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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Big Emitters Silent at UN

Air Date: Week of

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that humanity’s climate-disrupting actions have “opened the gates of hell.” (Photo: Loey Felipe, UN Photo)

At the UN Climate Ambition Summit in New York, developed nations promised more money to help vulnerable countries adapt, but big emitting countries including the US and China had no new plans to put on the table. Living on Earth’s Paloma Beltran joins Host Jenni Doering to share highlights from the summit.


CURWOOD: From PRX and the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios at the University of Massachusetts Boston, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

And I’m Jenni Doering.

As the UN prepared for a climate summit in New York City, the first major climate march in the U.S. since the pandemic saw thousands of protesters calling on world leaders to end fossil fuel use.

[Climate Protests: We need clean air, not another billionaire!
We need clean air, not another billionaire!...

Hey hey, ho ho fossil fuels have got to go.]

DOERING: But at the UN Climate Ambition Summit itself, the silence of key greenhouse gas emitters was deafening.

Living on Earth’s Paloma Beltran tuned into the summit. So, what happened or didn’t happen, maybe I should say?

BELTRAN: Hi Jenni. With just ten weeks before the big UN climate conference in Dubai, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterrez didn’t mince words. He declared that with climate disruption, “humanity has opened the gates to hell”.

DOERING: Oh wow, not exactly polite diplomatic language.

Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, introduced each invited speaker, highlighting the bold climate actions that earned them a spot at the mic. (Photo: Mark Garten, UN Photo)

BELTRAN: Right? So to highlight the need for serious action, only the “First Movers and Doers” with new plans were given time at the mic. Countries that made the cut included Pakistan, Vietnam, tiny Tuvalu, and coalitions like the European Union. But notably absent were several heads of big emitting countries like China, France, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

DOERING: Huh, their silence must have stung for those who did show up.

BELTRAN: Yes, Lidy Nacpil, the coordinator of the Asia People’s Movement on Debt and Development, said it’s time to support the Loss and Damage Fund for the most vulnerable countries who have done the least to cause climate change.

LIDY NACPIL: We the people of the global south, are not asking for aid or assistance. Climate finance is an obligation and part of reparations for historical harms and continuing injustices. We have a right not just to survive but to build a better home for our children.

DOERING: Sounds like they’re demanding more action, less talk.

Many low-income countries advocated for more ambitious climate financing from wealthy high-emitting countries. (Photo: Laura Jerriel, UN Photo)

BELTRAN: Yeah, and so far, Austria promised 50 million euros for Loss and Damage, and Spain pledged 225 million euros to the Green Climate Fund. But several leaders like Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, speaking through a translator, said green financial systems are broken.

PETRO THROUGH TRANSLATOR: Major financial resources can only be produced if we restructure the global financial system.

BELTRAN: The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Motley, underscored how the rich fossil fuel, finance, and insurance industries, have all profited from the climate crisis.

MOTLEY: Leaving 10 or 15% on the table leaves you with more than a bellyful to be able to satisfy your, your shareholders and the dividends that you pay them. But if you don't take corrective action now, you will have to tell us where you have been keeping all of your scientific research to relocate you and your families to the planet Mars or the planet Pluto. [APPLAUSE]

BELTRAN: And California Governor Gavin Newsom, the only US leader to speak, left no doubt about who’s to blame.

NEWSOM: This climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis, this climate crisis persists. It's not complicated. It's not complicated. It's the burning of oil. It's the burning of gas. It's the burning of coal. And we need to call that out. For decades and decades, the oil industry has been playing each and every one of us in this room for fools.

Several speakers, like California Governor Gavin Newsom, called out the persistent influence and deceit of fossil fuel companies. (Photo: Mark Garten, UN Photo)

DOERING: So Paloma, what are the major takeaways from the summit? How close are we meeting the Secretary General’s warning about the “gates of hell”?

BELTRAN: Well, the world still a lot of work to do, to deal with the climate emergency, but since the demons we’ve unleashed are already taking a toll, countries announced partnerships to help former colonies cope. Australia and Tuvalu agreed to work together to help the small island state address sea level rise, while Spain and the Dominican Republic declared a similar relationship. The Green Climate Fund also announced 150 million dollars for early disaster warning systems in Cambodia, Somalia and others. And Secretary General Guterres ended the day on an optimistic note, proclaiming that the meeting had started as an “Ambition Summit” and ended as a “Hope Summit” gearing up the world for the climate talks in Dubai in two months.

DOERING: Thanks, Paloma! That’s Living on Earth’s Paloma Beltran.



Watch the full live stream here

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterrez’s Climate Action Acceleration Agenda

More about the Loss and Damage fund, which was established during COP27

The Green Climate Fund

Inside Climate News "What to Know About New York’s Climate Ambition Summit"

Reuters "Climate protesters in New York and across the globe send message to United Nations"


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