Last month, world leaders gathered in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt for COP27 to discuss the current state of climate change and how to address it. Government heads are facing calls to cut emissions further and follow through on the promise to offer financial assistance to developing countries that are already facing the devasting impacts of rising temperatures. But by all accounts, the climate change news looks bleak—which was perfectly punctuated by the blunt warnings and ambitious plan offered by United Nations chief Antonio Guterres in his address to COP27.
Around the world, nations are already experiencing extremely destructive natural disasters that have been made more frequent and more powerful because of climate change. Floods, droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires have taken the lives of thousands and cost countries tens of billions of dollars just this year. Global warming is a worldwide issue that requires cooperation between all nations to address.
Many worry, however, that the constant barrage of other crises will prevent governments from treating climate change with the urgency and intensity it requires. But according to Antonio Guterres, climate change cannot be put on the “back burner.”
“Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible,” he said. “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”
To ease the nations already suffering from the effects of climate change, Guterres called for a historic deal encouraging the richest nations that produce the most pollution to aid poorer countries that bear the least responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. The plan would have nations double down on emissions to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement, holding rising temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels. He also asked countries to commit to phasing out coal globally by 2040.
Guterres also noted how reluctant leaders have been to act on climate change in the past. Climate talks like COP27 have been held for decades (COP27 stands for the 27th Conference of Parties), and yet progress has still been slow. In fact, on its current trajectory, carbon pollution is estimated to increase by 10% and raise temperatures by 2.8C by the end of the decade.
“Humanity has a choice,” warned Guterres, “cooperate or perish.”
“It is either a climate solidarity pact or a collective suicide pact,” he continued, further stating that the goal should be to provide affordable, renewable energy for all. He also stated that it was a “moral imperative” for richer polluters to provide aid to vulnerable nations.
Following the trend of the most recent climate news, it seems that our world is headed further down a dark path, and few nations are prepared or committed to doing much about it. And yet, the words of United Nations chief Antonio Guterres still provide a glimmer of hope. It’s not too late to stop the worst-case climate projections; as long as countries are willing to work together and help out the most vulnerable among us, our world still stands a chance.
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