UN chief denounces ‘dependence on fossil fuels’

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BERLIN — Officials from 40 countries gathered in Berlin on Monday to discuss how to stay focused on tackling the growing impacts of climate change as the world reels from the economic fallout from the pandemic and invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The UN secretary-general urged countries to act instead of playing the “blame game”.

European nations have pledged to meet their climate targets even as the war in Ukraine prompts some to seek new sources of fossil fuels and at least temporarily turn to coal to make up for shortfalls in Russian energy supplies, which which is viewed with suspicion by developing countries.

Organizers touted the two-day meeting in Berlin as an opportunity to rebuild trust between rich and poor countries ahead of November’s UN climate summit in Egypt, after technical talks last month made little progress on key issues such as climate support for developing countries.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the global warming limit of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit agreed to in the 2015 Paris climate accord is increasingly out of reach even as more more people are affected by extreme floods, droughts, storms and wildfires.

“No nation is immune,” he said. “Yet we continue to feed our addiction to fossil fuels.”

Guterres, appearing via video, criticized countries for continuing to “play the blame game instead of taking responsibility for our collective future”, and urged rich nations to keep the promises they made to the poor.

Developing countries are still waiting for rich countries to provide $100 billion in climate aid each year, a goal they were supposed to reach by 2020.

“At a minimum, stop supporting the pledge of $100 billion a year,” said António Guterres. “Giving clarity through deadlines and timelines and being concrete about its delivery.”

The issue of ‘loss and damage’ plays a prominent role at the Berlin meeting, where ministers will split into small groups for discussions in the hope of building confidence ahead of the UN climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in November.

Antiguan Environment Minister Molwyn Joseph, speaking on behalf of the small island developing nations that are among the most at risk, underscored the urgency of the issue.

“What we call a crisis, for us, is a disaster,” he told delegates. “There are small islands that are disappearing.”

Big polluters, however, have long resisted the idea that they should pay for the destruction their greenhouse gas emissions cause the world.

Meanwhile, scientists say the extreme heat hitting large parts of the northern hemisphere in recent weeks could become the new normal in summer if global warming continues.

“As this meeting takes place, parts of Europe are cooking, even burning. And sadly, it is an experience that is all too familiar to millions around the world,” said Alok Sharma, the British official who led climate talks in Glasgow last year. He told delegates, “My appeal to all of you is, please speed up our work.”

His successor for the upcoming climate talks, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, said it was essential to ensure that “the current situation is not taken as an excuse to backtrack or renege on commitments”. previous ones, in particular those related to support for developing countries”.

The issue of energy sources endangered by Russia’s war in Ukraine looms large over the Berlin meeting, to which China participated, but Russia was not invited.

Environmental activists warn that recent efforts by countries like Germany to tap new sources of fossil fuels like gas could undermine countries’ already fragile climate actions.

German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan acknowledged that “Russia’s war of aggression forces us to make short-term decisions that we don’t like, including the increased use of coal for a very limited period of time. “.

“But not only are we sticking firmly to our climate goals, we are accelerating the energy transition and phasing out the use of fossil fuels even faster,” she told reporters, citing a recently approved plan to accelerate solar. and wind power. power generation in Germany.

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