Europe 1 with AFP // Photo credit: MURTADHA AL-SUDANI / ANADOLU AGENCY / ANADOLU AGENCY VIA AFP 17:02 p.m., September 20, 2023

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announces that the world has "opened the door to hell" as it fails to shake its addiction to fossil fuels. He also launched a summit on the fight against climate change, without the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases: China and the United States.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that humanity's addiction to fossil fuels had "opened the gates of hell" by launching a summit on tackling global warming, without China or the United States. Referring to the "terrible heat" and "historic fires" this year, fueled by greenhouse gas emissions, he stressed, however, that it was not too late "to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 ° C".

"The future is not written: it is up to you, the leaders, to write it," he warned. "We can still build a world with clean air, green jobs, and clean, affordable energy for all," he added. Despite the multiplication and intensification of extreme weather events, emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming continue to rise and the fossil fuel sector is reaping record profits.

So Antonio Guterres convened this summit of "common sense" where invited leaders must announce specific actions to achieve their commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

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A peak without the two biggest emitters

But the entrance ticket is high. The Secretary General has been very clear, only the most ambitious, particularly in terms of carbon neutrality objectives, have the right to express themselves." There will be no room for backsliding, greenwashing, dodging responsibilities or repackaging announcements from previous years," he warned when announcing the meeting at the end of December. On Tuesday, he insisted in his speech to the UN General Assembly that he only intended to welcome "actors likely to move the lines".

After receiving more than a hundred responses from countries justifying their action, the UN finally published Tuesday night the list of the lucky ones. And it has some notable absentees, especially the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases: the United States, while President Joe Biden will still be in New York, and China, whose president did not make the trip to the Annual General Meeting.

The UK is also not on the agenda, while its Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suggested on Tuesday that he could reverse the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The European Union, on the other hand, is invited to present its climate policies, as are Brazil, Canada, or South Africa. As well as the France whose President Emmanuel Macron is not in New York, and many countries on the front line against the impacts of global warming, such as Barbados, Samoa, or Tuvalu.

The Secretary General also invited non-state actors, such as the Governor of California and the Mayor of London.

Anger mounts

"Maybe it's good news that Biden doesn't have a slot to speak at the top," said Catherine Abreu of Destination Zero, pointing to plans to develop fossil fuels in the United States. "This is a correction from previous summits where leaders had the opportunity to take credit for climate leadership on the international stage, as they pursued plans to expand fossil fuels fueling the climate crisis at home," she added.

The summit is the largest climate meeting in the United States since 2019, when Swedish activist Greta Thunberg threw her famous "how dare you?" to world leaders. Anger is mounting among climate activists, especially young people, who last weekend again took to the streets of New York City in their thousands in a march against fossil fuels.

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Observers are eagerly awaiting to see what the leaders of Canada and the European Union will say on Wednesday, among others, about their own ambitions but also on their financial commitments to help the most vulnerable countries cope with the warming for which they are least responsible. The failure of rich countries to deliver on their aid promises to developing countries is a particularly sensitive issue in international climate negotiations.

A controversy that will undoubtedly be on the menu of COP28 again in a few weeks. In good news, Colombia, which will attend Wednesday's summit, and Panama, on Tuesday joined the alliance of countries pledging to phase out coal.