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U.N. Chief Warns of ‘Climate Hell’ at COP27 Climate Summit

Antonio Guterres, UN COP27 Climate Summit
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has warned at the UN COP27 Climate Summit in Egypt of ”climate hell.” Credit: COP27/Twitter

The world is on a ”highway to climate hell”, António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, warned at the COP27 Climate Summit in Egypt on Monday, stressing that the fight for a livable planet will be either won or lost in this decade.

More than one hundred and twenty government leaders are meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt for the UN COP27 Climate Summit. They are facing critical calls to deepen emissions cuts and financially support the developing countries, which are devastated by the effects of climate change.

António Guterres told world leaders at the opening of the summit: “We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing … And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

He warned that the world faced a critical choice over the next two weeks of climate talks: either developed and developing countries work together to make a “historic pact” that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions – or the world faces failure, which would bring a climate catastrophe.

”We can sign a climate solidarity pact, or a collective suicide pact,” he added.

He also stressed in his speech that the world has the tools it needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in clean energy and low-carbon technology.

”A window of opportunity remains open, but only a narrow shaft of light remains,” he said. ”The global climate fight will be won or lost in this crucial decade – on our watch. One thing is certain: those that give up are sure to lose.”

China and the U.S. must lead the way

The UN Secretary-General said the target should be to provide renewable and affordable energy for all. He called the world’s top polluters China and the United States to lead the way. He also said it was a “moral imperative” for richer polluters to help vulnerable countries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose country is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, is not attending the summit.

U.S. President Joe Biden, whose country ranks second on the top polluters’ list, will join COP27 later this week after U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged the U.S., China and other non-European rich nations to ”step up” their efforts to cut emissions and provide financial aid to other countries.

”Europeans are paying,” Macron told climate campaigners from France and African countries on the sidelines of COP27. ”We are the only ones paying.”

Discussions to focus on loss and damage

The COP27 summit got off to a slow start. Negotiators spent more than forty hours over the weekend disagreeing on what would be on the agenda.

In the end, it was agreed on Sunday that discussions would focus on the issue of loss and damage, which refers to the worst impacts of the climate crisis too severe for countries to adapt.

Guterres said COP27 must agree on a ”clear, time-bound roadmap” for loss and damage that delivers ”effective institutional arrangements for financing.”

”Getting concrete results on loss and damage is a litmus test of the commitment of governments to the success of COP27,” he said.

The world’s wealthiest nations will also be expected to set a timetable for the delivery of $100 billion per year to help developing countries green their economies. This will further enable the building of resilience against future climate change disasters.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the promise is already two years past due and remains $17 billion short.

Nations worldwide facing increased natural disasters

Nations worldwide are coping with intense natural disasters that have taken the lives of thousands of people this year alone and cost tens of billions of dollars.

This from the catastrophic floods in Nigeria and Pakistan to the severe droughts in Kenya, Somalia and the United States, as well as the unprecedented heatwaves across the United Kingdom.

Climate change
Since June 2022, floods have devastated two of Pakistan’s poorest regions. Millions of people remain living in flooded areas. Credit: Paloma Escudero/Twitter

Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, said in his opening address that poor and vulnerable people around the world were already experiencing the effects of extreme weather:

”The intensity and frequency of climate disasters have never been higher, in all four corners of the world, bringing wave after wave of suffering for billions of people. Is it not high time today to put an end to this suffering?”

Invasion of Ukraine could halt policies

A number of other crises, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to global inflation and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has raised concerns that climate change policies will be put on hold.

The big economies of the world have failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough, and the poorer countries facing the consequences of the climate crisis are receiving little of the financial assistance they need. Nevertheless, Guterres told leaders climate change could not be put on the ”back burner.”

However, despite decades of climate talks with the Egypt COP being the 27th Conference of the Parties, progress has not been enough to save the planet from rising temperatures. According to Guterres, this is because countries have been too slow or reluctant to act.

Mitsotakis to attend summit

The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, will also attend the COP27 Climate Summit this week. He embarked for Egypt on Monday.

The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, announced this week he will also be joining to open the climate change talks, along U.S. President Biden,

Greta Thunberg, however, is among the list of those who will not attend. She described the global summit as a forum for “greenwashing.”

COP27 Climate Change
Over 120 world leaders will attend COP27 Climate Summit in Egypt. Credit: Loss and Damage Collaboration / Twitter

The German government announced last month that Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz will attend,

Last month, Russian Presidential Adviser on Climate Affairs Edelgeriev confirmed that Putin would not participate in the conference. He therefore intends to represent his country instead.

Security at the summit will be tight, given the topic of discussion and the number of groups and individuals against the talks. The Human Rights Watch stated taught authorities have already arrested numerous people, and restricted the right to demonstrate as well.

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