ARKANSAS, Sept 21 (Future Headlines)- The urgency of addressing climate change took center stage at the U.N. General Assembly as world leaders gathered to discuss the pressing need for action in the face of growing environmental challenges. Criticism was directed at major polluters for their inadequate efforts in tackling global warming, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasizing the need to phase out fossil fuels rapidly.

The upcoming U.N. climate summit, COP28, scheduled for November 29 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, served as a backdrop for leaders to call for immediate action to combat climate change. They stressed the importance of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables, even as they acknowledged that the world is lagging behind in this transition.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the need to move swiftly away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources. He cited delays caused by inaction, political pressures, and vested interests in the fossil fuel industry, which continues to profit from the status quo. Leaders from climate-vulnerable nations, including Brazil, Canada, Pakistan, South Africa, and Tuvalu, were invited to speak and urged policymakers worldwide to accelerate efforts to combat climate change. They emphasized the severe consequences of continued inaction and called for global cooperation.

Notably absent from the stage were the world’s two top polluters, the United States and China. This absence raised concerns among climate campaigners, signaling potential challenges in making significant progress during COP28. Climate experts stressed the need for a substantial shift in political will in the months leading up to the summit. Kenyan President William Ruto proposed the creation of a universal tax on fossil fuel trades, levies on aviation and maritime emissions, and financial transactions to raise trillions of dollars. This would provide funding for climate initiatives in developing nations, emphasizing the need for equitable financial contributions.

California Governor Gavin Newsom pointed out the oil industry’s obstruction of climate action, calling the climate crisis a fossil fuel crisis. He highlighted the need to hold the industry accountable for its role in impeding progress on climate goals. Brazil and Thailand announced increased emission reduction targets, demonstrating a shift in climate policy. Brazil committed to a reduction of 50-53% below 2005 levels by 2030, while Thailand raised its target from 20% to 40% below business-as-usual projections by 2030.

Some leaders stressed the importance of reforming financial institutions to improve access to funding for developing nations. This would enable these countries to implement climate initiatives effectively. Barbados’s Prime Minister Mia Mottley called for serious consideration of climate finance and debt cancellation for low-income countries. She argued that the climate crisis is a greater threat to humanity than many geopolitical conflicts.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasized the need for countries to meet the long-unmet target of mobilizing $100 billion per year in climate finance. She called it a question of trust and pledged EU support. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, called on countries to end fossil fuel subsidies, which reached a record $7 trillion last year despite global pledges to phase them out in 2021. The U.N.’s Green Climate Fund announced a goal of capitalizing at least $50 billion by 2030. The fund will shift its focus from supporting individual projects to transforming entire systems.

In summary, the U.N. General Assembly served as a platform for world leaders to underscore the urgency of addressing climate change. Despite some notable progress and increased ambition in emission reduction targets, significant challenges remain. The absence of major emitters from the stage and the need for substantial financial commitments and cooperation underscore the complexity of the climate crisis. COP28 in Dubai will be a critical moment in determining the world’s commitment to tackling climate change and moving toward a sustainable, carbon-neutral future.

Reporting by Emad Martin