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  • The Low Down

Our planet is still in the emergency room

At the recent COP27 summit in Egypt, António Guterres, secretary general of the UN, warned that “our planet is still in the emergency room (he had referred to it a year before as a “Code red for humanity”). He went on to say that “we need to drastically reduce emissions now — and this is an issue COP27 did not address. The world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition.”

In the past 30 years, humans have added as much CO2 to the atmosphere as they did in the previous 30,000. Four countries -– the U.S., China, Russia and Germany – are responsible for half of all historical CO2 emissions. About 190 countries, including Canada, are responsible for the other half.

The agreement reached at the summit was hailed for its commitment to providing poor countries with financial assistance to rescue and rebuild vulnerable areas stricken by climate change. It remains to be seen how much of the promised money will ever get paid out. Rich countries in the global north, whose massive wealth was largely acquired through the burning of fossil fuels, have a shameful track record of reneging on their promises to compensate poor countries (mostly in the global south), who contribute little to the warming but bear the brunt of its consequences.

In the final deal, all countries committed to keeping warming to 1.5 Celsius (although the warming is accelerating, not declining). Excluded from the document, however, was any mention of phasing out – or even phasing down – the use of deadly fossil fuels.

This was because of relentless pressure from an energy industry afraid of losing money and power if science-based climate policies are adopted.

In the first quarter of 2022, 25 of the world’s largest oil and gas producers announced profits of close to a hundred billion dollars.