The United Nations’ secretary-general issued another stark warning to world leaders on Wednesday, telling them “humanity has opened the gates of hell” and action must be taken in the wake of accelerating extreme weather.
“Our focus here is on climate solutions and our task is urgent,” he said in his opening comments to the summit. “Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge. If nothing changes, we are heading towards a 2.8 degree temperature rise, towards a dangerous and unstable world.”
Guterres spoke about what he called “horrendous heat” having impacts on the world, ranging from farmers seeing their crops washed away by flooding, diseases being spawned by sweltering temperatures, and thousands fleeing historic fires.
With the increasing number of climate-related disasters, Guterres said world leaders are still not doing enough to curb pollution and wean off fossil fuels.
The summit was organized with the aim that only world leaders who came with new concrete actions would be able to address their peers on the issue.
Countries that produce the most heat-trapping gases themselves decided not to attend. Heads of state from China, India, Russia, the U.K. and France all skipped the summit.
The U.S. sent climate envoy, John Kerry, but he wasn’t given a speaking spot — instead California Gov. Gavin Newsom was able to speak about his state’s efforts.
There were 32 national leaders who were able to speak, but they represent only 11 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide pollution.
Canada to surpass goal on methane emissions: Trudeau
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau touted that the country will exceed its targets for reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Trudeau spoke of draft regulations that show Canada would exceed reductions of 75 per cent by the 2030 deadline. But Trudeau went on to say while Canada’s own emissions are trending down, there was still work to be done.
“To keep 1.5 (C) alive, to build a world where people can count on clean air, good jobs and a sustainable economy, we know there is much more still to do,” Trudeau said.
He went on to touch on comments by Guterres urging leaders to accelerate their actions on reaching zero-carbon emissions as fast as possible ahead of the 2040 deadline, saying doing so is demanded by science demands and also an economic opportunity.
The Canadian prime minister also announced during the summit that the country would be adding an additional $700 million to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust, which helps developing countries deal with climate change.
Developing nations have right to be angry: Guterres
Guterres emphasized that often it’s developing countries that feel the brunt force of climate disasters.
“Many of the poorest nations have every right to be angry, angry they are suffering most from a climate crisis they did nothing to create,” he said. “We need transformation to reveal trust.”
The world adopted a goal in 2015 of limiting warming to 1.5 C, or 2.7 F, but Guterres warned Earth was on a path to warming 2.8 C or 5 F, and that would create a “dangerous and unstable world.”
Though his comments painted a grave picture, Guterres still appeared to offer some optimism saying action could still change the future.
He urged “major emitters” — who have benefitted most from fossil fuels — to make extra efforts to cut emissions, and he wants wealthy countries to support emerging economies in their own efforts as well.
“We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm twisting, and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels,” he stressed.
Yet, as Guterres called on nations to increase their speed, some nations still appear to be moving in the opposite direction.
U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a rollback of some climate measures on Wednesday, including delaying a ban on gas and diesel cars by five years.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, touted how member states have pledged to reduce carbon pollution 55 per cent by 2030, but are doing even better than that.
“We should go faster in removing the root causes of climate change,” she said.
— with files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press