Unprecedented and still without sufficient answers, the climate crisis has lost ground in the discussions of the heads of state gathered this week at the UN General Assembly. The escalation of the Ukrainian War and its repercussions dominated the meeting’s agenda.
On Wednesday (21), US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron withdrew from the meeting on the climate emergency called by UN Secretary General António Guterres to speak at a fundraising event. UNAIDS health funds.
The two leaders, who have marked defenses of the Paris Agreement on combating climate change at different political moments and have hosted their own climate summits, are now dealing with other agendas.
“Climate change appears to have been dismissed as a priority by many decision-makers around the world,” declared Guterres on Twitter on Wednesday morning.
A Sheet found that the UN tried to bring the climate discussion closer to the triple crisis in energy, food and finance —the two agendas were scheduled in sequential meetings—, but encountered resistance from the leaders.
Without Biden and Macron, the meeting was attended by the US special climate envoy, John Kerry, and, on the European side, by the vice president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans. The full list of participants has not been released by the UN.
The absence of heads of state undermines the secretary-general’s plan to elevate climate negotiation to the highest political decision-making level.
In 2019, Guterres had convened a climate summit on the eve of the General Assembly, with a view to giving stage to world leaders committed to announcing more ambitious climate goals. The initiative was replicated by Biden, at the beginning of his term, and became a proposal at the UN Climate COP26, last November, for countries to present annual news about their climate contributions.
Already this year, in a scenario of uncertainties brought about by the consequences of the pandemic and the War in Ukraine, the Secretary-General’s strategy changed the stage for the meeting closed to the public, with the aim of helping to unlock political nodes of climate negotiations – which take place again at COP27, scheduled for November, in Egypt.
The willingness of developed countries to finance climate action – especially in adaptation and loss and damage – in the developing world had already diminished with the pandemic and now, with the war, seems out of the question.
At one of the New York Climate Week events, which takes place concurrently with the General Assembly, the US climate envoy denied, in answering a question from the public, that there is possible funding for climate loss and damage.
“We have one [orçamento] limited, tell me the government in the world that has trillions of dollars, because that’s what it costs,” Kerry told The New York Times.
At the same event, World Bank President David Malpass responded to a question about the damage of fossil fuels to the climate with the phrase “I don’t know, I’m not a scientist”, which generated a wave of criticism on social media, with pressure to be fired from the post.
The response, classified as climate denialism, raises fears that the World Bank and other development banks will not set a deadline for ending financing for fossil fuel projects — something that could also be delayed by European demand to find other sources of funding. supply to replace Russian oil and gas.
For Germany’s special climate envoy Jennifer Morgan, recent investments in new sources of fossil fuels do not undermine the commitment to climate goals.
“There is a mistaken impression that because we are turning to coal to ensure our citizens have winter heating, we are no longer serious about or abandoning our climate goals,” he told Sheet.
“What the war is provoking is the anticipation of the peak of fossil fuel use; our biggest investment is still in the transition to renewable energy,” he added.
Despite having left the priority focus, the climate agenda still figured in the speeches of heads of state during the General Assembly.
“Climate diplomacy is not a favor to the United States or any nation, and abandoning it harms the whole world,” said Biden, who used the climate agenda to signal directly to China that competition between the two countries must not prevent collaboration on the climate agenda.
“As we deal with changing geopolitical trends, the United States will behave like a reasonable leader,” he said.
Macron also pointed out, in his speech, the climate crisis among the issues that need urgent attention, along with terrorism and nuclear proliferation. The French leader defended the eradication of coal and called on China and other countries to make firm decisions at COP27. The Chinese president, as well as the Russian, did not participate in the General Assembly.
“Which is more harmful to humanity: cocaine, carbon dioxide or oil?” questioned Colombia’s newly elected president Gustavo Petro in a speech that won over social media for the irreverent comparison used to protest the war. to drugs and fossil fuels.
He also claimed that wars are used as excuses for not tackling climate change.
“The will to power has decided that cocaine is the poison that must be pursued, even if it causes a minimum of overdoses. On the other hand, carbon dioxide and oil must be protected, even though their use could lead humanity to extinction. “, said.
President Jair Bolsonaro also addressed the climate agenda, criticizing the Europeans’ turn to fossil fuels and citing Brazil as a “champion of the energy transition”. After having suffered international criticism throughout his term for his anti-environmental policies, he made a more measured speech, but still repeated false data about the conservation of the Amazon.
Leaders from developing countries also took the opportunity to bolster the demand for climate action financing. Senegal’s President Macky Sall emphasized the call for mobilizing US$100 billion annually for climate adaptation.
Suriname’s president, Chandrika Persad Santochi, recalled that the country is one of the three countries in the world that absorb more carbon than they emit, and yet suffer the consequences of climate change.
The Planeta em Transe project is supported by the Open Society Foundations.