UN chief Antonio Guterres warned world leaders at a climate summit in Egypt yesterday that humanity faces a stark choice between working together or “collective suicide” in the battle against global warming.
Nearly 100 heads of state and government are meeting for two days in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, facing calls to deepen emissions cuts and financially back developing countries already devastated by the effects of rising temperatures.
“Humanity has a choice: co-operate or perish,” Guterres told the UN COP27 summit. “It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact or a Collective Suicide Pact,” Guterres said, urging the world to ramp up the transition to renewable energy and for richer polluting nations to come to the aid of poorer countries least responsible for heat-trapping emissions.
Nations worldwide are coping with increasingly intense natural disasters that have taken thousands of lives this year alone and cost billions of dollars — from devastating floods in Nigeria and Pakistan to droughts in the US and Africa and unprecedented heatwaves across three continents.
“We have seen one catastrophe after another,” said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. “As soon as we tackle one catastrophe, another one arises — wave after wave of suffering and loss. Is it not high time to put an end to all this suffering?”
But a multitude of other crises, from Russia’s war in Ukraine to soaring inflation and the lingering effects of the Covid pandemic, has raised concerns that climate change will drop down the priority list of governments.
Guterres, however, told world leaders climate change could not be put on the “back burner”.
He called for a “historic” deal between rich emitters and emerging economies that would see countries double down on emissions reductions, holding the rise in temperatures to the more ambitions Paris Agreement target of 1.5C above the pre-industrial era.
Current trends would see carbon pollution increase 10% by the end of the decade and put the world on a path to heat up to 2.8C.
“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator,” Guterres said.
The UN secretary general said the target should be to provide renewable and affordable energy for all, calling on the US and China in particular to lead the way. He also said it was a “moral imperative” for richer polluters to help vulnerable countries.
Earlier yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron urged the US, 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 French and African climate campaigners on the sidelines of COP27.”We are the only ones paying.”
Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whose country is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, is not attending the summit.
US President Joe Biden, whose country ranks second on the top-polluters list, will join COP27 later this week after midterm elections today that could put Republicans hostile to international action on climate change in charge of Congress.
Antonio Guterres (file picture)