughts and violent storms.
"In less than 100 years of our pollution-based prosperity,
we humans have put our entire existence in jeopardy," warned
DiCaprio, who released his own documentary "Before the Flood" on
the impacts of global warming two months ago.
DiCaprio, who won an Oscar this year for playing a fur
trapper battling nature's elements in "The Revenant", said his
documentary is the most viewed "in history ... (showing) just
how much the world cares about the issue of climate change".
But he said the battle to address it is far from over,
calling on the world to implement the Paris Agreement on climate
change, which came into effect in November, and to "go further".
People everywhere are acting to curb the damage to humans,
nature and wildlife from a warming planet, DiCaprio said - from
putting a price on carbon emissions, to buying cleaner cars,
eating less meat, and businesses vowing to be carbon-neutral.
"To those who may be discouraged by nay-sayers, let me
remind you, the environmental awakening is all over the world
and the progress we have made so far ... has always been because
of people, not governments," DiCaprio told the United Nations
Correspondents Association event in downtown New York.
DiCaprio, who has worked closely with outgoing U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on climate action, congratulated
the U.N. chief for "elevating the significance of climate change
to one of fundamental global sustainability and peace".
Without Ban Ki-moon's persistence, the world would never
have made so much progress on climate change, culminating in the
Paris Agreement sealed in December 2015, DiCaprio said.
Earlier on Friday, Ban Ki-moon said acting on climate change
meant "jobs, growth, cleaner air and better health", adding that
leaders of top companies, governors and mayors understand this.
The Paris Agreement is "a precious achievement that we must
support and nurture", he told his final press conference at the
United Nations. "There is no turning back," he added.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; Editing by Belinda
Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate
change. Visit news.trust.org)