As nations gathered in Katowice, Poland for the COP24 climate conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the event with a warning that the world is losing direction when it comes to climate change.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres officially opened the COP24 summit in Poland with a grim warning, saying that the world is "way off course" in its plan to prevent catastrophic climate change.
After a string of damning environmental reports showing mankind must drastically slash its greenhouse gas emissions to avert runaway global warming, Guterres told delegates "we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough".
On Monday, nations that are most threatened by rising sea levels and devastating droughts will use a UN summit to urge richer countries to pay their fair share in the climate change fight.
Under the 2015 Paris climate accord, richer nations — responsible for the majority of historic greenhouse gas emissions — are expected to contribute funding that developing nations can access to make their economies greener.
However, US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord has dented trust among vulnerable nations, who fear there is not enough cash available to help them adapt to our heating planet.
To ease some of those worries, the World Bank on Monday announced $200 billion (175 billion euros) in climate action investment for 2021-25 — a major shot in the arm for green initiatives but one which needs bolstering by state-provided funding.
Meanwhile, the presidents of at-risk states such as Fiji, Nigeria and Nepal are expected at COP24 talks, which aim to flesh out the promises agreed to in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
However, host country Poland, which is heavily reliant on energy from coal, will push its own agenda: a "just transition" from fossil fuels that critics say could allow it to continue polluting for decades.
In 2015, the Paris agreement deal saw nations agree to limit global temperature rises to below two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) and under 1.5C if possible.
Delegates from nearly 200 countries now have two weeks of negotiations to finalize how those goals work in practice, even as science suggests the pace of climate change is rapidly outstripping mankind's response.
"A failure to act now risks pushing us beyond a point of no return with catastrophic consequences for life as we know it," said Amjad Abdulla, chief negotiator at the COP24 for the Alliance of Small Island States.
The World Bank website notes that "In 2017, carbon dioxide levels were the highest they have been in 3-5 million years. According to NASA, 2017 was the second-hottest year globally since 1880. And this is not a one-off. Eighteen of the 19 warmest years on record have happened since 2000.
And the UN's own expert climate panel in October issued its starkest warning to date. To have any hope of reaching the 1.5 degree Celsius goal by the end of the century, the UN said emissions from fossil fuel use must be halved by 2030.
While everyone agrees that the problems are real, there is no clear cut path or plan of action to reach the goals enumerated by the UN.
Mohamed Adow, climate lead for the Christian Aid charity, said richer nations needed to donate funds to allow developing countries to make the leap to renewables.
"Trudging along the dirty development path trod by richer countries will see developing nations stuck in the past and pollute their environments while ruining efforts to limit global warming," he said.
Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and president of last year's COP, said Poland's submission must result in "a just transition for everyone, especially the most climate vulnerable."
av/rc (AFP, dpa)