UN climate chief Simon Stiell has declared that the world must “stop dawdling and start doing” to combat the imminent threat of climate disaster. Stiell’s warning comes as global temperatures hit record highs, pushing this year to be the hottest on record and dangerously close to the 1.5C threshold agreed upon by nations. The urgency of the situation is paramount as temperatures hurtle towards a potentially catastrophic 3C increase.

Stiell, set to oversee the critical Cop28 climate summit in Dubai, emphasized that no country can consider itself immune from the repercussions of climate change. The summit, hosting scores of world leaders, is a pivotal moment for discussions on strategies to tackle the escalating crisis.

“We’re now at the point where we’re all on the frontline,” Stiell stated in an exclusive interview with The Guardian. “Yet most governments are still strolling when they need to be sprinting.”

The unsettling reality is that global temperatures are spiraling out of control, breaking records and inching perilously close to irreversible consequences. Stiell insists that while it’s still possible to curb greenhouse gas emissions within the agreed limit, any further delay would be perilous.

“Every year of the baby steps we’ve been taking up to this point means that we need to be taking bigger leaps with each following year if we are to stay in this race,” Stiell cautioned. “The science is absolutely clear.”

The upcoming Cop28 talks, spanning a fortnight in Dubai and hosted by the United Arab Emirates, a major oil and gas-producing nation, will be the largest gathering of world leaders since the inception of the UN framework convention on climate change in 1992.

Key figures, including UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and Pope Francis, are expected to be in attendance. Notably absent will be the leaders of the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, Joe Biden of the US and Xi Jinping of China. However, their envoys have signaled cooperation, underscoring the global nature of the crisis.

While criticism surrounds the hosting by a major oil-producing nation, Stiell emphasizes that the focus should be on urgent action and transitioning to a decarbonized world. Fossil fuel executives, often targets of environmentalists, are expected to be present at the summit. Stiell insists on their involvement in finding solutions but stresses the importance of genuine commitment to a zero-carbon economy.

A central issue at Cop28 will be financing the rescue and rehabilitation of the poorest and most vulnerable communities affected by climate disasters. The absence of funding has long been a grievance for developing countries, but a blueprint for the fund has been agreed upon. Stiell calls on rich countries to pledge contributions, emphasizing that a fund without substantial capitalization won’t achieve its goals.

Governments attending Cop28 will face a sobering global assessment of the lack of progress in emissions cuts since the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is significantly off track to meet the Paris goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C, a threshold beyond which the consequences become catastrophic and irreversible.

Stiell urges governments to present and deploy effective solutions such as renewable energy, electrifying transport, and decarbonizing the global economy. With public attention focused on Cop28, he emphasizes that the expectations are high for world leaders to demonstrate a commitment to action.

“We keep talking about hope, but hope can only be established if there are signs of delivery, of action,” Stiell states. “I believe that is the signal that ordinary people struggling to deal with the consequences of climate change are expecting of world leaders here at Cop28.”

As the world stands on the frontline of disaster, the call to “stop dawdling and start doing” reverberates louder than ever, urging leaders to seize this moment for decisive action before it’s too late. Cop28 is not just a summit; it’s a pivotal opportunity to forge a path toward a sustainable and resilient future for our planet.