(Update: Changes headline, updates lede, adds detail throughout)
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, Nov 7 (EFE).- The United Nations’ yearly climate summit kicked off Monday with a gloomy warning that humanity is on a “highway to climate hell” amid heavy criticism from several African NGOs who are pushing for more financial compensation for developing economies.
“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator,” UN chief António Guterres told world leaders gathered at the Cop27 summit taking place in the Sharm el Sheikh Climate Implementation Summit (SCIS) in Egypt.
“The science is clear: any hope of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees means achieving global net zero emissions by 2050. But that 1.5 degree goal is on life support – and the machines are rattling,” Guterres continued.
“We are getting dangerously close to the point of no return,” he added.
The planet has already warmed 1.1C since pre-industrial times and scientists have warned that spikes in global temperature must be limited to 1.5C by 2100 to avoid terrible climate disasters.
Global leaders arrived on Monday at the Egyptian resort city for the world’s most high profile climate summit, where over 100 international representatives converged to discuss measures to tackle the climate emergency with a special focus on the African continent and developing economies.
But the summit opened Monday’s session amid heavy criticism from several African NGOs including Power Shift Africa and Climate Action Network who are pressuring the international community to accelerate the implementation of Loss and Damage funding which has made its way onto the agenda of the UN climate convention for the first time.
Loss and Damage funding could see rich countries that have profited from fossil fuel investment compensating poorer countries financially for the devastating effects on the climate caused by their polluting economic systems.
“I can sum up Cop27 so far in two words — poor start. The Cop in Egypt needs to learn from the mistakes that undermined Cop26 in Glasgow. For it to be a successful African Cop, the priorities of developing countries must take center stage,” Mohamed Adow, of Power Shift Africa, said.
“We’re in the continent where Loss And Damage is a reality. It’s not too late for this Cop27 to deliver for Africa and the developing world where other conferences have failed them. But we can no longer dodge this vital issue,” Adow added.
The ongoing war in Ukraine, which has triggered a global energy crisis and which has diverted global attention from the climate crisis, has loomed over the summit since it started on Sunday.
“The war in Ukraine, other conflicts, have caused so much bloodshed and violence and have had dramatic impacts all over the world. But we cannot accept that our attention is not focused on climate change. We must of course work together to support peace efforts and end the tremendous suffering,” Guterres warned.
His concerns were echoed by Tasneem Essop of the Climate Action Network who accused fossil fuel lobbies of flocking to the UN climate summit to influence negotiations.
In a statement published Monday, CAN warned that “Cop27 risks becoming a greenwashing festival.”
“The context of this Cop27 shows a trust deficit with rich nations not following through with their commitments made on finance and civil society organizations being limited on their rights to raise their voices,” Essop said.
The joint statement also signed by Ahmed El Droubi, campaign manager for Greenpeace MENA, said: “Cop27 is an African Cop where the prevailing Global North narrative must be challenged and the voices calling for climate justice asserted.”
Global leaders were welcomed by Egypt’s president Abdelfatah al Sisi, who told those gathered that all eyes were on the summit hoping for a “safer environment for the future.”
“Our world needs to overcome the current climate crisis and to reach what we have agreed on as goals in the Paris Agreement, surpass slogans and words,” he said.