Calling for a Climate Solidaity Pact, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres sought the coming together of the world’s richest and poorest countries to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels. In a blistering address at the 27th annual Conference of the 198 Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as COP27, the UN chief warned that the planet is heading towards irreversible “climate chaos” and sought this pact.
“It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact – or a Collective Suicide Pact,” he said, adding, “Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish”. He later tweeted, “I have just warned global leaders at #COP27: We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator. Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We need urgent #ClimateAction”.
Guterres told countries gathered at the start of the COP27 summit in Egypt that they face a stark choice: work together now to cut emissions or condemn future generations to climate catastrophe. The secretary-general said the 1.5O goal “is in intensive care” and “in high danger,” but it is still possible to meet it.
Cop27 began in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town yesterday when Britain handed over the Cop presidency to Egypt. World leaders—including French President Emmanuel Macron, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak—are scheduled address the delegates at the summit while setting out their priorities for the summit.
Guterres, who is known for being direct in his approach, said “Climate change is on a different timeline, and a different scale”. “It is the defining issue of our age… It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner.”
He told delegates that the war in Ukraine and other conflicts had caused so much bloodshed and violence and had dramatic impacts across the world but that the world could not accept that our attention is not focused on climate change. Rich countries, especially the United States, have emitted far more than their share of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, as per official data.
Wanting a transition from fossil fuels and he sought the speeding up of delivery of the funding needed to ensure poorer countries can reduce emissions and cope with the unavoidable impacts of warming that has already occurred. “The two largest economies – the United States and China —have a particular responsibility to join efforts to make this pact a reality,” he said.
Guterres urged countries to agree to phase out the use of coal, one of the most carbon-intense fuels, by 2040 globally, with members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development hitting that mark by 2030. Despite decades of climate talks—the Egypt COP is the 27th Conference of the Parties—progress has been insufficient to save the planet from excessive warming as countries are too slow or reluctant to act, he noted.
“Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible,” he said, while warning, “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
Signatories to the 2015 Paris climate agreement pledged to achieve a long-term goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5OC above pre-industrial levels. Guterres said that to keep any hope alive of meeting that goal means achieving global net zero emissions by 2050.
As for the contentious issue of loss and damage, he said it could not be swept under the rug. Vulnerable countries have called for a funding mechanism for nations that have suffered permanent losses and irreparable damage from the climate crisis.
“It is a moral imperative,” he said. “It is a fundamental question of international solidarity and climate justice.” The negotiators, for the first time in the history of the UN climate summit that announced loss and damage would be on the agenda.