COP27: Who said what at the World Leaders Summit?

As the World Leaders Summit portion of COP27 comes to a close, we round up the key sounbites, including Antonio Guterres, Mia Mottley, Rishi Sunak, Al Gore and more.

COP27: Who said what at the World Leaders Summit?

COP27 officially opened in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Sunday (6 November).  There were no specific events on the agenda that day, but Monday and Tuesday (7 and 8 November) have been the World Leaders Summit. This is perhaps the busiest and most bustling portion of the two-week summit; it is the portion when the majority of presidents, prime ministers, vice-presidents, secretaries and other high-level figures in policymaking choose to attend.

Representatives from every nation present which has sent a head of state have had time, over the past 48 hours, to deliver a brief speech outlining their focus areas for this conference and what they would like to see other nations bringing to the table. There have been some notable absences, including China. The US has also not sent Joe Biden yet, as he wished to remain on home soil for the Midterms. There has also been a wealth of inspiring speeches and thought-provoking challenges from those present. Here, we provide a handy run-down of who said what to set the scene for the days of negotiations to come.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General:

“We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing … And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.

“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

“Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a climate solidarity pact – or a collective suicide pact… The two largest economies – the United States and China – have a particular responsibility to join efforts to make this Pact a reality. This is our only hope of meeting our climate goals.”

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission:

“The world must deliver better and faster. The fossil fuel crisis must be a game-changer. Let us not take the highway to hell, but earn the clean ticket to heaven, that is our responsibility.”

Rishi Sunak, UK Prime Minister:

“When her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second addressed COP26 last year, she reflected on how history has show that, when nations come together in common cause, there is always room for hope.

“I believe we found room for hope in Glasgow. With one last chance to create a plan that would limit global temperature rises to 1.5C, we made the promises to keep that goal within reach. The question today is this – can we summon the collective will to deliver them? I believe we can.”

Pedro Sanchez, Prime Minister of Spain:

“Indifference is borne from a conscious decision. It will not acquit us… How can you be indifferent in the face of the tragedy that we have seen in countries such as Bangladesh, with rivers bursting their banks and millions displaced?… It is vital that we shake off this lethargy.”

Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados:

We have the collective capacity to transform. We are in the country that built pyramids. We know what it is to remove slavery from our civilisation. We know what it is to find a vaccine within two years when a pandemic hits us. We know what it is to put a man on the Moon and now we put a rover on Mars.

“But the simple political will that is necessary, not just to come here and make promises but to deliver on them and to make a definable difference in the lives of the people who we have a responsibility to serve, seems still not to be capable of being produced. I ask us how much more must happen.

“My friends, time is running out on us. And yes, we have the power of choice… I ask us today, what will our choice be? We have the power to act or the power to remain passive and do nothing. I pray that we will leave Egypt with a clear understanding that the things that are facing us today are all interconnected.”

Shehbaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan:

“I’m sure all of you must have heard about the catastrophic floods in Pakistan, which impacted 33 million people.

“An estimate of damage and loss has exceeded $30bn and this all happened despite our low carbon footprint. We became a victim of something with which we had nothing to do. Of course, it was a manmade disaster.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine

“Ladies and gentlemen, the world needs honesty. We must tell those who do not take the climate agenda seriously that they are making a catastrophic mistake”

“There can be no effective climate policy without peace on earth, because nations are thinking about how to protect themselves here and now from Russian aggression.”

William Ruto, President of Kenya:

“Against the backdrop [of drought in the Horn of Africa], the lengthy discussions at COPs, with its stalling, delaying tactics and procrastination that have hampered implementation and delivery, is simply cruel and unjust. We cannot afford to spend more time skirting around the real issues and break out of the open-ended, process-focused discussions we are trapped in. Further delay will make us busy spectators as calamity wipes out lives and livelihoods.

“Loss and damage is not an abstract topic of endless dialogue: it is our daily experience and the living nightmare of millions of Kenyans and hundreds of millions of Africans.

“In the face of impending catastrophe, whose warning signs are already unbearably disastrous, weak action is unwise; no action is dangerous. At this point in the progression of this calamity, we have few choices and little time. Our discourse must focus on delivery, and our conversation must be centred on our commitments.”

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda:

“The most valuable contribution that developed countries can make is to reduce their emissions faster while investing in Africa to build sustainable, green power. Questioning whether Africa is ready to make use of climate finance should not be used as an excuse to justify inaction.”

Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe, addressing fellow African nations:

“We must speak with one voice [and] act as a block of climate victims. Only then are we likely to carry the day and secure a healthy planet for present and future generations.”

Alexander Van Der Bellen, President of Austria:

“There is far too much blah blah blah and far too little concrete action.”

Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda:

“The oil and gas industry continues to earn almost $3bn daily in profits… It is about time that these companies are made to pay a global carbon tax on their profits as a source of funding for loss and damage. Profligate producers of fossil fuels have benefited from extortionate profits at the expense of human civilization. While they are profiting, the planet is burning.”

Emmanuel Macron, President of France:

“We will not sacrifice our climate commitments under the energy threat from Russia and therefore all the commitments held by nations must be upheld.”

Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela:

“The planet had given us all we needed for life generously – yet, today, we are having to pay this great toil because of our actions. Today the threat is the total collapse of our ecosystem…it appears to be our fatal destiny.”

Surangel Whipps, President of Palau:

“Covid-19 decimated our economy, even as we are working to rebuild from the climate crisis that is tearing us apart limb by limb. Extreme storms and floods continue to destroy our crops and homes and infrastructure…

“We should no longer be held hostage to fossil fuels. Let’s not let the war in Ukraine serve as an excuse for us to backslide on our commitments to transitioning to renewable energy today.”

Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands:

“Our survival is being held to ransom at the cost of profit and an unwillingness to act despite the ability to do so.”

Al Gore, former Vice President of the USA:

“We’re all here today because we still continue to use the thin blue layer of atmosphere covering our planet as a sewer.

“We have a credibility problem, all of us. We’re talking and we’re starting to act. But we’re not doing enough. We cannot continue this pattern of destructive behaviours.

“We have to stop making this crisis worse. We have to see the dash for gas for what it is – the dash down a bridge to nowhere… especially here in Africa… We have to move beyond the era of fossil fuel colonialism.”

“We’re now in the early stage of a sustainability revolution which has the magnitude of the industrial revolution and the speed of the digital revolution.”

Leah Namugerwa, youth climate activist from Uganda:

“It is the rule of nature, living for others.

“I don’t believe it is justice to young generations… when big polluters are untouchable. Is it justice for the world leaders to choose profits over lives?

“Let the African COP be a different COP. Let the African COP be an action COP… The time for action is right here, right now.”

Click here to read all of edie’s COP27-related coverage. 

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