Nov 7, 2022 - Energy & Environment

UN chief: It is either a "climate change solidarity pact" or a "suicide pact"

UN Secretary-General Guterres speaks to COP27 in Egypt.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks during the COP27 climate negotiations on Nov 7. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for a "climate solidarity pact" between rich and poor nations to limit the severity of global warming in a COP27 speech.

Why it matters: Guterres places a high priority on tackling climate change, and the proposal emphasizes the rapidly closing window to limit the extent of warming.

Zoom in: Speaking to world leaders at the COP27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Guterres spoke in stark terms: "We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator," he said. "Humanity has a choice:  cooperate or perish."

  • A solidarity pact would involve countries pushing to slash greenhouse gas emissions in such a way to meet the Paris Agreement's 1.5-degree target, and wealthier nations providing financial and technical help to developing countries for them to transition to cleaner energy sources.
  • Guterres also advocated for a coal phase-out in industrialized nations by 2030, and elsewhere by 2040.

Between the lines: To realize his vision would require cooperation between the world's two largest emitters, the United States and China. However, right now, these two countries are not speaking formally on climate or other issues due to tensions over Taiwan.

  • "The two largest economies — the United States and China — have a particular responsibility to join efforts to make this pact a reality," Guterres stated. "This is our only hope of meeting our climate goals."
  • Guterres endorsed developing countries' push for a financial mechanism to be negotiated at COP27 that provides for climate damage payments for the developing nations that contributed the least to causing climate change, but that are seeing some of its worst impacts.

"Getting concrete results on loss and damage is a litmus test of the commitment of governments to the success of COP27," he stated.

  • Climate damages, known as "loss and damage" in the UN climate talks, is on the official agenda for the first time at COP27, though with key caveats, such as a 2024 deadline for working out the details.
  • Developing countries, such as flood-ravaged Pakistan, are seeking financing details far sooner, ideally at this COP.

The bottom line: "It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact — or a Collective Suicide Pact," Guterres said, given increasingly severe climate change impacts.

Go deeper: COP27 kicks off in Egypt: Everything you need to know

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