Leaders from low-lying and island countries urged affluent countries to act more strongly against global warming at the United Nations General Assembly this week, citing what they regard as an existential threat.
The failure of industrialized economies to properly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions leads to rising sea levels, putting island and low-lying countries at risk.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation, countries committed to trying to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), a level that scientists say will prevent the worst effects of global warming. According to scientists, the world must decrease global emissions by half by 2030 and to zero by 2050 to achieve this goal.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih reminded world leaders on Tuesday that the difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees is a death sentence for the Maldives. President Irfaan Ali of Guyana has chastised corporate polluters for failing to keep agreements to reduce emissions, accusing them of “deception” and “failure,” and predicting that climate change will kill many more people than the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Crisis Group’s U.N. director, Richard Gowan, said the annual conference at the United Nations had a “sense of existential crisis” running through it. Gowan said that both Beijing and Washington want to prove that they are at the forefront of the global warming fight. If the leaders of the small islands can’t get people to listen to this General Assembly, they’ll never get people to listen anywhere else.
President Joe Biden of the United States announced on Tuesday that he will work with Congress to increase funding for developing countries dealing with climate change to $11.4 billion per year by 2024. The cash would assist meet a worldwide goal of $100 billion per year by 2020 to support climate action in vulnerable nations, which was set more than a decade ago.
President Xi Jinping of China has committed to stop developing coal-fired power facilities in other countries, a move that has been largely applauded.
Biden and Xi made their pledges less than six weeks before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, which U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned risks failing due to mistrust between rich and poor countries.
Suriname’s President Chan Santokhi, whose country’s coastline is mostly low-lying, called for “ambitious and actionable promises” at COP26, encouraging rich countries to recommit to the $100 billion per year target. Ideals and political promises, according to Santokhi, are meaningless unless they are backed up by additional financial resources.
The Pacific island nation of Palau has warned that the world is running out of time. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who is hosting COP26, called on world leaders to make the required pledges and a collective resolve to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. According to him, if current trends continue, global temperatures would rise by 2.7 degrees Celsius or more by the end of the century.