The head of the UN warns that we will be doomed without a historic climate pact | Cop27
Rich countries must sign a “historic pact” with the poor on climate or “we will be doomed,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned, as a widening gap between the developed and developing world has put climate talks on the brink .
The stark warning comes as world leaders begin to rally for UN Cop27 climate summitwhich opens on Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, but which even the hosts admit it will be the most difficult in at least a decade.
Cop27 is taking place amid the worst geopolitical tensions in years, over the war in Ukraine, the growing global cost-of-living crisis and deepening economic gloom.
But the gulf must be bridged if humanity is to have any hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate collapse, Guterres said.
“There is no way to avoid a catastrophic situation if the two [the developed and developing world] they are unable to establish a historic pact,” he told the Guardian in an interview ahead of the summit. “Because at the current level we are doomed.”
Developed countries have failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough and have failed to provide the money poor nations need to cope with the resulting extreme weather. The apparent climate disparity between the rich world, which is responsible for most emissions, and the poor, which bear the brunt of the impact, is now the biggest issue at the talks, according to Guterres.
“Current policies [on the climate] it will be absolutely catastrophic,” he said. “The truth is that we will not be able to change this situation unless a pact is established between developed countries and emerging economies.”
But he insisted he would refuse to tone down his apocalyptic language because the rapidly accelerating climate emergency was so dire.
“For the simple reason that we are approaching tipping points, and tipping points will make [climate breakdown] irreversible,” he said. “That damage would not allow us to recover and contain the rise in temperature. And as we approach those tipping points, we need to increase the urgency, we need to increase the ambition, and we need to rebuild trust, mainly trust between the North and the South.”
Milestones are thresholds within the climate system that lead to cascading shocks when triggered. They include melting permafrost, which releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas fueling further warming, and the tipping point in the drying Amazon rainforest from absorber to carbon sink, which scientists fear is fast approaching.
“We are approaching tipping points that will create irreversible consequences, some of which are hard to even imagine,” he warned.
He also called for USA and China to rebuild their damaged relationship, which fell to new lows this year, but which Guterres said was “crucial” for climate action. “It needs to be re-established because without the joint work of the two countries it will be absolutely impossible to reverse the current trends,” he said.
Guterres, together with the Egyptian government, will convene world leaders at the start of the Cop27 summit to try to salvage an unpromising series of climate talks. This year, geopolitical relations have been torn apart by the war in Ukraine, along with rising fossil fuel prices and rising food prices that have created a cost-of-living crisis around the world, and the failure of governments – including the UK – to follow promises made last year at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.
The pact Guterres has in mind would require major economies to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide poor countries with financial aid. This was necessary to restore “trust”, he said.
Lack of confidence in climate negotiations means lack of money. Rich countries were supposed to provide at least $100 billion a year until 2020 to help poor countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis.
But the target was repeatedly missedand will be left out this year, while poor countries are already suffering climate catastrophe, including record floods in Pakistan and record drought in Africa.
A “historic pact” between rich and poor would include clear new pledges on finance and that rich countries and emerging economies would strengthen their emission reduction targets, Guterres said.
It would also require progress on the vexed issue of “loss and damage”, which is likely to be a focal point at Cop27. Loss and damage refers to the most devastating impacts of extreme weather conditions to which it is impossible to adapt, and poor countries want a financing mechanism that would enable the rescue and rehabilitation of countries whose physical and social infrastructure has been destroyed by climate change. a disaster.
“The issue of loss and damage has been delayed and delayed and delayed,” Guterres said. “We need to ensure that there is accountability and that there is effective support for the countries that are suffering the most dramatic levels of loss and damage.”
Rich countries managed to collect 16 billion dollars to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, he pointed out. But for poor countries, there was not even debt relief to help them with the complex effects of Covid, the rising cost of living, climate and a strong dollar, which made their repayments more expensive.
“There is a sense of frustration [in the developing world] it’s real and it deserves a response,” he said. In recent months, he has called for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies that have been enjoying themselves, and he will repeat the call in Sharm el-Sheikh.
At last year’s Glasgow summit, countries agreed to focus on limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, but recent UN reports have shown that current policies would raise temperatures by about 2.5C.
Guterres said there was little chance of him staying on target. “We still have a chance, but we’re losing it fast,” he said. “I’d say 1.5C is in intensive care, and the machines are shaking. So either we act immediately and in a very strong way, or it is lost and probably lost forever.”
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