New Delhi, Sept 21 (PTI) Calls to stop burning fossil fuels at the United Nations’ Climate Ambition Summit were resounding and emphatic and the gathering laid bare the intent of nations unwilling to confront the central issue, climate policy experts said on Thursday.
They also said the major emitting nations’ reluctance to act on climate crisis is disrespectful and fatal and must be called out.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ Climate Ambition Summit on Wednesday highlighted two key aspects — the conspicuous absence of leaders from major emitter nations and a unanimous call by attending leaders to phase out fossil fuels.
Notable omissions included leaders from the US, the UK, China, Japan and France. Among the top carbon emitters, only the European Union received an invitation. The leaders who participated in the summit exhibited an almost unanimous resolve to put an end to the era of fossil fuels.
Harjeet Singh, the head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, said, “At the Climate Ambition Summit, the world heard an unequivocal message — we are in the midst of a climate emergency and fossil fuels are its chief culprit. Yet, the urgent actions required remain elusive.”
Mohamed Adow, the director of Kenya-based independent think-tank Powershift Africa, noted a departure from typical political agendas at such summits — the leaders with poor climate records, including the US and the UK, found themselves sidelined.
“For decades, fossil fuels have been a taboo word, rarely mentioned at climate summits despite being the root cause of the chaos. Thankfully, we are now saying the ‘f-word’. Sadly, because politicians refused to acknowledge the fossil-fuel elephant in the room, it has defecated on the floor, and we need to clean it up fast. That is why we need a fossil fuel phase-out date at COP28 this December,” he said.
Mads Christensen, the executive director of Greenpeace International, criticized leaders from major polluting countries for disregarding the UN secretary-general’s challenge to present substantive contributions to the Climate Ambition Summit.
Christensen likened their reluctance to act on climate to a wealthy CEO trying to evade paying a train fare, saying, “In this time of catastrophic planetary crisis, this climate inaction by these leaders is not just disrespectful, it’s fatal, cheap and must be called out.”
Alex Scott, climate diplomacy and geopolitics lead at E3G, an independent climate change think-tank, said the summit set high expectations for the COP28 Presidency in the UAE and “the laggards left behind”.
Adelle Thomas, a climate expert at the University of The Bahamas, called for clearer signals from financial actors on innovative measures to address the mounting costs of loss and damage disproportionately borne by developing nations.
She expressed disappointment with the lack of concrete proposals during the summit on how to achieve this.
“Today’s session acknowledged the growing impacts of climate change and the need to support the most vulnerable, but lacked concrete proposals on how this can be done,” Thomas said.
“The rich countries that have historically driven the climate crisis and are continuing to expand fossil fuels were given an opportunity by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to demonstrate their commitment to the 1.5°C global warming limit.
“Instead, we saw cowardice and a staggering failure of climate leadership. The US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and Norway, responsible for a majority of planned oil and gas extraction, either arrived empty-handed or failed to attend altogether,” said Romain IOUALALEN, the Global Policy Manager of Oil Change International.
He said, “This is a slap in the face of the more than 6,00,000 people who marched on all seven continents last weekend. A slap in the face of science; a slap in the face of the people displaced and dying from escalating climate catastrophes.”
As wealthy nations shirk their responsibilities, real leadership comes from people and countries least responsible for and most affected by the climate crisis. World leaders must finally find the courage to agree to the end of the fossil fuel era at COP28 in Dubai, before it’s too late, IOUALALEN added.
Guterres’ “no-nonsense summit”, ahead of COP28 in Dubai, came at a time when the world is reeling from the devastating impacts of climate change and probably the hottest year on record.
“Humanity has opened the gates to hell,” Guterres said during his opening remarks, warning that the world is heading for a 2.8-degree-Celsius warming in a business-as-usual scenario.
Sultan Al Jaber, the president of COP28, closed the summit, saying the “phase-down of fossil fuels is inevitable; it is in fact essential”. (PTI)