UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that the world is in “a life-or-death struggle” for survival as “climate chaos gallops ahead” and accused the world’s 20 wealthiest countries of failing to do enough to stop the planet from overheating.

The UN chief said emissions of global-warming greenhouse gases are at an all-time high and rising, and it’s time for “a quantum level compromise” between wealthy developed countries that emitted many of the heat-trapping gases and emerging economies that usually feel its worst effects.

Guterres spoke as government representatives opened a gathering in Congo’s capital Kinshasa to organize for the key U.N.-led climate conference within the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in November. It’s a time of immense climate impacts all over the world _ from floods that put one-third of Pakistan under water and Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years to hurricanes and typhoons which have hammered the Philippines, Cuba and the U.S. state of Florida.

In the previous few weeks, Guterres has amped up a push for climate’s version of asking polluters pay for what they’ve done, normally called “loss and damage,” and he said Monday that folks need motion now.

“Failure to act on loss and damage will result in more lack of trust and more climate damage. This can be a moral imperative that can’t be ignored.”

Guterres said the COP27 meeting in Egypt “have to be the place for motion on loss and damage.”

In unusually critical language, he said commitments by the so-called G20 group of the world’s 20 leading economies “are coming far too little, and much too late.”

Guterres warned that current pledges and policies “are shutting the door on our possibilities to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, let alone meet the 1.5 degree goal.”

“We’re in a life-or-death struggle for our own safety today and our survival tomorrow,” he said.

“COP27 is the place for all countries — led by the G20 — to point out they’re on this fight, and in it together,”Guterres said. “And the perfect technique to shot it’s by showing up at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.”

Wealthy countries, especially the USA, have emitted excess of their share of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, data shows. Poor nations like Pakistan and Cuba have been hurt excess of their share of world carbon emissions.

Loss and damage has been talked about for years, but richer nations have often balked at negotiating details about paying for past climate disasters, like Pakistan’s flooding this summer.

The problem is prime for the world’s developing countries and Guterres is reminding wealthy nations “that they can not attempt to brush it under the carpet … G20 nations need to take responsibility for the nice need their actions have caused,” said Mohamed Adow of Power Shift Africa, which tries to mobilize climate motion in Africa.

Princeton University climate science and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer said in an email that if high-income and other big emitters like China want the U.N. convention on climate change to stay useful, “they are going to have to grapple seriously with loss and damage.”

Otherwise, he said, negotiations “are headed for interminable gridlock.”

Poor countries with low emissions can simply refuse to debate the rest until the difficulty is resolved, Oppenheimer said. Richer countries may discover a way around the difficulty without paying for direct damage by paying poorer nations more to adapt to minimize future disasters, but even then developed nations can have to pay out money, not only make guarantees as they’ve up to now, he said.

Guterres’ remarks “highlight what small islands and least developed countries have been arguing for many years _ that loss and damage is irrefutable and already disproportionately affecting probably the most vulnerable countries and communities,” said Adelle Thomas, a climate scientist from the Bahamas.

“We’re reaching a breaking point, where developed countries must respond as an alternative of continuous to delay motion with empty guarantees and prolonged discussions,” she added.


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