KATOWICE, Poland — The world is “way off course” in dealing with climate change and its impact three years after the Paris Agreement was reached, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Monday at the start of UN climate talks.
“We cannot afford to fail in Katowice… We have no time for limitless negotiations,” Guterres told the plenary that included several government leaders and heads of state.
“Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough nor moving fast enough to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption,” he added.
Proceedings were injected with a shot of glamour as former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and veteran wildlife documentary maker Sir David Attenborough both addressed delegates.
Attenborough issued a plea for action on behalf of humanity: “If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
Climate negotiators of nearly 200 countries will spend the next two weeks in Katowice, a city built on coal mining, for the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The main agenda was for the completion of the rule book for the Paris Agreement, which would formalize and ramp up the nations’ commitment to limit global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius by reducing carbon emissions and implementing adaptation and mitigation measures.
The urgency comes with the backdrop of political divide and high tension among different countries. US President Donald Trump, for instance, has insisted on his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement at the recent G-20 meeting.
A US delegation, however, is present at COP24 but it remains to be seen what position it will take during the talks.
In his welcome remarks, Guterres also highlighted the special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Radical actions needed
The report said radical and unprecedented actions must be taken to handle global warming in 12 years, or face dire consequences, such as extreme droughts and stronger typhoons that may drive millions to poverty.
Guterres emphasized the need for strong leadership from various countries.
“We have the knowledge… Cities, regions, civil society and the business community around the world are moving ahead,” he said.
“What we need is political will and more far-sighted leadership. This is the challenge on which this generation’s leaders will be judged,” he added.
Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji and president of last year’s COP, said developed nations must act before countries such as his are consumed by the waves.
“Or, God forbid, (we) ignore the irrefutable evidence and become the generation that betrayed humanity,” Bainimarama said.
Also on Monday, Polish President Andrzej Duda presented the Silesian Declaration on Solidarity and Just Transition, a document that calls for a “decent future” for workers affected by the transition away from fossil fuel industries.
The declaration, however, has been met with resistance from environmental activist groups, which also questioned why coal companies were among the sponsors of the climate talks. —With reports from the wires
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