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UN chief pleads for countries to work together in climate change fight

Leaders from 40 nations are meeting in Berlin to talk about the climate crisis, with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres urging nations to take responsibility to save our “collective future.”

(CN) — Representatives from 40 national governments met Monday to discuss ongoing issues in the fight against climate change at the 13th Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin.

The two-day climate conference is meant to facilitate talks to boost trust in both multilateral climate negotiations and those between states from the global north and south.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reminded industrial countries to keep their climate protection promises to developing countries.

“Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise and ocean heat have broken new records. Half of humanity is in the danger zone from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction,” Guterres told officials at the summit through a video transmission on Monday.

“What troubles me most is that, in facing this global crisis, we are failing to work together as a multilateral community. Nations continue to play the blame game instead of taking responsibility for our collective future,” he added.

Industrial countries were supposed to support climate-related projects in poorer countries in the global south with $100 billion annually by 2020 but missed the target.

Annalena Baerbock, Germany's minister of foreign affairs, also highlighted a shared responsibility to fight the climate crisis in her opening remarks at the conference.

“We have not done enough in the past to fight it together,” she said. "That is why we now have to double our ambitions – and live up to our joint responsibilities.”

Industrialized nations bear a special responsibility due to their high emission levels, Baerbock said.

“Therefore, Germany will continue to do its part – through our own contributions and by pushing for action and transparency with other contributors," she said.

Last week, Germany commemorated the deadly floods that hit the Ahr valley last year, which drew the attention of the world.

Many Europeans looked on with horror, as floods swept away much of the valley in northern Germany, killing at least 134 people. It was an undeniable wakeup call for Europeans that the climate crisis is finally reaching their region after years of warnings shouted by international climate scholars and victims in the global south.

“That underlines that the climate crisis is not about the future – it is an issue to tackle now,” Baerbock said.

Natural disasters are a big contributor to the overall economic cost of issues related to climate change in Germany, according to a recent report by the German government.

Germany has lost close to $80 billion since 2018 due to climate change, the Norwegian news agency NTB reported.

Before Monday’s conference, Mojib Latif, a German climate researcher and meteorologist, warned that the Earth is on track to warm more than 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which will have catastrophic consequences. Governments agreed to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius in the 2015 Paris agreement.

“If you take what politicians are currently doing around the world, we are more on the 3-degree course,” he told German news outlet Mediengruppe Bayern.

“Globally, we have practically ignored the climate problem in the last few decades," Latif added. "We are approaching the point where you have to admit: time is up."

According to Latif, initiatives such as Monday’s climate conference in Berlin “must not be overestimated.”

The Petersberg Climate Dialogue organizers also aim for countries to focus on preparations to address the climate situation for the COP27 World Climate Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, starting this November.

The conferences come at a time when a heat wave is swooping through large areas of Europe. The Spanish city of Sevilla hit 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) last week, while rivers are shrinking in France and Italy. Portugal is one of several European countries fighting forest fires caused by the weather, in addition to Spain and France.

The United Kingdom announced its first ever "red" warning for extreme heat, expecting record-breaking temperatures up to  41 degrees (105.8 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday and Tuesday.

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