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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Leaders’ absence at New York climate summit a sign of political disconnect – Campaigners

The fact that several world leaders will not be present at the UNSG’s Climate Summit next week in New York is a telling sign of political disconnect from the everyday lives of millions of people impacted by the climate crisis, said civil society representatives at a press briefing on Thursday, September 14, 2023.

Rishi Sunak
UK PM Rishi Sunak will not attend the New York climate meet

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, appears to have set a high bar for entry – inviting leaders to speak only if they have ambitious new commitments on climate action.

UK PM Rishi Sunak’s no-show at the New York climate meet is ‘frankly embarrassing’, says one of the campaigners, adding that US President Joe Biden’s presence raises questions about optics rather than substance given US’ lack of climate leadership.

Lauren MacDonald, Campaigner with the group #StopRosebank, said: “We know – and the UK government knows – there can be no new drilling if we want a habitable world and yet they are issuing new licenses and considering approving the massive Rosebank oil field, which would create more CO2 emissions than 28 of the poorest countries produce in a year combined. That the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is not going to the UN summit is frankly embarrassing, and highlights the hypocrisy of his government.”

The press briefing organised by Climate Action Network comes ahead of weekend-long global mobilisations planned from Friday under the Global Fight to End Fossil Fuels, and to set expectations for the UNSG Climate Ambition Summit, in New York, on September 20 and towards COP28 in Dubai.

Mohamed Adow, Director, Power Shift Africa, said: “While the Africa Climate Summit which was held in early September was historic in being the first climate summit focused on Africa it failed to deliver anything transformational and instead pushed for carbon markets which are nothing but ‘polluter permits’ advocated by rich companies and governments to perpetuate their own ongoing carbon pollution.

“Outcomes from recent high-level events have shown a serious political misalignment which does not bode well for an ambitious outcome at COP28. The UNSG’s Summit must be a moment to expose the laggards and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has shown he has no qualms in doing this.”

Brandon Wu, Director of Policy and Campaigns, ActionAid USA, said: “In the context of the unrelenting climate disasters hitting every part of the world, the next few months will be crucial for communities in developing countries: a pledging conference for the Green Climate Fund and the conclusion of crucial negotiations on the new Loss & Damage Fund, both in October, will help determine how much money is available for developing countries in the coming years for the kind of climate action on which literally millions of lives will depend.

“Unfortunately, rich countries have consistently failed to meet the moment. The scale of finance to support climate action in developing countries is dwarfed by the scale of the disasters they are facing every day. This is not just an abdication of responsibility, it is a literal death sentence for many, and it has to change immediately.”

Avantika Goswami, Programme Manager, Climate Change at the Centre for Science and Environment, said: “The recent Global Stocktake Report, an assessment of overall climate action by the UN which will serve as an input at the UNFCCC COP28 summit, shows how wildly off track the world is in meeting the challenge to tackle the climate crisis. The G20 Summit held just after this sobering report showed a tepid political reaction to the everyday reality of climate devastation. While having consensus on a statement was welcome, she said, consensus on a low-ambition declaration that did not balance a renewable energy mention with a matching intent to phase out fossil fuels in an equitable manner was hardly a win.

“The signals from the G20 declaration show positive momentum on building up renewable energy and recognition of the need for low cost financing for the energy transition in developing countries. But the lack of a fossil fuel phase out commitment dampens the effect of this progress, and shows that fossil-producing countries still exert undue influence. Oil and gas account for 54% of global GHG emissions, and their producers must be held accountable.”

Citing the findings of the recent Oil Change International report, tilted Planet Wreckers which shows than just 20 countries are responsible for nearly 90% of CO2 pollution threatened by new oil and gas extraction projects between 2023 and 2050. MacDonald called out the leaders of the five major polluters, the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada and Norway, and said their decision to continue fossil fuel expansion was to willfully put lives in danger.

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