Humanity is on a “highway to climate hell”, the UN secretary-general has warned, saying the fight for a livable planet will be won or lost in this decade.
António Guterres told world leaders at the opening of the UN Cop27 climate summit in Egypt Monday: “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 said the world faced a stark choice over the next fortnight of talks: either developed and developing countries work together to strike a “historic pact” that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and would put the world on a low-carbon path – or fail, which would lead to climate collapse and catastrophe.
“We can sign a climate solidarity pact, or a collective suicide pact,” he added.
He said the world has the tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in clean energy and low carbon technologies.
“A window of opportunity remains open, but only a narrow ray of light remains,” he said. “The global fight against climate change will be won or lost in this crucial decade – on our watch. One thing is certain: those who give up are sure to lose.
Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the Egyptian President, said in his opening speech at the summit that poor and vulnerable people around the world were already feeling the effects of extreme weather conditions: “The intensity and frequency of climatic disasters have never been higher, in all corners of the world, bringing wave after wave of suffering to billions of people. Isn’t it high time today to put an end to this suffering?
More than 100 heads of state and government from around the world gathered in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday for two days of closed-door meetings and public events to discuss the climate crisis.
Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister, will be present for one day, alongside Olaf Scholz from Germany, Emanuel Macron from France and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. Joe Biden, the US President, will come later in the week, after the US midterm elections.
Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados, will present a new initiative on climate finance for the developing world, and African leaders, including William Ruto of Kenya, Macky Sall of Senegal and George Weah, the President of Liberia, are at the talks. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, is also at the rendezvous.
From Wednesday, world leaders will hand over to officials and ministers for the continuation of the fortnight of talks. However, the summit promises to be busy and difficult, with little chance of breakthrough.
The countries meet in the shadow of war in Ukraine, a global energy and cost of living crisis and rising global tensions. Rich and poor countries are at loggerheads as major economies have failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough, and poorer countries bearing the brunt of the climate crisis are receiving little of the financial assistance that they need and that has been promised.
The Cop27 the conference got off to a slow start, with negotiators spending more than 40 hours over the weekend arguing over what would be on the agenda. Ultimately, it was agreed that the contentious issue of loss and damage – which refers to the worst impacts of the climate crisis, which are too severe for countries to adapt to – would be discussed.
Poor countries that suffer loss and damage want a financial mechanism that gives them access to finance when disasters such as hurricanes, floods and droughts strike, destroying their infrastructure and tearing their social fabric apart.
These talks are unlikely to lead to a final settlement of loss and damage, but countries are hoping for progress on ways to raise and disburse funds.
At most UN climate summits, activists and protesters play a key role. However, Egypt suppresses dissent and its prisons are full of political prisoners. Sisi’s government promised the voices of climate activists would be heard, but their activities have been curtailed, with protesters kept at a separate site and required to register in advance for permission even for protests. minor manifestations.