Home USA News World leaders gather to discuss climate amid many distractions

World leaders gather to discuss climate amid many distractions

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SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — More than 100 world leaders are set to discuss a worsening problem that scientists call Earth’s biggest problem, but observers say progress will be hard to come by with everything going on in the world.

Nearly 50 heads of state and government will take the stage on Monday for the first day of “high-level” international climate talks in Egypt, with more expected in the days ahead. Much of the focus will be on national leaders who will tell their stories of being affected by climate disasters, culminating on Tuesday with a speech by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Muhammad Sharif, whose summer flooding has caused at least $40 billion in damage and forced millions of people to relocate.

But it may not be as dramatic or headline-grabbing as past meetings like this.

why? Because of bad timing and someone who doesn’t show up, comes late, or worries about it.

Most of the leaders are meeting on Monday and Tuesday, just in time for potentially policy-changing midterm elections in the United States. The leaders of the world’s 20 richest countries will then hold their only influential club meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in a few days. Add to that, “there are big climate summits and small climate summits, and this one was never expected to be big,” said Climate Advisers CEO Nigel Purvis, a former US negotiator.

The leaders of two of the top three carbon polluters — China and India — appear to be missing out on climate talks, even as their subordinates are negotiating. The leader of another top-polluting country — US President Joe Biden — arrives in Bali a few days later than most other presidents and prime ministers.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak initially intended to avoid the talks, but public pressure and plans by his predecessor Boris Johnson to come changed his mind. The new King, Charles III, a long-time advocate for the environment, will not be in attendance because of his new role. And Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine spawned energy chaos that reverberates around the world in climate negotiations, will not be here.

“We always want more,” United Nations climate chief Simon Steele said at a press conference on Sunday. “But I think there’s enough (leadership) right now for us to get a very productive result.”

In addition to the leaders’ speeches, the talks will include “groundbreaking” roundtables that “we’re confident will lead to very strong understanding,” Steele said.

Leaders who are emerging en masse are from the host continent, Africa.

“Historical pollutants that caused climate change are not being detected,” said Mohammed Adou of Power Shift Africa. “Africa is the least responsible, most vulnerable to the challenge of climate change, and it is the continent that is stepping up and providing leadership.”

“The south is actually stepping up,” Adove told The Associated Press. “The North, which has historically caused the problem, is collapsing.”

Monday will be largely dominated by the leaders of countries affected by climate change, not those who created the problem of heat-trapping gases and warming the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. It will mainly be African countries, small island states and other vulnerable countries that will tell their stories.

And they are dramatic, droughts in Africa and floods in Pakistan, in places that can least afford it. For the first time in 30 years of climate talks, the summit “must focus its attention on the serious climate impacts we’re already seeing,” said David Waskow of World Resources International.

“We cannot discount an entire continent where more than a billion people live and which has some of the most serious consequences,” said Vaskov. “It is quite clear that Africa will be at very serious risk.”

The head of the country, the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, will begin the speech of the leaders. Guterres continues to ramp up his rhetoric about how little time is left for each public speech.

Leaders are coming to “share progress at home and accelerate action,” Purvis said. In this case, with the passage of the first major climate legislation and $375 billion in spending, Biden has something to share, he said.

While it is impressive that so many leaders are coming to the summit, “my expectations for ambitious climate goals in these two days are very low,” said Niklas Hohne, a scientist at the NewClimate Institute. That’s because of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which caused energy and food crises that derailed climate action, he said.

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