There were notable absences from the speaker line up at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Climate Ambition Summit in New York, including the U.S, UK and Australia.

The summit is hosted by the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres and this year he decided only climate ambitious nations got to take the mic.

“Now must be the time for ambition and action. I look forward to welcoming first movers and doers at my Climate Ambition Summit. The world is watching – and the planet can’t wait.” Guterres said.

Pacific leaders have told the UNGA they want decisive action on emissions reduction and climate financing.

On the sidelines of the UNGA, Vanuatu’s permanent representative to the UN, Odo Tevi emphasised the UN chief’s message. “What we need is [climate] action,” he said.

When it comes to the U.S, Tevi said Vanuatu has a direct message.

“Our call to the U.S and to President Biden is for him to recogniSe the historic polluters and to provide every support to the vulnerable countries to be able to actually deal with those inevitable impacts that we can no longer be able to adapt to,” Tevi said.

He said the biggest challenge with the loss and damage fund is the U.S.

“[The] U.S wants to avoid any liability, even following pressure from the most vulnerable countries in COP27.”

It was agreed that a climate fund would be set up in Sharm El-Sheik last year, but Tevi said, when countries met in the Dominican republic earlier this year, “the .US started working back on those commitments, making it difficult”.

Looking ahead to COP 28 in Dubai, after nearly 30 years of negotiations, the U.S must make a clear signal of support, he said.

“Just like we need a phase-out of fossil fuels. We need to actually operationalise the fund,” Tevi added.

“Those two things are the demands of the world, as we’ve made clear.”

Oil Change International spokesperson, Tzeporah Berman said he was not surprised at all that the UK was not invited to speak at the high-level segment of the Climate Ambition Summit.

“It’s not surprising. We have to really commend the UN Secretary General for holding the line on that, because that’s not an easy thing to do,” Berman said.

While leaders spoke about the need to increase climate ambitions, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced preparations to roll back environmental measures.

“The fact is the UK is still a major producer of oil and gas, and has no intention to stop,” Berman said.

“The current government has said it again and again, that they have no intention of ending oil and gas expansion in the North Sea.”

Tevi said he will be diplomatic about the UK’s plans, however, he did express concern and said he would hope the UK would step up to the climate financing plate.

“We’re still fighting with nature,” he said

“We are at a crisis point. We have to do more”

He said the world’s biggest polluters cannot ignore the “cries” of the most vulnerable nations’.
Climate finance

The climate financing call has been echoed by Pacific leaders in their statements at the UNGA.

On the opening day of the UNGA, Palau’s President, Surangel Whipps Jr had asked the international community to improve access to climate finance for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

“G20 nations have a crucial role to play in emission reduction and leading the path towards sustainable development and called on the international community to work with SIDS to increase access to climate finance,” Whipps Jr said.

Last year, Vanuatu became the first country to call for fossil fuel Non Proliferation Treaty at the UNGA.

This year, they returned with the backing of fellow Pacific nations, the European Parliament, the World Health Organisation, scientists and experts globally.

Tevi said they are developing a comprehensive multilateral framework that addresses climate change at its source via the Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty initiative.

Earlier this year, Vanuatu and a core group of states also spearheaded the effort to secure a request for an advisory opinion on climate change from the International Court of Justice.

“The resolution making this request was adopted by consensus and garnered over 130 co-sponsors,” Tevi said.

“It will be huge globally. If it [ICJ result] is favourable.”

“[It] holds the promise to drive further climate action, through the clarification of the legal obligations states o to address the climate crisis under the international law, and further, what the legal consequences of failing to do so means for states,” Tevi said.

Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Kausea Natano has also called on other leaders to join him in seeking a mandate to negotiate a Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty.

Vanuatu and five other Pacific island nations have already joined Tuvalu in calling for a global fossil fuel treaty.

American actress Jane Fonda is in New York for the Summit and said a Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty, “would ensure an end to expansion of oil, gas and coal projects.”

Fonda said the U.S is the world’s largest oil and gas producer, the number one gas exporter and accounts for a third of all planned oil and gas expansion until 2050.

“Emissions from President Biden’s exports will undermine the benefits of his recent climate bill boosting renewable energy deployment the inflation Reduction Act,” she said.

“Biden’s rubber stamping of all these projects will continue to cook the planet…that’s why we are asking the United States to lead on ending the era of fossil fuels.”

Fonda has urged President Biden to “stop approving new fossil fuel development, he should phase out existing production on our public lands and waters, he must end all subsidies and declare a climate emergency to turbocharge a renewable energy future,” she said.