By Emmanuel Nduka
Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres has declared that “humanity has opened the gates to hell.”
Guterres who made the remarks on Wednesday while declaring open the Climate Ambition Summit happening alongside the UN General Assembly in New York, said “horrendous heat is having horrendous effects. Distraught farmers watching crops carried away by floods. Sweltering temperatures spawning disease.”
He said that “climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge,” warning that if nothing changes, the world will be heading “towards a dangerous and unstable world.”
In his speech, Guterres called on developed countries to reach net-zero emissions – removing from the atmosphere at least as much planet-warming pollution as they produce – by 2040, at least ten years earlier than most current commitments.
He also asked countries to commit to timelines to phase out fossil fuel emissions, as well as to significantly increase finance to help low- and middle-income countries quickly move to clean energy and invest in climate resilience measures to better cope with increasingly severe extreme weather events.
“We are decades behind. We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels,” Guterres said. The aim of the summit is to increase ambitions on climate action, Guterres added.
Wednesday’s summit was unusual due to Guterres’ decision to restrict the speaker list to countries he deemed to have clear and effective climate plans, and those prepared to send a high-level leader to speak.
CNN reported that out of the nearly 200 countries present in New York for the General Assembly, only 34 nations and seven non-governmental bodies secured speaking slots at the UN chief’s summit.
The one-day conference – which comes as the world grapples with devastating floods and fires – is intended to build global momentum toward slashing planet-heating pollution ahead of the UN’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai in December.