UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that rich countries must sign a “historic deal” with poor countries on climate, or “we will be doomed” as the gap between developed and developing countries continues A deepening divide has left climate talks on the fringes.
The stark warning comes as world leaders begin to gather at the UN’s Cop27 climate summit, which opens in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Sunday, but even the host admits it will be the toughest in at least a decade.
Cop27 comes amid the worst geopolitical tensions in years, the war in Ukraine, a spiraling global cost of living crisis and a deepening economic downturn.
But Guterres said the gap must be bridged if humanity is to avoid the worst damage from climate collapse.
“We cannot avoid a catastrophic situation, if these two [the developed and developing world] A historic agreement cannot be established,” he told the Guardian on the eve of the summit. “Because at the level we are now, we are doomed. “
Developed countries have failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough or provide poor countries with the funds needed to deal with the resulting extreme weather. Guterres said the stark climate inequality between the rich countries that cause most of the emissions and the poor countries that bear the brunt is now the biggest issue in the negotiations.
“Current policy [on the climate] Absolutely catastrophic,” he said. “And the truth is, we won’t be able to change that without a deal between developed and emerging economies. “
Guterres has drawn criticism from some quarters for his growing rhetoric on the climate crisis, warning of “mass suicide”, a “massacre” and a “code red” for humanity.
But he insisted he would not downplay his doomsday language because the rapid acceleration of the climate emergency is now so dire.
“The simple reason is that we are approaching a tipping point that will [climate breakdown] It’s irreversible,” he said. “This damage will not allow us to recover, nor will we be able to control the temperature rise. As we approach these tipping points, we need to increase urgency, we need to increase ambition, and we need to rebuild trust, primarily between North and South. “
Tipping points are thresholds within the climate system that, when triggered, lead to cascading effects. These include the melting of permafrost, which releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that fuels further heating, and the point at which the dry Amazon rainforest turns from a sink to a source of carbon, which scientists fear is fast approaching .
“We are approaching a tipping point where there will be irreversible effects, some of which are unimaginable,” he warned.
He also called for the U.S. and China to rebuild their fractured relationship, which has hit a new low this year, but which Guterres called “critical” to climate action. “It needs to be re-established because without the cooperation of the two countries, it is absolutely impossible to reverse the current trend,” he said.
Guterres and the Egyptian government will convene world leaders at the start of the Cop27 summit in an attempt to salvage a series of hopeless climate talks. This year, geopolitical ties have been torn apart by the Ukraine war, a global cost of living crisis due to soaring fossil fuel and food prices, and the failure of governments, including the UK, to follow up on commitments made at last year’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow.
The deal Guterres has in mind would require large economies to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide a financial lifeline for poor countries. He said this was necessary to restore “trust”.
Lack of trust in climate negotiations means lack of funding. Rich countries are supposed to provide at least $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of the climate crisis.
But the goals have been repeatedly missed and will fail again this year, while poor countries are already suffering from climate catastrophe, including record floods in Pakistan and record droughts in Africa.
Guterres said a “historic deal” between rich and poor countries would involve clear new financial commitments, as well as a strengthening of their emission reduction targets by rich and emerging economies.
It also needs to make progress on the thorny issue of “loss and damage”, which could be a hot spot for Cop27. Loss and damage refers to the most devastating effects of extreme weather and there is no way to adapt to it, poor countries want a financing mechanism for rescue and recovery of countries suffering from climate-related physical and social infrastructure damage disaster.
“The issue of loss and damage has been postponed, and postponed, and postponed,” Guterres said. “We need to ensure accountability and effective support for the countries that have suffered the most loss and damage.”
He noted that rich countries managed to raise $16 trillion to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. But for poor countries, there isn’t even debt relief to help them deal with the combined effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, rising cost of living, climate and a strong dollar, making repayments more expensive.
“There is a sense of frustration [in the developing world] This is real and deserves a response,” he said. In recent months, he has called for a windfall tax on the wealth enjoyed by oil and gas companies, a call he will repeat in Sharm el-Sheikh.
At last year’s Glasgow summit, countries agreed to focus on limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but a recent UN report suggests current policies would raise temperatures by about 2.5 degrees Celsius.
Guterres said the chances of holding on to the goal were slim. “We still have a chance, but we’re losing it quickly,” he said. “I would say 1.5C is in intensive care and the machine is shaking. So either we act in a very powerful way right away, or we lose and probably lose forever.”