COP28: King Charles urges end to ‘frightening experiment’ in climate change

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Dubai: King Charles has told a record gathering of world leaders at the UN climate talks that the hope of humanity rests on the decisions they take, as lives and livelihoods are laid waste by the worst impacts of climate change.

In a sombre address on the second day of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, the King said the future was being imperilled as the natural world was taken “outside balanced norms and limits” into unchartered territory.

“We are carrying out a vast, frightening experiment of changing every ecological condition, all at once, at a pace that far outstrips nature’s ability to cope,” he said on Friday.

The King warned that efforts to tackle climate change were “dreadfully far off track”. Credit: AP

The King’s warning at the annual talks, which are being held in the oil-producing United Arab Emirates, landed amid criticism in the UK of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government for scaling back measures to meet net-zero targets.

Sunak, who was forced to defend his decision to spend only half a day at the talks, conceded the world was not moving fast enough to address the climate crisis, but argued that the UK accounted “for less than one per cent of global emissions”.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazil’s President Inacio Lula de Silva were among the heads of state to descend on Dubai on Friday for leader’s day at COP28.

Addressing the delegation at Dubai’s Expo 2020 site, Modi took aim at wealthy nations for fuelling the climate crisis in poorer countries where the impacts were more acute.

“Over the past century, a small section of humanity has indiscriminately exploited nature. However, entire humanity is paying the price for this, especially people living in the global south,” he said.

“We must resolve that every country shall fulfil the climate targets it is setting for itself and the commitments it is making.”

The event, which Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is not attending, is being billed as the most consequential climate summit since the 2015 COP21 meeting in France that resulted in the Paris Agreement, where nations committed to limit warming to 2 degrees or as close as possible to 1.5 degrees.

In January, the World Meteorological Organisation declared the previous eight years to have been the hottest on record, around 1.15 degrees Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial period.

The Dubai summit launched on a high note on Thursday, with a surprise announcement that an agreement had been forged to create a new fund to help poor nations cope with costly climate disasters, with financial pledges from the UAE, European Union, Germany and Japan.

On Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the gathering of more than 170 leaders that the world was far from the goals set in 2015, and “minutes to midnight for the 1.5-degree limit”.

Guterres used his opening address to counter calls to embrace the ongoing use of fossil fuels, with a pointed message to industry leaders that their time was over.

“Your old road is rapidly ageing. Do not double-down on an obsolete business model,” he said, urging governments to push industry by regulating, putting a price on carbon, and ending fossil fuel subsidies.

“The road to climate sustainability is also the only viable pathway to [the] economic sustainability of your companies.”

The future role played by fossil fuels is a key point of contention at the talks, which are being led by the UAE’s Dr Sultan Al Jaber, who is also the chief executive of the country’s state-owned oil company.

Jaber has proposed embracing the continued use of fossil fuels under a strategy he bills as “just transition,” while facing criticism for giving industry an outsized influence over the summit.

A first draft for a potential template of a final agreement out of COP28 was published by the UN on Friday, including options for commitments to phase out or phase down the use of fossil fuels.

On Friday, UAE President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan also announced a $US30 billion ($44.9 billion) climate fund that aims to attract $US250 billion of investment by the end of the decade.

Rishi Sunak, who did not meet the host nation on the summit sidelines, pledged £1.6 billion ($3.05 billion) in climate finance, and announced a new £11 billion investment in a major UK offshore wind farm.

Australian Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen will attend the Dubai summit from next week.

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