Planet Earth is on the ‘highway to climate hell with its foot still on the accelerator’, the UN chief has told world leaders as they gather for annual talks, after a year of severe effects of climate change.

“We are in the fight of our lives – and we are losing,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said at the start of the COP27 summit in Egypt.

In the year since COP26 in Glasgow, catastrophic floods have killed more than 1,700 people in Pakistan and uprooted 1.3 million from their homes in Nigeria.

The drought has withered crops in Europe, left millions starving in Africa and killed fish from California to France to China. Global emissions and temperatures continue to rise.

“Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish,” Guterres told a room full of heads of state, including European Ursula von der Leyen, Frenchman Emmanuel Macron and Colombian Gustavo Francisco.

They gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh to build momentum for the two-week talks, where nearly 200 countries hope to agree collective next steps to slow climate breakdown.

Failure to work together will amount to a “collective suicide pact”, Mr. Guterres warned.

But it’s no easy task for these negotiations, which come amid fierce geopolitical tensions sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the ensuing food, energy and cost-of-living crises. and disputes over who should pay for the increasingly damaging effects of climate change.

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Climate – The Great Debate

The conflict and soaring energy prices are “not a reason to slow climate change, but a reason to act faster”, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said. “Climate security goes hand in hand with energy security.”

Investing in renewable energy is “precisely the way to insure against the risks of energy dependence”, Sunak added. But he has been criticized for blocking new onshore wind and solar power in the UK, and for only reluctantly showing up for talks after intense pressure, and after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he would attend.

While the prime minister publicly thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi for his “leadership” during the talks, he privately urges the Egyptian leader to release imprisoned British-Egyptian political activist Alaa Abd el Fattah.

Activists fear that Egypt’s prestigious role as host of the talks could allow it to whitewash its human rights record. The regime locked up tens of thousands of government critics, according to Human Rights Watch, and kept the usual protest against the talks at bay.

President Sisi was one of many to urge an end to the war in Ukraine. “This war must end,” he said in a moving plea, adding that not only Egypt, but probably the “whole world” was suffering.

On many people’s lips were calls for a tax on the windfall profits that fossil fuel companies have made from soaring energy prices.

“How did companies make $200 billion in profits in the last three months without expecting to contribute at least 10 cents of every dollar of profit to a loss and damage fund,” the premier asked. Barbados, Mia Mottley.

So do accusations that the annual COP talks are failing to deliver change of the scale and pace needed, because climate change is hitting the most vulnerable and often the poorest countries the hardest. less polluting.

Kenya’s President William Ruto said “the lengthy talks at the COPs with their stalling and delaying tactics and procrastination, which have hampered…delivery is simply cruel and unfair”.

“We cannot afford to spend any more time skirting the real issues…in the face of impending doom, the warning signs of which are already unbearably dire,” he said.

But the talks offered some glimmers of hope. For the first time, the concept of paying countries for irreversible loss and damage inflicted by climate change – such as loss of life, collapse of jobs and sinking of islands – were put on the agenda – but only after a fierce 40-hour battle before talks began .

And earlier Sky News revealed the Scottish government pledges more money for such causeshelping to break the taboo around the idea.

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