UN Special Summit and Protests Amplify Focus on Fossil Fuels and Climate Change

by Gabriel Martinez
Climate Change Summit and Protests

Increasing scrutiny is being directed towards fossil fuels, as well as the United States and President Joe Biden.

William—joins the initiative as well.

The yearly Climate Week is set to commence this Sunday, synchronizing with the U.N. General Assembly. The event will feature the “March to End Fossil Fuels” rally in Manhattan, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of participants. This march is merely one among hundreds of similar demonstrations taking place globally.

“The ensuing week serves as the ignition point of an intense, escalating situation that we are all participating in,” remarked Jean Su, one of the event’s coordinators and the energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Pressure is emanating both from international leadership, spearheaded by the United Nations’ chief, as well as grassroots movements in over 400 separate initiatives worldwide.”

A significant source of this mounting pressure is Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has organized a unique Climate Ambition Summit for Wednesday. A distinctive feature of the summit is that only the leaders bringing forth substantive new initiatives will be given a platform to speak. The U.N. has yet to disclose the list of these select leaders.

President Biden, along with the heads of state from China, the United Kingdom, Russia, and France—countries notably involved in fossil fuel production and utilization—will not be in attendance in New York for this occasion.

Guterres has been a vocal critic of fossil fuels, terming them “unsustainable for human existence.” Numerous U.N. scientific reports corroborate his stance, emphasizing that the singular viable route to mitigating climate change is to gradually eliminate fossil fuel usage.

However, the language surrounding the phase-out of fossil fuels has been contentious in past global discussions. The terminology has often been diluted to phrases like “phase down” of coal, which permits fossil fuel usage if carbon capture mechanisms are employed.

“This is indeed a novel instance of soft power exertion, where the U.N. Secretary-General is catapulting the issue of fossil fuels into the spotlight and compelling world leaders to react,” stated Su. “Whether they agree or disagree, he is obliging them to at least make a definitive stand.”

However, the U.N.’s capabilities are restricted, according to Climate Analytics CEO Bill Hare. “The extent of tools at his disposal include persuasion, constructive criticism, and moral authority,” said Hare.

As per Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa and a seasoned observer of climate diplomacy, Guterres has the potential to publicly reprimand leaders who fail to deliver substantial commitments on climate action.

Selwin Hart, Guterres’ special adviser for climate action, said nations should intensify efforts to transition away from carbon-based energy, with wealthier countries taking the lead and also supporting financially constrained countries.

Despite promises from the 20 richest economies to reduce carbon emissions, many are still granting new licenses for oil and gas exploration. This move is in contradiction with the 1.5-degree Celsius goal stipulated in the Paris Agreement, as stated by Hart.

Environmental activists have pointed out that the United States, along with Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom, are responsible for over half of the proposed expansion in oil and gas drilling up to 2050.

Activists and protesters intend to direct their ire towards President Biden and the United States during Sunday’s march. Biden has often cited last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, which allocates $375 billion for climate change mitigation measures.

“Despite wishing to portray themselves as climate leaders, their actions do not substantiate their claims,” said Brandon Wu, policy director at ActionAid USA.

“We are urging President Biden and other significant oil and gas producers to undertake meaningful actions to phase out fossil fuels,” said Su.

Follow AP’s coverage on climate and environment issues at AP Climate and Environment Coverage

Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears

Big Big News’ climate and environmental reporting is supported by multiple private foundations. All content is solely the responsibility of the AP.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Climate Change Summit and Protests

What is the main event that the article discusses?

The article primarily focuses on the upcoming annual Climate Week, which coincides with the U.N. General Assembly. A major feature of the week is the Climate Ambition Summit organized by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, aimed at intensifying efforts to transition away from fossil fuels.

Who are the key figures mentioned in the article?

The key figures mentioned include U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, U.S. President Joe Biden, Jean Su (an event organizer and energy justice director for the Center for Biological Diversity), Selwin Hart (special adviser for climate action to Guterres), Bill Hare (CEO of Climate Analytics), Mohamed Adow (Director of Power Shift Africa), and Brandon Wu (policy director at ActionAid USA).

What is unique about the Climate Ambition Summit?

The Climate Ambition Summit is unique because only leaders who are willing to bring forth new and substantial initiatives to combat climate change will be permitted to speak. This exclusivity is aimed at pressuring nations to make meaningful commitments.

Which countries’ leaders will not be attending the Climate Ambition Summit?

Leaders from the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Russia, and France will not be attending the summit. These nations are notable for their involvement in fossil fuel production and usage.

What is the stance of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on fossil fuels?

Antonio Guterres has been a vocal critic of fossil fuels, stating that they are “unsustainable for human existence.” He emphasizes that the only viable way to mitigate global warming is to phase out fossil fuel usage entirely.

What are the criticisms against the United States in the context of climate change?

The article highlights that despite President Biden allocating $375 billion for climate change mitigation through the Inflation Reduction Act, the United States has failed to deliver on its promised financial aid to poorer nations for climate action. Additionally, the U.S. is responsible for more than one-third of the proposed expansion in oil and gas drilling up to 2050.

What is the main message from activists and protestors?

The activists and protesters are primarily directing their frustration and pressure at President Biden and the United States. They are urging significant oil and gas producers to phase out fossil fuels and to undertake meaningful actions in line with climate science.

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Mike O'Brien September 17, 2023 - 10:43 am

Activists are finally being heard, it seems. The march to end fossil fuels could be a game changer if it gains enough traction. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Sarah Lee September 17, 2023 - 5:19 pm

So Biden’s not speaking, huh? Guess it kinda shows where the US really stands when it comes to taking meaningful action on climate change. all talk, less action?

John Doe September 17, 2023 - 6:53 pm

Wow, talk about raising the stakes! Guterres is really setting the bar high this time. No room for lip service, you gotta show up with real plans or else you’re out. It’s about time tbh.

Steve Johnson September 17, 2023 - 9:24 pm

read Selwin Hart’s comment about it being a “just, fair, and equitable” transition away from fossil fuels. I get it, but how exactly are we gonna ensure that? Sounds like a tall order to me.

Emily Watson September 17, 2023 - 9:48 pm

Antonio Guterres is just doing his best with the limited power he has. but I’m glad someone’s using their moral authority to put pressure on these world leaders. We can’t afford to waste more time!


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