Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres gave a fiery speech on Monday at the opening of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, calling on rich nations to commit to a new deal that would help the world’s poorest countries battle the effects of climate change. "Cooperate or perish," he said. File photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 7 (UPI) -- United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres gave a fiery speech on Monday at the opening of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, calling on rich nations to commit to a new deal that would help the world's poorest countries battle the effects of climate change.
"Cooperate or perish," he warned.
Guterres struck the ominous tone as the annual conference got under way in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the leaders of 77 developing nations are gathered for several days of talks aimed at addressing who bears the most responsibility for helping to fix the world's global warming problem.
The U.N. leader criticized the United States and China for continuing to cause the most pollution on Earth while at the same time refusing to work together to address environmental concerns, saying the world "is on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator."
"Humanity has a choice," Guterres said, adding: "It is either a climate solidarity pact or a collective suicide pact."
A key debate at this year's talks is centered around the premise of wealthy nations picking up a bigger share of the tab, which would help developing countries that are struggling to shore up infrastructure against climate change.
Poor nations are looking to countries with the largest economies -- such as the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany and Japan -- to take on a bigger share of the financial burden while noting that the history of fossil fuels had led to pervasive wealth inequality.
Some of those countries are responding. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly committed more than $110 million to help developing economies handle some of the risks posed by global climate change.
"The U.K. will continue to play a leading role in this mission," he said. "The funding we have announced will support countries which are facing the devastating impact of climate change, to adapt effectively."
COP27 delegates are expected to revisit a pledge made by industrialized nations more than a decade ago for $100 billion a year to help poor nations meet climate goals through 2020, but the effort fell far short in public and private financing while still managing to rake in tens of billions of dollars.
Talks at this year's conference will seek to extend the pledge through 2025, while keeping the "carefully crafted" annual goal at $100 billion, which climate experts described as a drop in the bucket compared to the real cost.
"All of the evidence suggests that we need trillions, not billions," said Baysa Naran, a research manager at the Climate Policy Initiative.
Funds have so far gone to large-scale climate adaptation and mitigation efforts, but climate policy watchdogs have noted that some of the money comes from loans, which have driven poor governments further into debt.
The talks at the conference take place as multiple regions throughout the world have been struck this year by catastrophic flooding -- including Pakistan, where 1,700 have died since summer and damages have reached at least $40 billion.
"Today's urgent crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing," Guterres said.
Pakistan now heads a list of more than 100 other nations seeking millions of dollars in disaster relief from allies.
According to what's known of the talks so far, no single country would be responsible for forking over the lion's share of the $100 billion each year, which is notable because the U.S. contributed less than 4% of the $83.3 billion that was put into the fund in 2020, reneging on its pledge by tens of billions, according to data.
In Scotland last year, leaders of member nations pledged to strengthen climate protections, however since, nearly all have failed to take any concrete steps to curb emissions.