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Here's what happened today at the U.N.'s COP27 climate negotiations

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, listens to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, giving a speech during the COP27 U.N. Climate Summit.
Nariman El-Mofty
/
AP
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, listens to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, giving a speech during the COP27 U.N. Climate Summit.

International climate negotiations got underway today with dire warnings about climate-driven disasters, pleas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a plan for a new global weather early warning system.

The United Nations, which organizes annual climate negotiations, says about 44,000 people are attending this year's meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. That includes leaders from hundreds of nations. They have two weeks to discuss how to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions, and pay for the costs of climate change.

Here's what happened today.

The U.N. Secretary-General warned that we're on a "highway to climate hell"

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did not mince words in his opening remarks. "We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator," he warned.

He also referenced the fact that the global population is expected to officially hit 8 billion people during this climate meeting. "How will we answer when baby 8-billion is old enough to ask 'What did you do for our world, and for our planet, when you had the chance?'" Guterres asked a room full of world leaders.

There's a plan for a new early warning system for weather disasters

There's a new United Nations plan to warn people around the world about climate-related hazards like extreme storms and floods. It's called Early Warning for All.

About half the world isn't covered by multi-hazard early warning systems, which collect data about disaster risk, monitor and forecast hazardous weather, and send out emergency alerts, according to the U.N.

Coverage is worst in developing countries, which have been hit hardest by the effects of global warming.

The new plan calls for $3.1 billion to set up early-warning systems over the next five years in places that don't already have them, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable countries and regions. More money will be needed to maintain the warning systems longer-term.

Wealthy countries and corporations were called out for not paying their fair share

Multiple world leaders voiced their frustration that wealthy countries, including the United States, are not paying enough for the costs of climate change. At these talks, developing countries are pushing for compensation for the damages from extreme storms and rising seas, what's known as "loss and damage."

The U.S. is the country most responsible for current global warming because of past greenhouse gas emissions.

The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, went one step further in her opening speech to fellow leaders. She called out corporations that profit in our fossil-fuel intensive economy, including oil and gas companies themselves.

Those corporations should help pay for the costs associated with sea level rise, stronger hurricanes, heat waves and droughts around the world, she argued, and especially in places like her nation that are extremely vulnerable to climate change and don't have the money to protect themselves.

There was a dance performance about climate change

The performance at the end of a multi-hour session with world leaders was about 3 minutes long and told the story of global warming.

Watch it for yourself here.

U.S. offers data to help communities prepare for climate risk

The U.S. government is working with AT&T, a telecommunications company, to provide free access to data about the country's future climate risks. The idea is to help community leaders better understand and prepare for local dangers from more extreme weather.

The Climate Risk and Resilience Portal will initially provide information about temperature, precipitation, wind and drought conditions. Additional risks such as wildfire and flooding will be added in the coming months.

"We want other organizations and communities to see where they're potentially vulnerable to climate change and take steps to become resilient," Charlene Lake, AT&T's chief sustainability officer, said in a news release.

World leaders promise to save forests

More than two dozen countries say they'll work together to stop and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030 in order to fight climate change.

Chaired by the United States and Ghana, the Forest and Climate Leaders' Partnership includes 26 countries and the European Union, which together account for more than one-third of the world's forests.

More than 140 countries agreed at COP26 last year in Glasgow to conserve forests and other ecosystems. However, the U.N. said on Monday that not enough money is being spent to preserve forests, which capture and store carbon.

To encourage accountability, the Forest and Climate Leaders' Partnership says it will hold annual meetings and publish progress reports.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
Lauren Sommer covers climate change for NPR's Science Desk, from the scientists on the front lines of documenting the warming climate to the way those changes are reshaping communities and ecosystems around the world.
Michael Copley
Michael Copley is a correspondent on NPR's Climate Desk. He covers what corporations are and are not doing in response to climate change, and how they're being impacted by rising temperatures.
Ruth Sherlock is an International Correspondent with National Public Radio. She's based in Beirut and reports on Syria and other countries around the Middle East. She was previously the United States Editor for the Daily Telegraph, covering the 2016 US election. Before moving to the US in the spring of 2015, she was the Telegraph's Middle East correspondent.