COP27: UN chief Antonnio Guterres urges climate summit to cooperate or perish

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonnio Guterres. [Photo Courtesy]

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonnio Guterres has called on world leaders to cooperate, and unite in the fight against climate change or perish together.

He made the utterances during the COP 27 summit in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt on Monday, November 6.

In his address, Guterres called on established economies like the United States of America and China to work together in the fight against climate change.

He called for a new pact between rich and poor countries to work closer together, with financial help and phasing out coal in rich nations.

“Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish,” Guterres said. “It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact – or a Collective Suicide Pact.”

He has also urged dozens of world leaders gathered Monday for the international climate talks to put in place adaptive measures to combat the effects of the menace.

“The only way to put an end to all this suffering from a highway to climate hell is for the world to cooperate or perish,” Guterres said.

Over the next few days, more than 100 world leaders are expected to speak on their efforts to deal with the worsening problem that scientists call Earth’s biggest challenge.

Nearly 50 heads of state and governments have taken the stage today, the first day of “high-level” talks at this year’s annual U.N. climate conference.

President William Ruto will address the summit this afternoon, for twenty minutes.

Much of the focus will be on national leaders telling their stories of being devastated by climate disasters, culminating Tuesday with a speech by Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Sharif, whose country’s summer floods caused at least Sh 4.8 trillion [$40 billion] in damage and displaced millions of people.

“The planet has become a world of suffering ... is it not high time to put an end to all this suffering,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the summit host, told his fellow leaders.

“Climate change will never stop without our intervention. Our time here is limited and we must use every second that we have.”

Most of the leaders are meeting Monday and Tuesday, just as the United States has a potentially policy-shifting midterm election.

Then the leaders of the world’s 20 wealthiest nations will have their powerful-only club confab in Bali, Indonesia days later.

 Add to that, “there are big climate summits and little climate summits and this was never expected to be a big one,” said Climate Advisers CEO Nigel Purvis, a former U.S. negotiator.

Leaders of two of the three biggest carbon-polluting nations — China and India — appear to be skipping the climate talks, although underlings are here negotiating. The leader of the other top polluting country — U.S. President Joe Biden — is coming days later than most of the other presidents and prime ministers on his way to Bali.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was initially going to avoid the negotiations, but public pressure and predecessor Boris Johnson’s plans to come changed his mind. New King Charles III, a longtime environmental advocate, won’t attend because of his new role. And Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine created energy chaos that reverberates in the world of climate negotiations, won’t be here.

“We always want more” leaders, United Nations climate chief Simon Stiell said in a Sunday news conference. “But I believe there is sufficient (leadership) right now for us to have a very productive outcome.”

In addition to speeches given by the leaders, the negotiations include “innovative” roundtable discussions that “we are confident, will generate some very powerful insights,” Stiell said.

The leaders showing up in droves are from the host continent, Africa.

“The historical polluters who caused climate change are not showing up,” said Mohammed Adow of Power Shift Africa. “Africa is the least responsible, the most vulnerable to the issue of climate change and it is a continent that is stepping up and providing leadership.”

 “The South is actually stepping up,” Adow told The Associated Press. “The North that historically caused the problem is failing.”

Monday will be heavily dominated by leaders of nations victimized by climate change — not those that have created the problem of heat-trapping gases warming up the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuel. It will be mostly African nations and small island nations and other vulnerable nations that will be telling their stories.