Climate change is 'most important issue we face — United Nations chief

  • Climate change is 'most important issue we face — United Nations chief

Climate change is 'most important issue we face — United Nations chief

He told the gathering that the "collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizons" if no urgent action is taking against global warming.

The UN chief chided countries, particularly those most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, for failing to do enough to back the 2015 Paris climate accord, which set a goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) - ideally 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) - by the end of the century.

"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. "The continuation of civilization and the natural world on which we depend, is in your hands".

"Mr Attenborough has been leading a campaign to engage ordinary people with the COP24 conference, leading a campaign called #TakeYourSeats, calling on members of the public to submit comments, questions, pictures and videos, as well as a series of global opinion polls curated in to 'the people's address" shown as part of his presentation.

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".

Abnormally high temperatures are becoming common, and subsequent extreme weather events more regular. The 20 warmest years on record have all occurred within the last 22 years, and the top four in the past four years, The Guardian noted.

Citing a recent scientific report on the dire consequences of letting average global temperatures rise beyond 1.5 degrees, Guterres urged countries to cut their emissions 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and aim for net zero emissions by 2050. Poverty reduction, human development and progress on other Sustainable Development Goals are put at risk. But Guterres said governments should embrace the opportunities of shifting to a "green economy" rather than cling to fossil fuels such as coal, which are blamed for a significant share of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

"Do you not see what is going on around you?" asked one man.

To inject momentum, the World Bank Group on Monday said it would provide a further US$200 billion over five years from the start of the next decade. "Time is running out", Attenborough said.

Decisions on crunch issues, which may include financial aid for poor countries, are expected to be left to ministers when they gather at the domed conference venue in the southern Polish city of Katowice next week.

The summit was also addressed by United Nations secretary general, António Guterres.

The speeches come after four former presidents of the annual United Nations climate talks warned the "world is at a crossroads" and decisive action in the next two years would be crucial to tackle the threat of climate change. "For many people, regions, even countries, this is already a matter of life and death".

Guterres called on representatives to cement funding agreements, allowing the global community to take firm steps towards green solutions, suggesting the world was "nowhere near where it needs to be" on moving to a low-carbon economy.

"In short, we need a complete transformation of our global energy economy, as well as how we manage land and forest resources", said Guterres.