Climate takes centre stage at UN as global temperatures hit record

Tuesday, Sep 19, 2023

WASHINGTON: With the world on track to break the record for the hottest year in history, world leaders, business leaders, celebrities and activists have converged on midtown Manhattan for Climate Week and the UN’s Climate Action Summit, again focusing the world’s attention on the climate crisis.

The annual climate gathering coincides with the start of the United Nations General Assembly, bringing heads of state and top government officials together with private-sector leaders to focus on climate change in a year marked by a record number of billion-dollar disasters, including eight severe floods.

The main event will take place on Wednesday when UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will host his own Climate Action Summit, a high-profile event meant to reverse backsliding on Paris climate agreement goals and to encourage governments to adopt serious new actions to combat climate change.

“There is lingering doubt that ... we can meet our climate goals. There is too much backtracking; so we’re really hoping that this summit can be used as a moment to inspire people,” Selwin Hart, special adviser on climate to the secretary-general, said in an interview.

As of Monday, the UN had not announced which world leaders or officials would get one of the coveted speaking slots at the climate summit. Over 100 countries’ officials have told Guterres they want to speak, but his team has been weeding out the applications over the last few days, prioritizing countries that plan new actions to advance their previous climate targets.

Hart said the assignment of speaking slots was not intended to embarrass any leaders or country, but to show that these are the first “that are getting things done.”

The meeting comes 10 weeks before the COP28 climate summit and is one of the last high-profile gatherings aimed at getting countries to come forward with new climate actions and plans to shift away from fossil fuels after the G7, G20 and meeting of the BRICs countries - Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia - fell short of getting leaders to agree to phase out fossil fuels.