During the UN COP24 Climate Change Conference grand opening on Monday, Secretary-General António Guterres told over 150 world leaders gathered for climate action that “we are in deep trouble” and asked decision-makers to focus on four key things: stepping up climate action, according to a solid plan, with more funding, as a smart investment in the future of the planet.
The two-week 24th conference in Katowice, Poland, of the parties to the UN Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), technically started on Sunday, but Monday saw the high-level grand opening. It marks the deadline for the 197 parties that signed the Convention, to adopt guidelines for the implementation of the historic 2015 Paris Agreement.
In the French capital, three years ago, countries collectively agreed to keep global temperature rises to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and if possible, to limit the rise to 1.5°C. Now, in Poland, they have to agree on how they will achieve this collectively. “We cannot fail in Katowice,” said UN chief Guterres.
Kicking off the event, along with several other high-level representatives, he highlighted four key messages for the thousands of representatives of the world’s nations, non-profit organisations, UN agencies, and private sector companies gathered in Katowice.
‘We need more action and more ambition’
The Secretary-General started by noting that climate change is already “a matter of life and death” for many people, nations and countries of the world, and that the science is telling us we need to move faster.
“If we fail, the Arctic and Antarctic will continue to melt, corals will bleach and then die, the oceans will rise, more people will die from air pollution, water scarcity will plague a significant proportion of humanity, and the cost of disasters will skyrocket”, he warned the delegates ahead of their negotiations:.
2. Implementation guidelines are essential to build trust among nations
Stating that “we have no time for limitless negotiations”, the Secretary-General insisted on the need to operationalise the Paris Agreement, and reminded Member States that 2018 is the deadline that they set for themselves to finalise the guidelines for implementation.
3. Adequate funding of climate action will be ‘central’
“We need concerted resource mobilization and investment to successfully combat climate change,” the Secretary-General told the delegates attending the COP24 grand opening, noting that three quarters of the infrastructure needed by 2050 for climate action still remains to be built.
He insisted on the need to focus efforts on five key economic areas: energy, cities, land use, water and industry.
He also urged Member States “to swiftly implement the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund. It is an investment in a safer, less costly future”.
4. ‘Climate action makes social and economic sense.’
“All too often, climate action is seen as a burden,” said the UN secretary-General, as he explained that “decisive climate action today is our chance to right our ship and set a course for a better future for all”.
The UN chief commended cities, regions, civil society and the business community around the world for moving ahead. “What we need is political more will and more far-sighted leadership. This is the challenge on which this generation’s leaders will be judged.
The UN chief stressed the need to ensure that this economic transformation is led with a commitment to gender equality, and the inclusion of youth.
“We must start today building the tomorrow we want,” the Secretary-General said.