KING GEORGE ISLAND, Antarctica— November 25, 2023
UN Secretary-General “Antonio Guterres” has provided a stark message from the heart of Antarctica just days before the commencement of COP28, the international climate talks in Dubai. Guterres, accompanied by Chilean President Gabriel Boric, emphasized the devastating consequences of the rapidly melting continent, stating, “We absolutely need to act immediately.”
Antarctica, a globally significant region, is witnessing the thawing of ice that has remained frozen for millions of years due to human-induced global warming. Guterres underscored the interconnectedness of the world’s climate, noting that the impacts of Antarctica’s changes extend far beyond its icy borders.
Besides reflecting sunlight away from Earth, Antarctica plays a crucial role in regulating the planet’s climate by driving major ocean currents through its ice and cold waters. The melting of massive ice quantities not only elevates sea levels but also alters salinity and disrupts the habitats of oceanic life.
The UN chief, on a three-day official visit to the southern continent, expressed the urgency of meaningful action at COP28. Despite annual commitments made by nations at the Conference of the Parties (COP) to address climate change, these efforts have fallen short of effectively curbing global warming driven by “greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.”
Guterres highlighted the upcoming COP28 in Dubai as an opportunity for nations to collectively decide on the phased-out reduction of fossil fuels within an appropriate timeframe. Preventing the planet from surpassing “1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit)” above pre-industrial temperatures is an essential objective to steer clear of calamitous climate extremes, emphasizes the significance of this target. However, specific language for such a phase-out has yet to be incorporated into the agreements emerging from these conferences, which often contend with a strong presence and influence from participants linked to fossil fuel industries and countries.
COP28 also presents an opportunity for nations to commit to more renewable energy projects and enhance the energy efficiency of existing electrical grids and technologies, according to Guterres. Sultan al-Jaber, who serves as the head of the “Abu Dhabi National Oil Company” and holds the position of president-designate for this year’s talks, is entrusted with a ‘greater responsibility’ to encourage the fossil fuel industry to invest in cleaner energy, as emphasized by Guterres.
As world leaders prepare to gather in Dubai for COP28, the urgency of climate action resonates with Pope Francis, who will be the first pontiff to attend the U.N. climate conference. Guterres expressed hope that the pope’s presence will convey to political leaders the moral imperative to prioritize climate action and take necessary measures to steer away from the current perilous trajectory.