“Cooperate or perish,” the United Nations chief told dozens of leaders gathered Monday for international climate talks, warning them that the world is “on a highway to climate hell” and urging the 2 biggest polluting countries, China and the US, to work together to avert it.

This yr’s annual U.N. climate conference, generally known as COP27, comes as leaders and experts have raised increasing alarm that point is running out to avert catastrophic rises in temperature. But the hearth and brimstone warnings may not quite have the effect as they’ve had in past meetings due to multiple other challenges of the moment pulling leaders’ attention – from midterm elections within the U.S. to the Russia-Ukraine war.

Greater than 100 world leaders will speak over the following few days on the gathering in Egypt. Much of the main focus might be on national leaders telling their stories of being devastated by climate disasters, culminating Tuesday with a speech by Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Sharif, whose country’s summer floods caused a minimum of $40 billion in damage and displaced thousands and thousands of individuals.

“Is it not high time to place an end to all this suffering,” the summit’s host, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, told his fellow leaders. “Climate change won’t ever stop without our intervention… Our time here is proscribed and we must use every second that we’ve.”

El-Sisi, who called for an end to the Russia-Ukraine war, was gentle in comparison with a fiery United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said the world “is on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

He called for a recent pact between wealthy and poor countries to make deeper cuts in emissions with financial help and phasing out of coal in wealthy nations by 2030 and elsewhere by 2040. He called on the US and China _ the 2 biggest economies _ to especially work together on climate, something they used to do until the previous couple of years.

“Humanity has a selection: cooperate or perish,” Guterres said. “It’s either a Climate Solidarity Pact _ or a Collective Suicide Pact.”

Guterres insisted, “Today’s urgent crises can’t be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing.”

But bad timing and world events were hanging over the gathering.

Many of the leaders are meeting Monday and Tuesday, just as the US has a potentially policy-shifting midterm election. Then the leaders of the world’s 20 wealthiest nations could have their powerful-only club confab in Bali in Indonesia days later.

Leaders of China and India _ each amongst the most important emitters _ look like skipping the climate talks, although underlings are here negotiating. The leader of the highest polluting country, U.S. President Joe Biden, is coming days later than a lot of the other presidents and prime ministers on his approach to Bali.

“There are big climate summits and little climate summits and this was never expected to be an enormous one,” said Climate Advisers CEO Nigel Purvis, a former U.S. negotiator.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was initially going to avoid the negotiations, but public pressure and predecessor Boris Johnson’s plans to come back modified his mind. Latest King Charles III, a longtime environment advocate, won’t attend due to his recent role. And Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine created energy chaos that reverberates on the planet of climate negotiations, won’t be here.

“We at all times want more” leaders, United Nations climate chief Simon Stiell said in a Sunday news conference. “But I feel there’s sufficient (leadership) straight away for us to have a really productive consequence.”

Along with speeches given by the leaders, the negotiations include “revolutionary” roundtable discussions that “we’re confident, will generate some very powerful insights,” Stiell said.

The leaders showing up in droves are from the host continent Africa, who’re pressing for greater accountability from developed nations.

“The historical polluters who caused climate change are usually not showing up,” said Mohammed Adow of Power Shift Africa. “Africa is the least responsible, essentially the most vulnerable to the problem of climate change and it’s a continent that’s stepping up and providing leadership.”

“The South is definitely stepping up,” Adow told The Associated Press. “The North that historically caused the issue is failing.”

For the primary time, developing nations succeeded in getting onto the summit agenda the problem of “loss and damage” _ demands that emitting countries pay for damage attributable to climate-induced disasters.

Nigeria’s Environment Minister Mohammed Abdullahi called for wealthy nations to indicate “positive and affirmative” commitments to assist countries hardest hit by climate change. “Our priority is to be aggressive on the subject of climate funding to mitigate the challenges of loss and damage,” he said.

Monday might be heavily dominated by leaders of countries victimized by climate change _ not people who have created the issue of heat-trapping gases warming up the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuel. It’ll be mostly African nations and small island nations and other vulnerable nations that might be telling their stories.

And so they are dramatic ones, droughts in Africa and floods in Pakistan, in places that might least afford it. For the primary time in 30 years of climate negotiations, the summit “should focus its attention on the severe climate impacts we’re already seeing,” said World Resources International’s David Waskow.

“We are able to’t discount a complete continent that has over a billion people living here and has a few of the most severe impacts,” Waskow said. “It’s pretty clear that Africa might be in danger in a really severe way.”

Leaders come “to share the progress they’ve made at home and to speed up motion,” Purvis said. On this case, with the passage of the primary major climate laws and $375 billion in spending, Biden has loads to share, he said.

While it’s impressive that so many leaders are coming to the summit, “my expectations for ambitious climate targets in these two days are very low,” said NewClimate Institute’ scientist Niklas Hohne. That’s due to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine which caused energy and food crises that took away from climate motion, he said.


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