COP27: Zelenskyy reveals how much forest destroyed by Russia's war - and accuses Putin of disrupting global climate action

Russian shelling has destroyed five million acres of forest in Ukraine in less than six months, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a blistering attack on Vladimir Putin's war and its global ramifications.

The war is "destroying the world's ability to work united for a common goal", the Ukrainian president said in a video address to world leaders during the COP27 climate summit.

"There can be no effective climate policy without the peace on the Earth" if nations are too preoccupied "thinking only about how to protect themselves here and now from their threats", he argued.

Pakistan makes emotional plea - COP latest

Russia's war and cutting-off of gas supplies has sent prices soaring, triggering countries including the UK, Germany, India and Pakistan to burn more coal - the dirtiest fossil fuel - to keep the lights on.

On Monday, the Russian delegation told Sky News that an energy crisis was brewing before its "special operation" in Ukraine.

During the United Nations climate talks, numerous leaders issued warnings about the way the war threatens global climate action, turning countries inwards and distracting from the collaboration needed to tackle the crisis.

Joining the dots between interlinking threats, the food crisis sparked by the war has "hit worst those countries suffering from the existing manifestations of climate change, catastrophic droughts and large scale floods", Mr Zelenskyy added.

Egypt, hosting the climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea, illustrates that link. The world's biggest wheat importer, used to make its staple bread, was left reeling when the war disrupted grain exports.

Climate change is slowly eating away at its limited fertile land as the Nile river dries and salt from rising seas poisons the Nile Delta.

'Tax fossil fuel corporations enjoying war profits'

Day two of the annual two-week summit, taking place beneath a scorching 29C sun, was dominated by demands from vulnerable nations to help slow the climate crisis.

Some want the world to tackle climate change the way it does nuclear weapons by agreeing to a non-proliferation treaty that stops further production of fossil fuels.

"We all know that the leading cause of climate crisis is fossil fuels," Kausea Natano, the prime minister of Tuvalu, told his fellow leaders, joining Vanuatu.

"It's getting too hot and there is very [little] time to slow and reverse the increasing temperature. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize fast-acting strategies."

Those who live on islands, which are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, want a global tax on the unexpected, additional billions of profits enjoyed by fossil fuel corporations as a result of Russia's war.

"While they are profiting the planet is burning," said Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of several island nations.

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Crackdown on greenwashing

Elsewhere in the sprawling venue of buildings and temporary structures, punctuated by the odd palm tree and long queues for coffee, UN chief Antonio Guterres hit out at the "rank deception" of fossil fuel firms with net zero pledges who are still expanding their operations.

The secretary-general wants a crackdown on greenwashing and gaps in net zero commitments.

But the word on everyone's lips is money. The issue that could make or break the talks is payment for climate "loss and damage", those irreversible impacts that are beyond the realms of human adaptation, such as the death of Egypt's coral reef and huge tourism industry if seas overheat.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said fossil fuel companies should contribute to those funds, which would provide vulnerable countries with financial aid for the climate-related losses they are suffering.

The idea does not fly with most major economies.

"I think this is not the place now to develop tax rules, but rather to jointly develop measures to protect against the consequences of climate change," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said. US climate envoy John Kerry has also rejected the idea of "compensation," but said there can be other ways to help.

Although money is tight in the cost of living crisis, vulnerable nations point to the many billions countries found to help Ukraine fight Russia or during the COVID crisis.

On Monday, Al Gore, the former United States vice-president, warned how many people would forced to leave their homes if the world did not act.

"Imagine what a billion climate refugees would do. It would end the possibility of self-governance," he said.

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