SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt (AFP) -- World leaders gathered Monday for climate talks in Egypt facing pressure to deepen cuts in emissions and financially back developing countries already devastated by the effects of rising temperatures.
The UN’s COP27 climate summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh comes as nations worldwide are facing increasingly intense natural disasters that have taken thousands of lives this year alone and cost billions of dollars.
At the opening ceremony on Sunday, COP27 officials urged governments to keep up efforts to combat climate change despite soaring inflation, the energy crunch linked to Russia’s war on Ukraine and the persistent Covid-19 pandemic.
“The fear is other priorities take precedence,” top United Nations climate change official Simon Stiell told a news conference.
The “fear is that we lose another day, another week, another month, another year -- because we can’t”, he said.
The world must slash greenhouse emissions by 45 percent by 2030 to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above late-19th-century levels.
But current trends would see carbon pollution increase 10 percent by the end of the decade and Earth’s surface heat up 2.8C, according to findings unveiled in recent days.
Only 29 of 194 countries have presented improved climate plans, as called for at the UN talks in Glasgow last year, Stiell noted.
Nearly 100 heads of state and government began to arrive for two days of talks, with the notable absence of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whose country is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases.
U.S. President Joe Biden, whose country ranks second on the top-polluters list, will join COP27 later this week after midterm elections on Tuesday that could put Republicans hostile to international action on climate change in charge of Congress.
French President Emmanuel Macron urged the United States, China and other non-European rich nations to “step up” their efforts to cut emissions and provide financial aid to other countries.
“Europeans are paying,” Macron told French and African climate campaigners on the sidelines of COP27. “We are the only ones paying.”
Fresh from his own election victory, Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is expected to attend the summit later on, with hopes high that he will protect the Amazon from deforestation after defeating climate-skeptic President Jair Bolsonaro.