UN Climate Change Summit kick off in Poland with boost from G20

Pat Wise
December 6, 2018

"If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon", he told the audience.

"Right now we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: Climate change", Attenborough said as the worldwide climate conference got underway with talks on how countries will implement the 2015 Paris Agreement limiting carbon emissions.

Attenborough, known for hosting nature broadcasts including the popular BBC series "Planet Earth", was chosen for the UN's "people's seat", representing those populations most affected by climate change.

"We are here to enable the world to act together on climate change", he said. "Time is running out", he said. "It's what I think you could call a distributed leadership, where you have a number of countries - some of them small or medium-sized - really making headway and doing it in tandem with cities and states and businesses".

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, emphasized the sense of urgency, saying that climate change was already "a matter of life and death" for many countries.

Prior to COP24, there were many worldwide efforts to bring about a successful outcome, including the Bonn Climate Change Conference in Germany in April, followed by the Bangkok Climate Change Conference in Thailand in September.

COP24 comes on the heels of the G-20 gathering in Argentina, where 19 of the 20 leaders signed a communique reaffirming their commitment to fight global warming, but President Donald Trump insisted on a paragraph outlining his opposition and the United States decision, under his administration, to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement.

In Paris three years ago, countries committed to limit global temperature rises to well below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and to the safer cap of 1.5C if at all possible.

The two-week conference marks the deadline for the 197 parties that signed the Convention to adopt guidelines for the implementation of the historic 2015 Paris Agreement.

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Guterres called climate change as "the most important issue we face".

More companies than ever before are taking transformative climate action and the reason is simple: climate change is everyone's business.

He said that the World Meteorological Organisation has measured the 20 warmest years on record in the past 22 years, with four of these in the past four years.

Elsewhere in Katowice, a US campaign group called the Heartland Institute held a meeting criticizing the widespread consensus among scientists that global warming is a man-made phenomenon.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action film star and former governor of California, said the United States is "still in" the Paris accord to curb global warming despite US President Donald Trump's decision to walk away from it.

"Climate change impacts have never been worse", Patricia Espinosa told journalists after Sunday's first negotiating session.

Severely reducing emissions is the only way reach the 1.5-degree goal, experts say, but it will be an expensive feat.

"While the data are clear, a global political consensus over how to tackle climate change remains elusive", AFP reported. "As a outcome, access to water, food, the conditions for stability, peace and prosperity are more than ever under threat; and if the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, it is extremely unlikely that the 2°C temperature goal, let alone the 1.5°C, can still be reached", they warned. But many other countries are already dealing with the droughts, higher seas and catastrophic storms climate change is exacerbating.

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