United Nations Chief, Antonio Guterres has warned that the world is on the verge of losing the race against climate change.

Guterres was speaking at the elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he demanded bolder action from governments to arrest catastrophic warming.

AFP quoted Guterres as telling government leaders: "Climate change is the defining issue of our time. We are losing the race".

"It is absolutely central to reverse this trend."

Following a UN summit last month in Poland, which was designed to advance the Paris climate accord, Guterres said he was "not hopeful" that nations would find the necessary resolve.

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But he stressed: "We need political will and we need governments who understand that this is the most important priority of our times."

The Paris accord has been shaken by the withdrawal of the United States under President Donald Trump, and by threats to do the same by Brazil's new hard-right leader, Jair Bolsonaro.

The UN secretary-general said the commitments made in Paris were already "not enough".

"If what we agreed in Paris would be materialised, the temperature would rise more than 3.0 degrees (Celsius)," he said on a Facebook Live broadcast from Davos.

"We need countries to make stronger commitments," Guterres said, calling for more measures to mitigate against climate change and adapt to it, along with financial aid for poorer countries.

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