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UN Secretary-General criticises climate inaction at summit

He said the transition is "decades behind".

The United Nations (UN) Climate Ambition Summit has concluded with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres denouncing the world as “decades behind” in transitions to green energy.

The summit, held yesterday in New York, hosted leaders of 34 countries from across the globe to speak on climate issues, actions, and of inaction so far.

Over 100 country leaders had been invited to the summit. Notably, leaders from the world’s largest polluters, such as America’s Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping, were absent. Also absent were the UK’s Rishi Sunak, and India’s Narendra Modi.

Guterres said the world was heading for global heating of 2.8 degrees above the pre-industrial average, almost double the 1.5 degree target in the Paris Agreement, and without urgent action natural disasters would continue to worsen.

Much criticism was aimed at fossil fuel use, with Californian governor Gavin Newsom saying the world is in a “fossil fuel crisis”.

“For decades and decades, the oil industry has been playing each and every one of us in this room for fools. They have been buying off politicians,” he said.

“Their deceit and denial going back decades, have created the conditions that persist here today.”

Developing and small island state leaders were also unhappy by delays of a promised USD$100 billion [AUD$109.7 billion] in climate aid from 2009, and the difficulty of financing climate-resistant infrastructure with wealthier nations.

Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, said she doesn’t believe the larger nations are “getting it”.

“It’s painful to continue to see that you are asking us to increase borrowing to build resilient infrastructure for something we didn’t do, and at the same time you want to also ensure you have a loss and damage fund that doesn’t have the adequate means for grant funding to help countries rebuild,” she said.

“It’s unconscionable and almost a crime against humanity.”

While major leaders failed to attend, some additional climate change measures were still announced during the summit.

These included the US signing an ocean-protection treaty, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg pledging another $500 million [AUD$778.5 million] into a campaign to retire US gas and coal plants, and the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) initiative to build early warning systems for climate-sensitive countries.

David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute, said the changes were good, but without action from major leaders these smaller initiatives are like “trying to put out an inferno with a leaking hose”.

“There is simply a huge mismatch between the depth of actions governments and businesses are taking and the transformative shifts that are needed to address the climate crisis.”

Photo: António Guterres by Faces Of The World available HERE and used under a Creative Commons license. This image has not been modified.

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