The COP27 climate summit is underway in Egypt and there have been some potent words to open the show from UN Secretary‑General António Guterres: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”
His message was one of urgency. While he highlighted other problems faced by the world, namely the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Guterres argued the breakdown of Earth’s climate is a challenge that we’re quickly losing control of.
“In just days, our planet’s population will cross a new threshold. The 8 billionth member of our human family will be born... What will we tell that child when they ask what we did for the planet?” he asked. “We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible,” he continued.
On a vaguely more optimistic note, Guterres also emphasized how the problem is still solvable – just. Since Human activity got us into this mess, he believes human activity can get us out.
“Human activity is the cause of the climate problem. So human action must be the solution. Action to re-establish ambition. And action to rebuild trust – especially between North and South. The science is clear: any hope of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C [2.7°F] means achieving global net zero emissions by 2050. But that 1.5°C goal is on life support – and the machines are rattling. We are getting dangerously close to the point of no return,” he added.
Guterres also talked about one of the most contentious, and historically overlooked, aspects of the COP climate talks: the money. In a “historic” moment on Sunday, the topic of “loss and damage” finally made it onto the agenda at COP for the first time. This effectively means that the climate talks must include discussions about richer nations helping to pay poorer nations to help them deal with the mounting damage linked to global warming.
“Loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug. It is a moral imperative. It is a fundamental question of international solidarity – and climate justice. Those who contributed least to the climate crisis are reaping the whirlwind sown by others. Many are blindsided by impacts for which they had no warning or means of preparation,” remarked Guterres.
He concluded: “We need all hands on deck for faster, bolder climate action. A window of opportunity remains open, but only a narrow shaft of light remains. The global climate fight will be won or lost in this crucial decade – on our watch. One thing is certain: those that give up are sure to lose. So, let’s fight together – and let’s win.”