UN chief: No room for failure in stopping climate catastrophe
KATOWICE, POLAND — United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday told climate negotiators from 200 countries that there was no leeway for failure as they hammered out implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement that would limit temperature rises to prevent catastrophic global warming.
Guterres returned to this southern Polish city two days before the scheduled wrap-up of the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
His return came amid anxiety among participants—country representatives and civil society organizations—that consensus would not be reached for the rule book of the landmark climate deal adopted in Paris in 2015.
Addressing the plenary during the resumption of the high-level meeting, Guterres said failing in Katowice would send a “disastrous message” to countries that were willing to shift to greener economies.
“I understand that none of this is easy. I understand some of you will need to make some tough political decisions,” Guterres said.
“To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral. It would [also] be suicidal,” he said.
The main aim of the conference is to produce a rule book that would measure the world’s progress in climate ambition and action and lay down clear mechanisms for finance and transparency, among other things.
But over the past few days, political tension and division clearly showed between rich and emerging economies, particularly on contentious issues such as providing assistance to developing nations by countries seen as historically responsible for global warming.
Domestic political shifts, such as the lack of climate leadership from the United States, previously regarded as a key force in the climate talks, also marred the negotiations, often done in closed meetings and huddles between groups.
The differences were brought into focus at the end of the first week of this year’s talks, after four major oil-producing countries—the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait—refused to welcome the crucial report of the United Nations science panel on global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), preferring to just “note” the study.
Trump administration officials were also heckled earlier this week for promoting fossil fuels at an official side event of the climate talks.
In his remarks, Guterres said the plenary could not afford to ignore the findings of the report, which was initiated through the request of the nations in COP21 in Paris.
Former Vice President Al Gore of the United States also stressed the urgency of this year’s talks in an hourlong presentation to the delegates, where he showed the adverse impact of climate change on people across the globe.
“We do not have time for despair … Too much is at stake,” he said. “This is the single most important moral choice that humanity has ever faced.”
He added: “If anyone doubts that we as human beings can make the right choice, please remember that political will in itself is a renewable resource.”
Gore did not try to hide his disdain for US President Donald Trump, a known climate change denier.
He said some people only looked at the planet and saw profit, referring to the United States and Saudi Arabia. “Some are not bothered by the choices they made,” he said.
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