Leaders of developing nations jumped into Saturday’s second-day of a U.N. climate summit to press rich industrial countries to share their knowhow to fight global warming and ease the financial burdens they face — while trumpeting their own natural resources that swallow heat-trapping carbon in the air.
The annual United Nations Conference of the Parties, known as COP28, in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates featured about 150 presidents, prime ministers, royals and other leaders who are presenting their plans to cut heat-trapping emissions and mostly seek unity with other nations to avert climate catastrophe that seemed to draw closer than ever in 2023.
The developing world took center stage early Saturday, with Vice President Kamala Harris of the United States set to speak later.
African leaders noted their continent’s rainforests help gobble up excess carbon dioxide in the air and their countries have belched out a tiny fraction of heat-trapping emissions compared to richer countries.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea — one of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil producers — faulted developed nations for failing to deliver on their pledges to meet their commitments on financing for climate action and meet their own targets to curb their industries’ emissions.
“Africa is one of the regions in the world that sequesters the most carbon and emits oxygen,” he said.
President Jose Ramos Horta of Timor-Leste, next to Indonesia and north of Australia, blasted “shark loans” from multilateral lending institutions, saying developing nations cannot recover from heavy debt burdens that squelch their ability to put money into fighting climate change and grow economically.
Harris’ appearance at COP28 in Dubai marks the first time since COP3 in Kyoto, Japan, that a vice president has led America’s delegation. COP3 in 1997 saw then-Vice President Al Gore speak. Intervening COP summits through President George W. Bush’s tenure saw lower-level representatives.
As Harris made her way toward the Dubai venue, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and French President Emmanuel Macron pushed for development of nuclear energy — which does not produce greenhouse gas emissions, even if it also presents security and waste challenges.
Overall, a group of more than 20 nations called for a tripling of nuclear energy generated in the world by 2050.
“I want here to reiterate the fact that nuclear energy is a clean energy and it should be repeated,” said Macron, which gets around two-thirds of its electricity from nuclear power, the most of any industrialized country, and even exports some of it to its neighbors. “Nuclear energy is back.”
A declaration issued at the event did not specify how much money should be set aside, but urged the World Bank and others to “encourage” expanding lending for nuclear projects.
“We have to invest — I’m not saying give away,” Kerry said. “I’m saying invest the trillions of dollars that are sitting on the sidelines looking for bankable deals but not willing to move as fast as we need to move.”
Whatever their perspective or national interest, leaders almost universally voiced their shared views that Earth is in crisis — with the United Nations and other environmental groups warning that the planet has recorded the nine hottest years on record over the last decade.
Bolivian Vice President David Choquehuanca called for “saving Mother Earth and staving off the multiple crises which have been caused by neocolonial, capitalist, imperialist, patriarchal, Western culture.”
“The climate crisis is but the latest chapter in a long history of hypocrisy and lies: The ‘Global North’ is responsible for the global imbalance that we’re seeing,” he said, using a catchall term for industrialized countries. “They seek permanent growth to the detriment of the global South.”
Worries are rising that the world is set to blow past — even obliterate — targets in the Paris climate accord of 2015 to cap the increase in global temperatures by the end of the century by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) since the start of the industrial era.
In a fire-and-brimstone kickoff Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, fresh from viewing melting glaciers in Antarctica and Nepal, said “Earth’s vital signs are failing” and told leaders, “you can prevent planetary crash and burn.”
In a direct challenge to fossil fuel-aligned nations, the U.N. chief said the only way to limit warming to the goal set in 2015 is by eliminating oil, coal and gas use. “Not reduce, not abate. Phase out,” he said.
Associated Press journalist Jon Gambrell contributed.
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