xi's moments
Home | Newsmakers

'Highway to climate hell' alarm sounded

By KARL WILSON in Sydney | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-11-14 09:22

Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks during the COP27 climate conference, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Nov 7, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

COP27 must be the place where action is finally taken, says Guterres at meeting

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has given a stark warning to global leaders at the COP27 conference that humanity is on a "highway to climate hell" if the fight for a livable planet is lost this decade. Many small, poor countries are already hurtling down that highway, and nowhere is this more profound than in the Pacific, experts say.

At the two-week COP27, the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, now being held in Egypt, rich states are already sprinkling largesse on battling the effects of climate change, they say.

Well before this year's COP, the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional political and economic policy group comprising 18 countries, declared a climate emergency and demanded real action from world leaders.

Leo Hickman, editor of Carbon Brief, a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy, said that "in terms of saving the Pacific, many of the Pacific nations argue their existential 'point of no return' for them, in terms of sea level rise, is the 1.5 C goal". However, "that is now very, very close to being lost", he said, citing the recent UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report.

The World Meteorological Organization said recently that climate change is happening at catastrophic speed, with the last eight years the warmest on record.

Guterres said sea levels are rising twice as fast as they were in the 1990s, posing an existential threat for low-lying island states, especially in the Pacific, and threatening billions of people in coastal regions. Glacier melt records are themselves melting away, jeopardizing water security for whole continents.

"We must answer the planet's distress signal with action, ambitious, credible climate action," Guterres said. "COP27 must be the place, and now must be the time."

The leaders of 14 Pacific countries are attending COP27.

Call for compensation

Among the key issues, vulnerable countries are pressing for developed countries to pay compensation for their emissions over hundreds of years and their consequence on developing states' economies.

But already many developed countries, including Australia, have cast doubts over compensation.

Karlos Moresi, the program adviser of resilience development finance at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, said there was push-back from developed countries.

Speaking on Radio New Zealand on Tuesday, Moresi said the Pacific states argued for the inclusion of compensation or liability as a sub-item on the agenda, but after hours of negotiation the argument fell short.

"We may have conceded on the compensation and liability text, but we still managed to get loss and damage included on the agenda," Moresi said.

Speaking on the same program, Daniel Lund, Fiji's special adviser on climate change and loss and damage, said "there is a latency of ambition that is hitting the poorest the hardest".

Asked if there were any compromises to get loss and damage onto the agenda, Lund said: "We've been compromising for three decades."

The Vanuatu government has launched a global campaign to seek an advisory opinion on climate change from the International Court of Justice.

In a statement on Thursday, Vanuatu said current levels of action and support for vulnerable developing countries are insufficient, and it wants the court to clarify the responsibilities for climate change under international law.

Agnes Hall, global campaigns director with the environmental group 350.org, told China Daily: "The deep inequalities between nations, and the vast difference between the carbon emissions of countries in Europe and North America and countries in Africa, Asia and South America have their foundations in a long history of unfair treatment."

It is time to acknowledge the mistakes of the past "and to act with common decency/humanity", she said.

Joseph Sikulu, Pacific regional director at 350.org, said: "Pacific representatives are fatigued in climate negotiations as we see empty promises and unfulfilled pledges. Global North countries have a responsibility to ensure that loss and damage funding is not only sufficient, but also accessible to those who need it most."

New Zealand has earmarked NZ$20 million ($11.7 million) in funding for loss and damage, putting it among a handful of mainly European countries to set aside cash specifically for loss and damage caused by climate change.

The country's Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, said the decision placed New Zealand at the leading edge of wealthy countries, Reuters reported.

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349