Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, welcomed more than 120 world leaders to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday by publicising a report which said the past eight years are on track to be the warmest on record.
Rishi Sunak is set to deliver a speech on Monday, having reversed his decision to skip the conference. So too will his predecessor Boris Johnson, who is expected to warn against climate change “defeatism”.
In Mr Sunak’s opening address, he will say it is essential countries stick to commitments made at last year’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow, if the world is to avoid the worst impact of climate change by limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
He will also argue that the transition away from fossil fuels has the potential to drive growth and deliver jobs in the new green industries of the future, while cutting off funding for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Mr Sunak is expected to say: “The world came together in Glasgow with one last chance to create a plan that would limit global temperature rises to 1.5C. The question today is: can we summon the collective will to deliver on those promises?
“I believe we can. By honouring the pledges we made in Glasgow, we can turn our struggle against climate change into a global mission for new jobs and clean growth.
“And we can bequeath our children a greener planet and a more prosperous future. That’s a legacy we could be proud of.”
Downing Street said the Prime Minister will also announce a further £65.5 million for the clean energy innovation facility, which provides grants to researchers and scientists in developing countries working on clean technologies.
The UK is also committing £90 million for conservation in the Congo Basin rainforest and £65 million to support indigenous and local forest communities as Mr Sunak launches a new group to track commitments made in Glasgow on deforestation.
Mr Sunak had originally not intended to travel to Egypt, arguing his priority was to sort out the estimated £50 billion black hole in the public finances ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement on November 17.
But he was forced into what opposition parties called a “screeching U-turn” after coming under fire from within his own party, as well as from environmentalists questioning his commitment to the net zero agenda.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson will also give a speech on Monday, when he is expected to warn against allowing “defeatism” in the face of the worsening economic situation to undermine the fight against global warming.
In a rare public intervention since being ousted from No 10 earlier this year, he will insist it is still possible to achieve the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5C – avoiding the worst effects of climate change.
“Because the spike in oil and gas prices and the consequent global inflation, the hikes in the cost of fertiliser and food have had an impact here and everywhere, they have led some naysayers to a corrosive cynicism about net zero,” he will tell a Climate Forward event organised by The New York Times.
“We must end the defeatism that has crept in since last year. We must end Putin’s energy blackmail, we must keep up our campaign to end global dependence on hydrocarbons, and if we retain the spirit of creative and promethean optimism that we saw at Paris and Glasgow, then we can keep 1.5 alive.”
COP27 conference president Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister, on Sunday also urged leaders not to let crises started by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine get in the way of action on climate change.
Mr Shoukry said: “It is inherent on us all in Sharm el-Sheikh to demonstrate our recognition of the magnitude of the challenges we face and our steadfast resolve to overcome it."
He, as well as Mr Sunak, have encouraged heads of state to not backslide from pledges made in 2021 - when the conference was held in Glasgow.
Twelve months ago, it was agreed that use of coal would be “phased down”, deforestation would be stopped by 2030, methane emissions would be cut by 30 per cent by the same date and new climate action plans would be submitted to the UN.
The last 8 years are on track to be the warmest on record.
Sea levels are rising at twice the speed of the 1990s.
We must answer the planet’s distress signal with ambitious, credible #ClimateAction.#COP27 must be the place – and now must be the time. https://t.co/CQbXh8jTfD
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) November 6, 2022
As Cop27 got underway on Sunday, Mr Guterres tweeted: “The last eight years are on track to be the warmest on record.
“Sea levels are rising at twice the speed of the 1990s. We must answer the planet’s distress signal with ambitious, credible #ClimateAction.”
Outgoing chair of the talks, Alok Sharma, said countries had made considerable progress at their last meeting in Glasgow in keeping alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
But experts say that chances of meeting that target, agreed in the 2015 Paris climate accord, is fast slipping away.
Mr Sharma warned that other global crises meant international efforts to curb climate change were being "buffeted by global headwinds."
"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin's brutal and illegal war in Ukraine has precipitated multiple global crisis, energy and food insecurity, inflationary pressures and spiraling debt," he said. "These crises have compounded existing climate vulnerabilities and the scarring effects of the pandemic.
"As challenging as our current moment is, inaction is myopic and can only defer climate catastrophe. We must find the ability to focus on more than one thing at once."
In an opening speech, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Hoesung Lee, said countries have "a once in a generation opportunity to save our planet and our livelihoods."
Cutting emissions is only part of the task, however. Scientists and campaigners say the world also needs to do more to adapt to those effects of global warming that can't be avoided anymore.
The head of the UN migration agency urged the international community on Sunday to mobilize human and financial resources to address growing climate migration.
Antonio Vitorino told The Associated Press that millions of people across the world "are already suffering in their daily lives because of the impacts of natural disasters and climate change."
"We are running short of time to act," Mr Vitorino said. "The international community needs to mobilize the expertise, human resources but also the financial resources to come in to support those who are already today seriously impacted by climate change."
Some have questioned Egypt’s credibility for hosting the event with Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s government having cracked down on dissent since taking power in 2014 - with up to 60,000 political prisoners being detained. Mr Shoukry has said that protests will be allowed.