The Guardian view on Cop27: Now is not the time for apathy or complacency | Editorial
VSimate change is a global problem that requires cooperation among all nations. This is why today more than 30 newspapers and media organizations in more than 20 countries have adopted a common vision of what needs to be done. Hurry up. Rather than phasing out fossil fuels and turning to clean energy, many wealthy countries are reinvesting in oil and gas, failing to cut emissions fast enough and to bargain the aid they are prepared to send to poor countries. All this as the planet rushes towards the point of no return – where climate chaos becomes irreversible.
Since the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow 12 months ago, countries have only promised to do one fiftieth of what is needed to stay on track to keep temperatures within 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels. No continent has avoided extreme weather disasters this year – from floods in Pakistan to heat waves in Europe, and from wildfires in Australia to hurricanes in the United States. Given that these are due to high temperatures of around 1.1°C, the world can expect much worse.
As many countries seek to reduce their dependence on Russia, the world is experiencing a “gold Rushfor new fossil fuel projects. These are presented as temporary supply measures, but they risk locking the planet in irreversible damage. All of this underscores that humanity must end its dependence on fossil fuels. If renewables were the norm, there would be no climate emergency.
The world’s poorest people will bear the brunt of the destruction caused by drought, melting ice caps and crop failure. Protecting these groups from loss of lives and livelihoods will require money. Developing countries, according to an influential report, need 2 billion dollars a year reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and deal with climate degradation.
Rich countries today only have one in eight people in the world but are responsible for half of the greenhouse gases. These nations have a clear moral responsibility to help. Developing countries should be given enough money to deal with the dangerous conditions they have done little to create, especially as a global recession looms.
Wealthy nations should keep the promise of previously committed funds – like the 100 billion dollars per year from 2020 – to signal their seriousness. At a minimum, a windfall tax on the combined profits of the largest oil and gas companies – estimated at nearly $100 billion in the first three months of the year – must be enacted. The United Nations was right to ask that the money be used to support the most vulnerable. But such a levy would only be the beginning. Poor nations also carry debts that prevent them from recovering from climate-related disasters or protecting themselves from future disasters. Creditors should be generous in canceling loans for those on the front lines of the climate emergency.
These measures need not wait for coordinated international action. Countries could implement them at the regional or national level. A country’s cumulative emissions must underpin its responsibility to act. While private financing can help, the onus is on large incumbent emitters to come up with the money.
Solving the crisis is the moonshot of our time. Reaching the moon succeeded in a decade because huge resources were devoted to it. A similar commitment is needed now. But an economic crisis has reduced rich countries’ appetite for spending, and the planet risks being trapped into fossil fuel dependence by rearguard action by big business. Yet during the pandemic, central banks around the world have lubricated state spending by buying up their own governments’ bonds. The trillions of dollars needed to deal with the ecological emergency demand such radical returns.
Now is not the time for apathy or complacency; the urgency of the moment is upon us. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change must be about the power of argument, not the argument of power. The key to maintaining consensus in Egypt is not letting trade disputes and the war in Ukraine block global climate diplomacy. The UN process may not be perfect. But it has provided nations with a goal to save the planet, which must be pursued at Cop27 to avert an existential risk for humanity.