“Climate change is the defining issue of today’s world”, asserted United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres ahead of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference, COP27.
“There has been a tendency to put climate change on the back burner,” he said. “If we are not able to reverse the present trend, we will be doomed.”
He wasn’t holding back then.
Despite the stark message, it was oddly reassuring to hear a leading figure on the world stage reaffirm that we are faced with a climate emergency we can ill afford to ignore. His words were an essential footnote to the pantomime politics that have, along with the war in Ukraine and profound economic challenges, dominated the news agenda of late.
Of course, the UK played host to last year’s UN Conference of the Parties, COP26, which promised much. But, a year on, are things moving in the right direction?
In short, no.
According to the UN, we need to halve global emissions by 2030, yet we are actually on course to see them increase by around 14%.
The political turmoil that continues to grip the UK can only be hindering our own progress.
Thérèse Coffey was recently installed as the country’s third environment secretary of the year, the government’s ban on fracking has been imposed, lifted and reimposed and Reading West MP Alok Sharma, who was the president of COP26, is no longer a cabinet minister following Rishi Sunak’s latest reshuffle.
Will banning King Charles from attending COP27 go down as another of Liz Truss’ many faux pas? While Mr Guterres described His Majesty as a “constant voice” and encouraged him to attend, the former prime minister’s government argued that the King now has “other priorities” and suggested that Prince William might attend instead.
But, perhaps the outspoken voice of someone who is above and beyond politics is exactly what we need?
After all, as the name suggests, this year’s Conference is the politicians’ 27th annual meeting on the subject, with their countries having signed up to the UN climate agreement in 1992.
During that time, humanity has failed miserably to tackle the growing climate emergency. Global temperatures have risen by 1.1C and are expected to reach 1.5C according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Since last year’s Conference alone we have witnessed record-breaking temperatures, worsening wildfires, drought and famine, devastating flooding and stronger than usual storms around the world.
The IPCC has warned that a further increase, to between 1.7C and 1.8C above pre-industrial levels, could put half of the planet’s population at risk and lead to the breakdown of the natural world we know and love.
Mr Guterres recently reiterated that “We need to tell the truth” when it comes to the climate emergency and the threats posed by unchecked climate change.
Let’s see if our world leaders can manage that?
COP27 will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6 to 18 November 2022.
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