November 28, 2022

‘We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator’ -António Guterres issues grim warning at COP27 in Egypt

Secretary-General António Guterres briefs reporters on the situation in Ukraine in front of the “Non-Violence” sculpture at the UN Headquarters. "Inspired by Holy Week and all that it represents, I urge all parties – and all champions of peace around the world -- to join my Easter appeal. Save lives. Stop the bloodshed and destruction. Open a window for dialogue and peace and keep faith with the meaning and the message of Easter," said the Secretary-General. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe 19 April 2022 New York, United States of America Photo # UN7930019
Secretary-General António Guterres briefs reporters on the situation in Ukraine in front of the “Non-Violence” sculpture at the UN Headquarters. "Inspired by Holy Week and all that it represents, I urge all parties – and all champions of peace around the world -- to join my Easter appeal. Save lives. Stop the bloodshed and destruction. Open a window for dialogue and peace and keep faith with the meaning and the message of Easter," said the Secretary-General. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe 19 April 2022 New York, United States of America Photo # UN7930019
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United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warned on Monday that the climate crisis has so much deteriorated that humanity is now on “a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

“The clock is ticking. We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing,” Guterres said in remarks at the 2022 United Nations Climate Conference (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

The UN chief warned that with greenhouse gas emissions growing and global temperatures rising, “our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.”

He noted that while the war in Ukraine, conflict in the Sahel, and violence and unrest in other places are terrible crises plaguing today’s world, “climate change is on a different timeline, and a different scale.”

“Today’s urgent crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing. If anything, they are a reason for greater urgency, stronger action and effective accountability,” he said. “It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner. Indeed, many of today’s conflicts are linked with growing climate chaos.”

Guterres defined the climate crisis the world faces as “the defining issue of our age,” and “the central challenge of our century.”

“Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact – or a Collective Suicide Pact,” he said, referring to climate change negotiations at the summit.

Read his full remarks below as prepared for delivery

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President Al-Sisi,

COP-27 President Sameh Shoukry,

Excellencies,

Dear friends,

In just days, our planet’s population will cross a new threshold.

The 8 billionth member of our human family will be born.

This milestone puts into perspective what this climate conference is all about.

How will we answer when “Baby 8 Billion” is old enough to ask: 

What did you do for our world – and for our planet — when you had the chance?

Excellencies,

This UN Climate Conference is a reminder that the answer is in our hands.

And the clock is ticking.   

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.

We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.

The war in Ukraine, conflict in the Sahel, and violence and unrest in so many other places are terrible crises plaguing today’s world. But climate change is on a different timeline, and a different scale.

It is the defining issue of our age.  It is the central challenge of our century.

It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner. Indeed, many of today’s conflicts are linked with growing climate chaos.

The war in Ukraine has exposed the profound risks of our fossil fuel addiction.

Today’s urgent crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing. If anything, they are a reason for greater urgency, stronger action and effective accountability.

Excellencies,

Human activity is the cause of the climate problem.

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 degrees means achieving global net zero emissions by 2050.

But that 1.5 degree goal is on life support – and the machines are rattling. 

We are getting dangerously close to the point of no return. 

To avoid that dire fate, all G20 countries must accelerate their transition now – in this decade.

Developed countries must take the lead.

But emerging economies are also critical to bending the global emissions curve.

Last year in Glasgow, I called for coalitions of support for high-emitting emerging economies to accelerate the transition from coal towards renewables.

We are making progress with the Just Energy Transition Partnerships – but much more is needed.

That is why at the beginning of COP27, I am calling for a historic Pact between developed and emerging economies – a Climate Solidarity Pact.

A Pact in which all countries make an extra effort to reduce emissions this decade in line with the 1.5-degree goal.

A Pact in which wealthier countries and International Financial Institutions provide financial and technical assistance to help emerging economies speed their own renewable energy transition. 

A Pact to end dependence on fossil fuels and the building of coal plants – phasing out coal in OECD countries by 2030 and everywhere else by 2040.

A Pact that will provide universal, affordable, sustainable energy for all. 

A Pact in which developed and emerging economies unite around a

common strategy and combine capacities and resources for the benefit of humankind.

The two largest economies – the United States and China – have a particular responsibility to join efforts to make this Pact a reality.

This is our only hope of meeting our climate goals.

Humanity has a choice:  cooperate or perish. It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact – or a Collective Suicide Pact.

Excellencies,

We also desperately need progress on adaptation — to build resilience to the climate disruption to come.

Today, some three-and-a-half billion people live in countries highly vulnerable to climate impacts.

In Glasgow, developed countries promised to double adaptation support to $40 billion a year by 2025.

We need a roadmap on how this will be delivered.

And we must recognize that this is only a first step.

Adaptation needs are set to grow to more than $300 billion dollars a year by 2030.

Half of all climate finance must flow to adaptation.

International Financial Institutions and Multilateral Development Banks must change their business model and do their part to scale up adaptation finance and better mobilize private finance to massively invest in climate action. 

Countries and communities must also be able to access it – with finance flowing to identified priorities through efforts like the Adaptation Pipeline Accelerator.

Excellencies,

At the same time, we must acknowledge a harsh truth: there is no adapting to a growing number of catastrophic events causing enormous suffering around the world.

The deadly impacts of climate change are here and now.

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.

This is why I am calling for universal early warning systems coverage within five years.

And it is why I am asking that all governments tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies.

Let’s redirect the money to people struggling with rising food and energy prices and to countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis.

On addressing loss and damage, this COP must agree on a clear, time-bound roadmap reflective of the scale and urgency of the challenge.

This roadmap must deliver effective institutional arrangements for financing.

Getting concrete results on loss and damage is a litmus test of the commitment of governments to the success of COP27.

Excellencies,

Friends,

The good news is that we know what to do and we have the financial and technological tools to get the job done.

It is time for nations to come together for implementation.

It is time for international solidarity across the board.

Solidarity that respects all human rights and guarantees a safe space for environmental defenders and all actors in society to contribute to our climate response. Let’s not forget that the war on nature is in itself a massive violation of human rights.

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. 

For the 8 billion members of our human family – and for generations to come. 

Thank you.

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