‘Cooperate or perish’: UN chief seeks unity to reduce emissions

Published November 8, 2022
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at the leaders summit of the COP27 climate conference at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of the same name, on November 7, 2022. — AFP
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at the leaders summit of the COP27 climate conference at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of the same name, on November 7, 2022. — AFP

• Guterres says ‘moral imperative’ for richer polluters to help vulnerable countries
• Gore criticises West’s pursuit of resources, calls it ‘fossil fuel colonialism’

SHARM EL-SHEIKH: During talks on curbing global warming, UN chief Antonio Guterres warned world leaders here on Monday that humanity was in “the fight of our lives” as climate change intensifies droughts, floods and heatwaves.

In the midst of a barrage of international crises battering economies and shaking international relations, Guterres said the international community faced a stark choice.

“Cooperate or perish,” AFP quoted him as telling leaders at the COP27 summit. “It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact, or a Collective Suicide Pact.”

He called for a “historic” deal between rich countries and emerging economies that would aim to reduce emissions and keep the temperature rise to the more ambitious Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era. The target should be to provide renewable and affordable energy for all, Guterres said, calling on the top emitters, the US and China, in particular to step up their efforts.

On the current trajectory, the UN chief said, “we are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”.

Guterres said it was a “moral imperative” for richer polluters to help vulnerable countries, which often were least responsible for climate change. He said the Ukraine war and an array of other crises facing the world could capture much attention, but stressed that many of these were linked to “growing climate chaos”.

“Let’s not forget that the war on nature is in itself a massive violation of human rights,” he remarked. The climate fight “will be won or lost in this crucial decade on our watch,” he said.

Former US Vice President Al Gore, also speaking at the event, said global leaders had a credibility problem when it came to climate change. He criticised developed nations’ ongoing pursuit of gas resources in Africa, which he described as “fossil fuel colonialism”.

“We have a credibility problem all of us: we’re talking and we’re starting to act, but we’re not doing enough,” Gore said, according to Reuters.

“We must see the so-called ‘dash for gas’ for what it really is: a dash down a bridge to nowhere, leaving the countries of the world facing climate chaos and billions in stranded assets, especially here in Africa,” he said. “We have to move beyond the era of fossil fuel colonialism.”

Immediately after Mr Guterres, UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahya took the stage and said his country, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, would continue to produce fossil fuels for as long as there was a need.

“The UAE is considered a responsible supplier of energy and it will continue playing this role as long as the world is in need of oil and gas,” he said.

Signatories to the 2015 Paris climate agreement had pledged to achieve a long-term goal of keeping global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the threshold at which scientists say climate change risks spinning out of control.

Guterres said the goal would only stay alive if the world could achieve net zero emissions by 2050. He asked 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.

The head of the International Monetary Fund told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference that climate targets depended on achieving a global carbon price of at least $75 a tonne by the end of the decade, and that the pace of change in the real economy was still “way too slow”.

The World Trade Organization, meanwhile, said in a report published on Monday that it should tackle trade barriers for low carbon industries to address the role of global trade in driving climate change.

Accountability for deforestation

Separately at the conference, more than 25 countries launched a group to hold each other accountable for a pledge to end deforestation by 2030, announcing billions of dollars in additional financing for the effort.

The first meeting of the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, chaired by the US and Ghana, takes place a year after more than 140 leaders promised at COP26 to end deforestation by the end of the decade. Progress since has been patchy, with only a few countries instituting more aggressive policies on deforestation and financing.

The new group, including Japan, Pakistan, the UK and others, accounted for roughly 35 per cent of the world’s forests and aims to meet twice a year to track progress.

“This partnership is a critical next step to collectively deliver on this promise and help keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C alive,” said COP26 President Alok Sharma in a statement.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2022

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