Guterres spoke as government representatives opened a meeting in Congo’s capital Kinshasa to prepare for the major U.N.-led climate conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in November. It’s a time of immense climate impacts around the world — from floods that put one-third of Pakistan under water and Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years to hurricanes and typhoons that have hammered the Philippines, Cuba and the U.S. state of Florida.
In the last few weeks, Guterres has amped up a push for climate’s version of asking polluters pay for what they’ve done, usually called “loss and damage,” and he said Monday that people need action now.
“Failure to act on loss and damage will lead to more loss of trust and more climate damage. This is a moral imperative that cannot be ignored.” Guterres said the COP27 meeting in Egypt “must be the place for action on loss and damage.”
In unusually critical language, he said commitments by the so-called G20 group of the world’s 20 leading economies “are coming far too little, and far too late.”
Guterres warned that current pledges and policies “are shutting the door on our chances to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, let alone meet the 1.5 degree goal.”
“We are in a life-or-death struggle for our own safety today and our survival tomorrow,” he said.
“COP27 is the place for all countries — led by the G20 — to show they are in this fight, and in it together,” Guterres said. “And the best way to show it is by showing up at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.”
Rich countries, especially the United States, have emitted far more than their share of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, data shows. Poor nations like Pakistan and Cuba have been hurt far more than their share of global carbon emissions.
Loss and damage has been talked about for years, but richer nations have often balked at negotiating details about paying for past climate disasters, like Pakistan’s flooding this summer.
The issue is fundamental for the world’s developing countries and Guterres is reminding rich nations “that they cannot try and brush it under the carpet … G20 nations have to take responsibility for the great need their actions have caused,” said Mohamed Adow of Power Shift Africa, which tries to mobilize climate action in Africa.