UN chief says world is ‘on a highway to climate hell’ with no urgent action to cut emissions

World leaders and diplomats presented the fight against global warming as a struggle for human survival during the opening speeches at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt on Monday, with the head of the United Nations declaring that no progress has been made so far. was booked as the world a “highway to hell.”

The grim reports, echoed by the leaders of African, European and Middle Eastern countries alike, set an urgent tone as governments began two weeks of talks in the seaside town of Sharm el-Sheikh to figure out how to avoid the worst of climate change.

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“Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told delegates, urging them to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels and accelerate funding to poorer countries struggling under the climate impacts that have already taken place.

Despite decades of climate talks to date, countries have failed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and their commitments to do so in the future are insufficient to prevent the climate from warming to levels that scientists say will be catastrophic. to be.

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Developing countries have successfully added compensation for past climate damage to COP27 negotiations, following news that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is now highly unlikely.

Land war in Europe, deteriorating diplomatic ties between the United States and China’s biggest emitters, rampant inflation and tight energy supplies threaten to further distract countries from combating climate change, Guterres said, and threaten to derail the clean energy transition.

“Greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow. Global temperatures continue to rise. And our planet is rapidly approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible,” he said. “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

In its annual stand of the climate report, the United Nations’ weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization, said sea level rise in the past decade has been double what it was in the 1990s, and has risen at a faster rate than that since January 2020. . Since the beginning of the decade, the seas have been rising at a rate of five millimeters per year, compared to 2.1 millimeters in the 1990s.

‘We have a credibility problem’

Former US Vice President Al Gore had criticized world leaders on Monday, criticizing developed countries’ pursuit of gas supplies in Africa.

“We all have a credibility problem: we talk and we start to act, but we don’t do enough,” Gore said during a speech at the summit’s opening ceremony. “We need to see the so-called ‘dash for gas’ for what it really is: a jump over a bridge to nowhere, leaving the countries of the world facing climate chaos and billions in stranded assets, especially here in Africa.

“We need to move beyond the era of fossil fuel colonialism.”

UN chief says world is 'on a highway to climate hell' with no urgent action to cut emissions
Former US Vice President Al Gore speaks Monday at the COP27 UN climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (Nariman El-Mofty/The Associated Press)

UN chief says world is 'on a highway to climate hell' with no urgent action to cut emissions
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets with French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of a bilateral meeting at COP27 on Monday. (Stefan Rousseau/Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron said that while the world was distracted by a confluence of global crises, it was important not to sacrifice national commitments to fight climate change.

“We will not sacrifice our commitments to the climate because of Russia’s energy threat,” Macron said, “so all countries must honor all their commitments.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the war was a reason to accelerate efforts to wean the world from fossil fuels.

“Climate security goes hand in hand with energy security,” he said. “Putin’s horrific war in Ukraine and rising energy prices around the world are not a reason to make climate change slow. They are a reason to act faster.”

US President Joe Biden is expected to arrive in Sharm el-Sheikh on Friday after his country’s midterm elections. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is sitting this one out, however; Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault will lead the Canadian delegation instead.

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UAE continues to pump oil and gas

While leaders mostly agreed on the risks of global warming, their speeches revealed huge differences, including whether fossil fuels can play a role in a climate-friendly future, and who should pay for climate damage that has already occurred.

Immediately after Guterres’ speech, United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan took the stage and said his country, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, would continue to produce fossil fuels for as long as necessary. is.

“The UAE is considered a responsible supplier of energy and will continue to play this role for as long as the world needs oil and gas,” he said.

The UAE will host the UN conference next year, which will seek to finalize the agreements reached in Britain last year and during this year’s Egyptian talks.

UN chief says world is 'on a highway to climate hell' with no urgent action to cut emissions
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, center right, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, center left, prepare with other leaders for a group photo at COP27 on Monday. (Nariman El-Mofty/The Associated Press)

Many countries with rich oil, gas and coal reserves have criticized the move to a rapid transition from fossil fuels, arguing that this is economically reckless and unfair to poorer and less developed countries seeking economic growth.

“We are for a green transition that is just and equitable, rather than decisions that jeopardize our development,” said Macky Sall, President of Senegal and President of the African Union.

Poorer countries that bear little responsibility for historic carbon emissions have also claimed that rich countries should compensate them for losses from climate-related disasters, including floods, storms and wildfires.

The signatories to the 2015 Paris climate agreement pledged to achieve a long-term goal of preventing global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Scientists have established this as the ceiling to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Guterres said that target will only be sustained if the world can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. He asked countries to join with members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to achieve that goal by 2030.

The head of the International Monetary Fund told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference that climate goals depend on achieving a global carbon price of at least $75 US per tonne by the end of the decade, and that the pace of change in real economy was still “way too slow”.

The World Trade Organization, meanwhile, said in a report published Monday that it must address trade barriers for low-carbon industries to address the role of global trade in driving climate change.

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