COP27: World is on a highway to climate hell, says UN chief

Updated on Nov 08, 2022 05:02 AM IST

While flagging the climate crisis, Antonio Guterres called for a Climate Solidarity Pact in which all countries make an effort to reduce emissions this decade to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees C over pre-industrial levels.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks during the COP27 climate summit, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt on Monday. (REUTERS)
Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks during the COP27 climate summit, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt on Monday. (REUTERS)
ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi

During the formal opening of UN Climate Conference (COP27) in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt on Monday, UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres said the “world is on a highway to climate hell” as global mean temperature is approaching the 1.5 degree C warming threshold.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he added.

While flagging the climate crisis, he called for a Climate Solidarity Pact in which all countries make an effort to reduce emissions this decade to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees C over pre-industrial levels. The global mean temperature in 2022 is currently estimated to be 1.15 degrees C (± 0.13 degree C) over pre-industrial levels, the World Meteorological Organisation said on Sunday.

“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 degrees goal is on life support - and the machines are rattling,” he said, adding that the world is 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-degrees 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,” he said.

Short of capital

But, data presented by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) at a press briefing during COP27 on Monday said global capital flows for climate action continue to be well short of what is necessary to attain global climate objectives. “As per the UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance, average annual global flows for 2019 and 2020 stand at $803 billion. These are considerably lower than the $1.6-3.8 trillion necessary per year up to 2050. As per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C, India, alone, would require support of at least $2.5 trillion to meet its 2030 targets,” CEEW said in a statement.

The latest reported figures from OECD of $83.3 billion for 2020 are considerably lower than the promised $100 billion per year by 2020. The recent UN Adaptation Gap Report released on November 3 shows international adaptation finance flows to developing countries are 5-10 times below estimated needs.

Guterres’s comments on the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) once again opened conversations about G7’s offer to India to join the JETP that possibly will help finance rapid deployment of clean energy projects in India and possibly reduce the country’s dependence on coal. India is yet to respond to the partnership offer, officials aware of the matter said. “The power ministry will take a call,” said a member of the Indian delegation at COP27.

The concept of JETP began with South Africa last year at COP26. France, Germany, the UK, US, and EU (the International Partners Group, or IPG) committed to providing $8.5 billion over three to five years to support South Africa’s national climate plan. Following the South Africa partnership, the G7 in its G7 Leaders’ communique dated June 28 this year said the G7 is working with India, Indonesia, Vietnam on more such partnerships.

South Africa launched its Just Energy Transition Investment Plan for 2023 to 2027 last week. “The political declaration on JETP in South Africa sets out a commitment to mobilise an initial amount of approximately US$8.5 billion from the IPG over the next three to five years, with a view to longer-term bilateral and multilateral engagements. More specifically, the partnership aims to provide a catalytic effect that accelerates the decarbonisation of South Africa’s electricity system in a way that ensures a just transition to protects vulnerable workers and communities, especially coal miners, women, and youth affected by the move away from coal,” their report said.

But the report’s investment break up showed that $5,325 million of the total amount are in concessional loans and $1,500 million in commercial loans and only $329.7million is in grants. “Top headline from #COP26 was $8.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETP) been rich countries & SA After 1 year, we now know: - 96% of the $8.5 billion are loans - And negotiations are still on What are some key lessons for JETP’s for India/Indonesia? 1/n India doesn’t have a just transition plan. So perhaps, while the loan $$ from JETP may not be attractive, negotiations may help Indian govt think about the just transition process,” tweeted Sandeep Pai, Senior Research Lead, Centre for Strategic and International studies on November 4.

“We will have to take a well informed, cautious call,” the official from Indian delegation said.

“The Global North borrows at interest rates of between one to 4%, the global south of 14%. And then we wonder why the Just Energy partnerships are not working,” said Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley during the opening ceremony.

“It’s an offer of partnership from G7. South Africa’s promised $8.5 billion is mostly all loans . There is no question of pressure to accept it,” the Indian official who is part of the delegation at COP27 said.

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