The World's Largest Climate Polluters Absent from UN Climate Summit
None of the world's biggest climate polluters were present at the climate summit, according to The Guardian.
The absence of leaders responsible for the highest carbon emissions globally, including US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, indicates insufficient efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change, says the UN Secretary-General.
Also notably absent from the summit were France's Emmanuel Macron, India's Narendra Modi, and the UK's Rishi Sunak, who faced intense criticism after announcing a softening of the UK's carbon emission targets.
"Their absence suggests that we are not taking the scale of the task seriously," said Kelly Sims Gallagher, a former White House advisor. "If we were serious, they would all be at the table today. This is worrisome."
"This climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis. It's about oil burning. It's about gas burning. It's about coal burning. And we need to call it out. For decades and decades, the oil industry made fools of every one of us in this room. They bought off politicians. Their decades of deceit and denial have created the conditions that persist today," said Gavin Newsom, Governor of California.
Climate damages have already reached significant proportions, while global greenhouse gas emissions remain at record levels. To keep global warming within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and prevent the most adverse consequences, the world needs to significantly and rapidly reduce emissions and continue doing so over the next three decades.
At the same time, populations least responsible for the climate crisis are already suffering its consequences and urgently need help to adapt and recover from losses and damages.
However, UN Secretary-General António Guterres admitted that the summit itself is unlikely to significantly change the trajectory of the climate crisis. Still, the US, for example, signed an agreement to protect the World Ocean, and billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged an additional $500 million to close coal and gas plants in the US.
Nonetheless, a substantial gap remains in terms of what is needed to prevent catastrophic climate change. Experts are cautiously optimistic that the upcoming climate summit in Dubai in November may address this.
"While the small steps proposed by countries are welcome, they're like trying to put out a forest fire with a leaky hose," said David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute. He noted that there is a massive disconnect between the depth of actions taken by governments and businesses and the transformative shifts needed to address the climate crisis.