climate change

Guterres: We are on a highway to hell

Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN on the left and the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on his right. Photo credit: Reuters / Mohammed Salem.

By Anders Lorenzen

The UN climate summit COP27, which opened on the 6th  of November had barely started before Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, declared that on the current trajectory we are on a ‘highway to hell’.

The charismatic Guterres used his key address on the first proper day at the summit, which this year is held in Egypt in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, to underline the task at hand. “The clock is ticking, we are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing”, the UN head bluntly declared and explained that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions keep growing and temperatures are rising. He warned: “Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that would make climate chaos irreversible”. And Guterres did not hold back on the serious rhetoric when he added:  “We are on a highway to hell, with our foot still on the accelerator”.

The war in Ukraine cannot be a distraction

He highlighted the horrendous war in Ukraine and said that despite the bloodshed and destruction we cannot afford for our focus not to be on climate change. He explained that we of course must support peace efforts, but again warned how important it is to get tough on emissions saying that tackling climate change is on a different timeline and a different scale, “it is the defining issue of our age”, Guterres said.

Focusing on the concern that climate affairs had been sidelined due to other global challenges, he said: “It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back-burner”. The Secretary-General followed up by underlining that many of today’s conflicts are linked to growing climate chaos.

Guterres turned to the cause of climate change, the use of fossil fuels, underlining that the war in Ukraine has exposed our fossil fuel addiction.

The UN head alluding to the current state of affairs said that while the 1.5 C degree goal has not yet been breached it is on life-support. He emphasised that all countries must do much more to up their ambition, and no country’s current net-zero strategy is in any way near enough to avoid climate chaos. He argued that developed economies must take the lead, but warned that developing economies also need to play their part in bending the global emissions curve.

He urged everyone to work together, and added: “Humanity has a choice, cooperate or perish. It is either a climate-solidarity pact, or a selective suicide pact”. The stern words from the UN head could not be misunderstood. The remaining week of negotiations will tell if policy-makers, negotiators and not least world leaders, heed the Secretary General’s warnings.      

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