By EDITH M. LEDERER and SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that the world is in a “life and death struggle” for survival as “climate chaos gallops forward” and blamed the 20 countries richest in the world for not doing enough to prevent the planet from overheating.
The UN chief said emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming are at an all-time high and rising, and it’s time for “a quantum-level compromise” among rich developed countries that emit the most of heat-trapping gases and emerging economies that often feel their worst effects.
Guterres was speaking as government representatives opened a meeting in Congo’s capital Kinshasa to prepare for the main UN-led climate conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in November. It is a time of immense climate impacts around the world, from floods that submerged a third of Pakistan and Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years to hurricanes and typhoons that have hit the Philippines, Cuba and the US state of Florida.
In recent weeks, Guterres has stepped up his push for the climate version of asking polluters to pay for what they’ve done, often called “loss and damage,” saying on Monday that people need action now.
Political cartoons about world leaders
“If loss and damage is not acted upon, there will be further loss of confidence and more climate damage. This is a moral imperative that cannot be ignored.”
Guterres said the COP27 meeting in Egypt “must be the venue for action on loss and damage.”
In unusually critical language, he said commitments from the so-called G20 group of the world’s top 20 economies “come too little too late.”
Guterres warned that current promises and policies “are closing the door on our chances of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, let alone reaching the 1.5 degree goal.”
“We are in a life and death struggle for our own safety today and our survival tomorrow,” he said.
“COP27 is the place for all countries, led by the G20, to show that they are in this fight and together,” said Guterres. “And the best way to photograph it is by showing up at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.”
Rich countries, especially the United States, have emitted far more than their fair share of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and natural gas, data show. Poor nations like Pakistan and Cuba have been hurt far more than their share of global carbon emissions.
For years there has been talk of loss and damage, but richer nations have often refused to negotiate details of payment for past climate disasters, such as Pakistan’s floods this summer.
The issue is critical for the world’s developing countries, and Guterres reminds rich nations “that you can’t try to sweep it under the rug… The G20 nations have to take responsibility for the great need their governments have caused. shares,” said Power’s Mohamed Adow. Shift Africa, which tries to mobilize climate action in Africa.
Princeton University climate science and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer said in an email that if high-income countries and other big emitters like China want the UN climate change convention to remain useful, “They will have to deal seriously with loss and damage.”
Otherwise, he said, the negotiations “are headed for an endless stalemate.”
Poor, low-emitting countries may simply refuse to discuss anything else until the problem is resolved, Oppenheimer said. Richer countries can find a way to fix the problem without paying for direct damage by paying poorer nations more to adapt and lessen future disasters, but even then developed nations will have to pay money, not just make promises. as they have in the past, he said.
Guterres’ remarks “highlight what small island and least developed countries have been arguing for decades: that the loss and damage is irrefutable and already disproportionately affects the most vulnerable countries and communities,” said Adelle Thomas, a scientist Bahamian climate.
“We are reaching a breaking point, where developed countries must respond instead of continuing to delay action with empty promises and protracted discussions,” he added.
Borenstein reported from Washington
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