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COP27: ‘We are on a highway to climate hell’ Guterres warns

08 November 2022

Nations are divided over climate reparations, Joe Ware reports from Sharm el-Sheikh


Heads of government at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Monday

Heads of government at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Monday

“WE ARE on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.” This was how the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, opened the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Monday. The talks began after a series of climate disasters around the world and an extreme European heatwave this summer (News, 22 July).

On the minds of many at the summit have been the devastating floods in Pakistan, which affected 33 million people (News, 2 September). The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said, when faced with images of Pakistan ravaged by the floods, that it was “morally right” for countries to “honour our promises” on climate change. In his speech, however, he stopped short of backing calls from developing countries, led by Pakistan, for a special “loss and damage” fund that would compensate communities suffering from permanent climate impacts (News, 30 September).

Christian Aid’s global-advocacy lead, Mariana Paoli, said: “Rishi Sunak cannot claim to be a green leader whilst ignoring the plight of the most vulnerable. His Government’s move to cut the UK’s aid budget will hurt the world’s poorest people at a time when they need help the most. Without serious climate finance, and a loss-and-damage mechanism, COP27 cannot be a success.”

AlamyRishi Sunak addresses the COP27 climate summit, on Monday

Mr Sunak announced that the UK would be spending £1.5 billion on climate adaptation; it was not an announcement of new money, however, but specified how a section of the UK’s previously announced £11.6 billion for climate finance would be spent.

The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, railed against the lack of progress made on a loss-and-damage fund. She said of the recent record profits of fossil-fuel companies: “How do companies make $200 billion in profits in the last three months and not expect to contribute at least ten cents on every dollar to a loss-and-damage fund? This is what our people expect.”

On Saturday, the day before COP27 began, a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “As global leaders gather at COP27, the world holds its breath. A world which has this year suffered further catastrophic flooding, drought, heatwaves and storms. A world already in crisis. A world which knows that we are perilously near the point of no return.

“I’ve seen this myself just recently in Australia, whose great wealth is no protection against the flooding in New South Wales [News, 21 October]. And if it can happen in one of the most prosperous parts of the world, how much more devastating in one of the poorest, like South Sudan, where more flooding has led to food insecurity, hunger, and malnutrition.”

He continued: “God calls us to embrace justice. Christian scripture describes how we share in the ‘renewed creation of heaven and earth with justice’ (2 Peter 3.13). Let justice flow so that we see human lives and hope restored, and the life of the earth itself protected and renewed.”

Albin HillertThe Bishop of Panama, the Rt Revd Julio Ernesto Murray Thompson, with young delegates from the Lutheran World Federation at the summit, among them Fatima Reyna from El Salvador

Faith leaders around the world have joined in calling for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, named after a similar agreement to curb the spread of nuclear weapons in the 20th century.

The faith leaders have joined 101 Nobel Laureates, 3000 scientists, 1750 civil-society organisations, and 500 parliamentarians from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas who want to see an immediate end to new fossil-fuel projects. Frances Namoumou, of the Pacific Conference of Churches, said: “Pacific Islanders face a climate emergency which is an existential threat. We must stop what threatens us and protect those who are most vulnerable. It is the only decent thing to do.”

On Wednesday at COP27, Christian Aid published a study outlining the scale of the economic harm that climate change poses to African countries. The report showed that, under current policies, which would result in 2.7°C of global heating by 2100, African countries would see an average drop in their GDP of 64 per cent by the end of the century. And even if emissions are cut enough for global temperature rise to be limited to 1.5°C, the study shows that African countries face a GDP reduction of 34 per cent.

Oliver Pearce, the report’s author, said: “These findings are stark and deserve to act as a wake-up call to leaders of all countries about the economic devastation African countries face unless we put the brakes on our rising emissions.

“Even if we limit global heating to 1.5°C, this report shows that African nations will still suffer substantial economic harm, underlining the need for much greater financial support for people who face permanent harm from climate change.”

Joe Ware is a senior climate journalist at Christian Aid.

Albin HillertOne of the many protests urging a complete stop to all forms of support for fossil fuels, held on Wednesday outside the venue of the United Nations climate-change conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt

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