COP27: “Highway to climate hell” – rich nations must pay for change


COP27 starts with stark warnings and some degree of blame from leaders of the UN, Egypt and African Union as climate action continues to lag behind fine words.

As delegates from around the world attend COP27 in Egypt, they have been told in clear terms that the world is facing a crisis, that humanity has no choice but to act, and that too little has been done by the richest nations who with few exceptions, have polluted most.

UN Secretary General António Guterres set out the scale of the challenge, saying that greenhouse gas emissions keep growing, global temperatures keep rising and our planet is fast approaching the tipping point that will make climate chaos irreversible. He labelled this a “highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”

Along with calling for action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Guterres also suggested a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies, to help finance greater support for people struggling with the consequences of climate change.

Guterres spoke after host, President Sisi of Egypt, opened COP27 by calling on wealthy countries to meet their responsibilities, following the commitments made a year ago at COP26.

Sisi warned that there was no time to “slip back” and “no space for hesitation” as he called for “implementation, implementation, implementation”.

He stressed that the wealthiest nations must do more, emphasising that humanity must be “just to those who are not responsible for the consequences that are producing so much suffering”.

President Sisi was supported in his outlook by the president of the African Union, Macky Sall, who told COP27 that those who pollute most should “pay the most in order to get our planet off this track of climate crisis”.

His words will have particular relevance to Africa and South America, which both face some of the most severe consequences of climate change and must tackle significant financial challenges to make their infrastructure climate resilient despite being responsible for only 10% of global emissions each year.

Dr Nelson Ogunshakin OBE, CEO of the International Federation of Consulting Engineers, FIDIC, welcomed the demanding tone set by world leaders. He said: “Climate change is an existential threat to humanity, communities and their livelihoods, but the infrastructure sector has the solutions, the technology and the will to act.

“We are bringing hundreds of the infrastructure industry’s leaders together through our Global Leadership Forum to push the solutions and actions needed to improve the lives of the soon to be 8 billion people that habitat our planet and cut global carbon quickly. So we need political leaders, especially in the wealthiest nations, to live up to the commitments made in Glasgow last year and for all leaders to again assess if more action can be taken sooner given the latest findings within the UNEP emissions gap report which reveal that policies currently in place point to a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century. They must provide the resource to unleash our industry’s talent now.”