UN chief warns of climate crisis as world leaders convene for climate summitin New York City. During these meetings, they issued warnings about the dangers posed to humanity by fossil fuels.
The United Nations organized the Sustainable Development Goals Summit on Monday and Tuesday, serving as a halfway point review of its 2030 sustainable agenda. The following day, Wednesday, saw the hosting of the Climate Ambition Summit, aimed at fostering "credible, serious and new climate action.." These gatherings represent the latest in a series of international meetings convened by the U.N. with the goal of addressing the challenges of global warming.
Our focus here is on climate solutions - and our task is urgent. Humanity has opened the gates of hell. Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects. Distraught farmers watching crops carried away by floods; sweltering temperatures spawning disease; And thousands fleeing in fear as historic fires rage. Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge. The move from fossil fuels to renewables is happening - but we are decades behind. We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels.- U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
President Biden addressed the U.N. meetings on Tuesday, echoing concerns about "climate change and fragility." He urged world leaders to shift from conventional fossil fuels to environmentally friendly energy sources and cited natural disasters as compelling evidence of the effects of climate change.
"Together, these snapshots tell an urgent story of what awaits us if we fail to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and begin to climate-proof the world," the president remarked. "For one day - for one day [from day one], my administration, the United States, has treated this crisis as an existential threat from the moment we took office not only for us but for all of humanity."
"We need more investment from the public and private sector alike, especially in places that have contributed so little to global emissions but face some of the worst effects of climate change," he added.
Nevertheless, visual evidence reveals that the majority of leaders attending the U.N. meetings this week opted for conventional gas-powered vehicles equipped with internal combustion engines. This choice is noteworthy, given that figures like Biden and Guterres have consistently championed policies aimed at curbing emissions from the transportation sector and advancing the adoption of electric vehicles.
Photographs and video footage captured on the streets near the U.N.'s summit venue depicted extensive queues of black SUVs, with many of them either idling with their engines running or part of motorcades in motion.
A sky view of the United Nations Plaza in New York City shows several parked cars
The U.N. has not provided a response to inquiries regarding the carbon footprint associated with its summits. Questions remain regarding whether the U.N. monitors the usage of gas-powered vehicles for these gatherings and whether virtual hosting of such events is under consideration.
These meetings took place approximately 10 months following the U.N.'s COP27 conference, the yearly climate change summit, which occurred in the opulent resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Thousands of diplomats from around the globe made the journey to attend these conferences in person.
One of the primary goals of the U.N.'s climate summits is to promote strategies that effectively reduce carbon emissions and restrict global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The international body reports that the planet has already experienced a warming of approximately one degree above pre-industrial levels.
"Even if you do believe that emissions are going to destroy the world, nobody's really doing anything about it," Steve Milloy, a senior legal fellow at the Energy & Environment Legal Institute said in an interview last year ahead of COP27. "So, the whole thing is just pointless."
Selwin Hart, a special adviser to the UN Secretary-General on climate action and a champion of just transitions, expressed concerns over a significant regression in commitments.
The countries that committed to net-zero by 2050, and to the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Agreement, they're expanding fossil fuel licensing at a time when science tells us this is totally incompatible with this 1.5-degree goal.- Selwin Hart
In his address on Wednesday, Guterres urged developed nations to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, a target set a decade earlier than most existing commitments. He also called upon countries to establish clear schedules for the gradual elimination of fossil fuel emissions.
Additionally, Guterres emphasized the importance of substantially increasing financial support to assist low and middle-income countries in their swift transition to clean energy and the implementation of climate resilience measures, crucial for managing the growing impact of severe extreme weather events.