UN chief wants ‘climate solidarity pact’ as global heat breaks records

Tria Dianti
UN chief wants ‘climate solidarity pact’ as global heat breaks records United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (center) addresses members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Jakarta, Sept. 7, 2023.
Adi Weda/pool/AFP

Time is running out for the world to avert a climate catastrophe from global warming, which is only getting worse, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned at an international meeting in Jakarta on Thursday.

This year’s record-setting “summer of simmering” should be a wake-up call for countries to cut carbon emissions and confront the threat from climate change, he said while urging big emitters to hammer out a “climate solidarity pact.” 

“The dog days of summer are not just barking, they are biting,” Guterres said as he addressed the 13th ASEAN-U.N. summit, adding that wealthier countries must mobilize resources to help emerging economies reduce emissions.

“We can still avoid the worst of climate chaos, but time is running out, and we do not have a moment to lose,” he said.

Although he was addressing Southeast Asian leaders, the United Nations chief was directing his remarks mainly to the top industrialized countries, whose leaders he would meet at the G20 summit in New Delhi this weekend.  

Those countries should make extra efforts to reduce emissions and help emerging economies transition to clean energy, he said.

Guterres also proposed a plan to “super-charge” the global response to climate change, which he called the “acceleration agenda.” 

His proposal calls for developed countries to reach net-zero emissions as close as possible to 2040 and emerging economies to achieve that target as close as possible to 2050. 

Guterres warned that the world is facing “a cascade of crises” that has neared the breaking point and threatens to undermine peace and stability.

Apart from the worsening climate emergency, he cited escalating wars and conflicts, growing poverty, widening inequalities and rising geopolitical tensions.

He expressed concern about the situation in ASEAN member-state Myanmar, where the military seized power in February 2021 and launched a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and civilians.

All countries must “continue to seek a unified strategy toward Myanmar,” he said.

North Korea concerns

Meanwhile on Thursday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol urged strict enforcement of U.N. sanctions on North Korea, saying its nuclear and missile development posed a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region.

“North Korea’s nuclear and missile development is a serious violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and a direct challenge to world peace,” he said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. “It is an existential threat that can target and strike all nations participating in today’s meeting.”

Yoon was speaking during the East Asia Summit, which brought together officials from ASEAN member-states as well as South Korea, the United States, Japan, China, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Attendees included U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. 

07 SEA-climate2.jpg
Indonesian women sit on a hill overlooking the Suralaya coal power plant in Cilegon, Indonesia, Jan. 8, 2023. [Dita Alangkara/AP]

In a joint statement, the leaders highlighted the importance of a maritime order in the region that follows international law.

The leaders recognized that “a maritime regime in the region that is consistent with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has facilitated our region’s impressive economic growth,” the statement said.  

The statement did not mention any specific disputes, but came out amid a controversy over China’s new map. It was released last month and shows Beijing’s expansive claim over most of the South China Sea, including territories overlapping with the exclusive economic zones of ASEAN countries Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. 

China’s Li expressed hope that outside countries fully respect the efforts made by regional countries to negotiate the rules of conduct in the South China Sea and maintain peace and stability in the region, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

In other action, the leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation and partnership in areas such as trade and investment, energy security, food security, health security, connectivity, digital transformation and sustainable development.

In a speech opening the East Asia Summit, host Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo urged the leaders to work together to maintain peace and stability.

“We all have the responsibility to not create new conflicts, to not create new tensions, to not create new wars,” Jokowi said. “And at the same time, we also have the responsibility to lower the hot tension, to thaw the frozen atmosphere, to create a space for dialogue and to bridge the existing differences.”


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