The world is on the “highway to climate hell”, warned the UN chief at the Cop27 | summit Cop27

The world is on the “highway to climate hell”, warned the UN chief at the Cop27 | summit Cop27

Humanity is on the “highway to climate hell”, the UN secretary-general has warned, saying the battle for a habitable planet will be won or lost this decade.

António Guterres told world leaders at the opening of the Cop27 UN climate summit Egypt on 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’re on the highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

He said the world faced a stark choice in the next fortnight of talks: either developed and developing countries work together to strike a “historic pact” to cut greenhouse gas emissions and put the world on a low-carbon path – or failure, which would bring climate breakdown and catastrophe.

“We can sign a climate solidarity pact or a collective suicide pact,” he added.

He said the world has the tools it needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in clean energy and low-carbon technology.

“The window of opportunity remains open, but only a narrow light remains,” he said. “The global climate battle will be won or lost in this crucial decade – on our watch. One thing is certain: those who give up will surely lose.”

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, said in his opening address at the summit that poor and vulnerable people around the world are already experiencing the effects of extreme weather: “The intensity and frequency of climate disasters have never been greater, in all four corners of the world, bringing a wave after a wave of suffering for billions of people. Isn’t it high time to put an end to this suffering?”

More than 100 heads of state and government from around the world gathered in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday for two days of closed-door meetings and public events to discuss the climate crisis.

Rishi Sunak, British Prime Minister, will attend for one day, along with Olaf Scholz from Germany, Emmanuel Macron from France and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. Joe Biden, the US president, will come later this 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 the talks are attended by African leaders, including William Ruto of Kenya, Macky Sall of Senegal and George Weah, the President of Liberia. Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman is also at the meeting.

From Wednesday, world leaders will hand over the rest of the two-week talks to officials and ministers. However, the summit promises to be strenuous and difficult, with little prospect of a breakthrough.

The countries are meeting in the shadow of the war in Ukraine, the global energy and cost of living crisis and rising global tensions. Rich and poor countries are at loggerheads because major economies have failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions fast enough, and poorer countries bearing the brunt of the climate crisis are receiving little of the financial aid they need and have been promised.

The Cop27 the conference got off to a slow start, with negotiators spending more than 40 hours over the weekend wrangling over what would be on the agenda. In the end, it was agreed to discuss the problematic issue of losses and damages – which refers to the worst consequences of the climate crisis, which are too difficult for countries to adapt to.

Poor countries suffering loss and damage want a financial mechanism that will give them access to financing when disasters such as hurricanes, floods and droughts strike, destroying their infrastructure and ripping apart their social fabric.

These talks are unlikely to provide a final solution to the loss and damage, but countries are hoping for progress on how to collect and disburse funding.

At most UN climate summits, activists and protesters play a key role. However, Egypt cracks down on dissent and its prisons are full of political prisoners. Sisi’s government has promised that the voices of climate activists will be heard, but their activities have been limited, and protesters have been kept in a special area and had to register in advance to get permission for even smaller demonstrations.

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