World urged to tackle 'urgent threats' as United Nations climate talks begin

Jo Lloyd
December 7, 2018

Guterres is in the Polish city Katowice for the high-level UN COP24 Climate Change Conference.

Veteran British nature-documentary broadcaster David Attenborough warned that both civilisation and the natural world are on the brink of collapse, as world leaders prepare to gather in Poland for the United Nations climate summit.

"Right now we're facing a man-made disaster on a global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change", Attenborough said.

"In short, we need a complete transformation of our global energy economy", said Antonio Guterres.

The smaller, poorer nations that will bare the devastating brunt of climate change are pushing for richer states to make good on the promises they made in the 2015 Paris agreement.

Net zero emissions mean any greenhouse gases emitted need to be soaked up by forest or new technologies that can remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Guterres said governments should embrace the opportunities rather than cling to fossil fuels such as coal, a dig at hosts Poland.

Such cuts would require a radical overhaul of the global economy.

The speakers highlighted the progress that Bangladesh has already achieved to counteract the negative consequences of climate change whereas the civil society repeatedly claimed that their communities would not yet sufficiently benefit from the efforts by government and industry, said the German Embassy in Dhaka.

But developing nations have complained that richer states - responsible for the vast majority of historic fossil fuel use - aren't doing enough to help them adapt to our warming planet. In terms of power generation in the country, 80 per cent of it comes from coal-based power plants and the summit is sponsored by JWS - the largest coal producer in Poland.

Drought, floods, rising sea levels, extreme weather events that threaten people's food security, climate migrants and the economic damage inflicted by climate change are among the enormous problems Africa faces despite its contributing less than four percent of world greenhouse gas emissions.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told delegates from nearly 200 countries at the conference in the southern Polish city of Katowice on Monday: "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".

"For some people, this is a life-or-death situation without a doubt", said Natalie Mahowald, a Cornell University climate scientist and lead author of the IPCC report.

He later told reporters that realities about global climate are "worse than expected, but the political will is relatively faded after Paris" and is not matching the challenges.

Mr Guterres called for a "huge increase in ambitions" during the negotiations in Poland, adding, "We can not afford to fail in Katowice".

If you're shaking your head that President Trump still isn't on board with the accord, know that the least agreed to sign on to a measure to support clean energy initiatives that reads, "We recognize the crucial role of energy in helping shape our shared future, and we encourage energy transitions that combine growth with decreasing greenhouse gas emissions toward cleaner, more flexible and transparent systems, and cooperation in energy efficiency".

He also told delegates, "America is more than just Washington or one leader".

But it said the United States "reiterates its decision to withdraw" from the landmark accord.

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.

Russia now sees no need to revise the Paris Agreement on climate change, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dmitry Kobylkin, who heads the Russian delegation at the UN Katowice Climate Change Conference, told TASS. To inject momentum, the World Bank Group on Monday said it would provide a further $200 billion over five years from the start of the next decade.

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