COP27: UN chief urges countries to prioritize climate action

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York, Oct 3, 2022. (XIE E / XINHUA)

UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on all countries to make climate action the global priority.

The UN chief told journalists at the UN headquarters in New York that all countries, led by the G20, can demonstrate that "climate action truly is the top global priority" as government representatives begin finalizing the agenda for the COP27 (the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) next month.

COP27 will take place in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, from Nov 6-18.

"A third of Pakistan flooded. Europe's hottest summer in 500 years. The Philippines hammered. The whole of Cuba in black-out. And here, in the United States, Hurricane Ian has delivered a brutal reminder that no country and no economy is immune from the climate crisis," Guterres said.

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He underscored the importance of COP27, while warning that the collective commitments of the G20 leading industrialized nations are coming "far too little, and far too late."

On every climate front, the only solution is solidarity and decisive action.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General 

"The actions of the wealthiest developed and emerging economies simply don't add up," he said, pointing out that current pledges and policies are "shutting the door" on limiting global temperature to 2 Celsius degrees, let alone meet the 1.5 Celsius degrees goal.

Guterres warned that "we are in a life-or-death struggle for our own safety today and our survival tomorrow," saying there is no time for pointing fingers or "twiddling thumbs" but instead, "a quantum level compromise between developed and emerging economies" is required.

"The world can't wait," he said. "Emissions are at an all-time high and rising."

While pursuing their own "drop-in-the-bucket initiatives," international financial institutions must overhaul their business approaches to combat climate change, he said.

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Meaningful progress must be made to address loss and damage beyond countries' abilities to adapt as well as financial support for climate action, said the UN chief.

Flood-affected people evacuate from a flood-hit area in Tando Allahyar district in southern Pakistan's Sindh province on Aug 25, 2022. (STR / XINHUA)

Decisions must be made now on the question of loss and damage as "failure to act" will lead to "more loss of trust and more climate damage," he said, describing it as "a moral imperative that cannot be ignored."

COP27 is "the number one litmus test" of how seriously governments take the growing climate toll on the most vulnerable countries, according to Guterres.

"This week's pre-COP can determine how this crucial issue will be handled in Sharm al-Sheikh," he said, noting that the world needs clarity from developed countries on the delivery of their $100-billion pledge to support climate action in developing countries.

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Environment ministers from some 50 countries gathered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Monday for the pre-COP27 climate talks, with rich countries expected to come under pressure to contribute more to fight global warming.

Moreover, adaptation and resilience funding must represent half of all climate finance; multilateral development banks "must raise their game;" and emerging economies need support to back renewable energy and build resilience, said the top UN official.

This Sept 28, 2022 photo shows flooded streets in Naples, Florida, the United States. (CITY OF NAPLES GOVERNMENT/HANDOUT VIA XINHUA)

While the Resilience and Sustainability Trust led by the International Monetary Fund is a good start, major multilateral development bank shareholders must be the driving force for transformative change, he said.

"On every climate front, the only solution is solidarity and decisive action," said the secretary-general.