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REM: Leaders of big polluters skip UN climate summit as “gates to hell” flung open

The leaders of the US and China – the world’s two largest polluters – have skipped the UN Climate Ambition Summit in New York.

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has been trying to put the spotlight only on countries and companies that have new plans to get on track for the Paris Agreement emissions goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In fact, when Guterres announced the September 20 summit, he said "there will be no room for backsliders, green washers, blame shifters or repackaging of announcements from previous years".

A list of 32 speakers for the morning session did not feature anyone from China, the US, India, the UK, Russia, France or Japan. Also missing were officials from the United Arab Emirates, the controversial host of the COP28 climate summit in November.

Speeches were due to be heard from Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Pakistan, South Africa and Tuvalu, said the news service. Speaking slots were also given to Allianz, the state of California, the IMF, World Bank and the City of London.

US President Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry attended the summit but was not scheduled to speak. Biden was in New York, regardless.

Guterres told the summit as it opened that the planet is headed for 2.8 degrees Celsius warming if there is no immediate action.

“Our focus here is on climate solutions and our task is urgent,” he said. “Humanity has opened the gates to Hell.

“Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects. Distraught farmers watching crops carried away by floods, sweltering temperatures spawning disease, and thousands fleeing in fear as historic fires rage.

“Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge. If nothing changes we are heading towards a 2.8 degree temperature rise – towards a dangerous and unstable world,” Guterres said on Wednesday, 20 September.