UN Secretary General: Earth’s vital signs are failing

The UN head said the globe needs to cut emissions by drastically phasing out fossil fuel use and ensuring this transition is just.

On the first day of COP28, the United Nations climate talks in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the World Meteorological Organisation said it was virtually certain that 2023 will be the warmest year on record”.

It added that for the first time, greenhouse gas concentrations had reached 50 per cent above pre-industrial levels.

T&T has also felt the extreme heat this year.

While data remains preliminary, 2023 has had the most “hot days” since 1980, where maximum high temperatures exceeded 34°C at Piarco and 32°C at Crown Point.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, at the opening of the World Climate Summit of COP28, explained that this unprecedented level of warming has led to crises around the world, and called once again for global leaders to act.

“Polar ice and glaciers are vanishing before our eyes, causing havoc the world over—from landslides and floods to rising seas. But this is just one symptom of the sickness bringing our climate to its knees. A sickness only you, global leaders, can cure,” he said.

He said that if the world acts now, countries have the technologies to avoid the worst of climate chaos. Guterres called on the G20, representing 80 per cent of the world’s emissions, to lead.

The UN head said the globe needs to cut emissions by drastically phasing out fossil fuel use and ensuring this transition is just.

Earth's vitals are failing
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

Guterres explained, “Developing countries are being devastated by disasters they did not cause. Extortionate borrowing costs are blocking their climate action plans, and support is far too little and far too late. The Global Stocktake must commit to a surge in finance, including for adaptation and loss and damage. And it must support reform of the multilateral development banks to leverage far more private finance at reasonable costs.”

The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Climate Change, Simon Stiell, spelt out his vision for the next two years at the opening of COP28, saying, “In 2024, countries will submit their first Biennial Transparency Report. This will mean the reality of individual progress can’t be concealed. We will also agree at COP29 on how to finance this massive shift with the new finance goal.”

Stiell also put countries on notice that new Nationally Determined Contributions, which are goals each nation has to develop to curb greenhouse gas emissions, must be delivered by early 2025.

Citing climate science, which, according to Stiell, says “we have around six years before we exhaust the planet’s ability to cope with our emissions” by COP30, he said “every single commitment—on finance, adaptation, and mitigation—has to be in line with a 1.5°C world.”


This story was published as part of Climate Tracker’s COP28 Climate Justice Reporting Fellowship

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Kalain Hosein

Kalain Hosein

Kalain is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Trinidad and Tobago. Since 2014, he has reported on weather, climate, and the environment for his online media company, Trinidad and Tobago Weather Center.

In 2019, Kalain joined Guardian Media Limited in Trinidad and Tobago as their Weather Anchor, producing compelling weather, climate, and environment coverage across television, print, digital, and radio. He has led Guardian Media’s coverage through inclement weather events like tropical cyclones and floods, as well as international climate conferences such as the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27.

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