Climate change is ‘most important issue we face,’ UN chief says

Climate change is ‘most important issue we face,’ UN chief says

Nations most threatened by rising sea levels and devastating droughts will use a United Nations summit in Poland on Monday to urge richer countries to pay their fair share in the climate change fight.

Poland's deputy environment minister, Michal Kurtyka, who is chairing the conference, urged envoys from nearly 200 nations to use the time between Sunday and December 14 to make progress on fleshing out the 2015 Paris agreement.

The 92-year-old TV presenter blamed humans for the "disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years".

"If we don't take action", he continued, "the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon".

The Polish leader said participants at the conference backed his country's proposal of a "just transition" away from coal mining, which called for helping people like coal miners who were slated to lose their jobs as the world changed its energy mix. The effects would include a mass die-off of coral reefs and an increase in extreme weather events.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the 20 warmest years ever recorded were in the past 22 years.

To maximise the chances of success in Poland, technical talks began on Sunday, a day early, with delegates from almost 200 nations debating how to meet the Paris target of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius and, ideally, aim for a safer 1.5 deg C, which would limit the damage from weather extremes and rising sea levels.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that this could only be achieved if greenhouse gases are cut by 45% by 2030 - which is a big change!

"This is our "we the people" message". One young man asked the camera, "Do you not see what is going on around you?"

Rising demand for oil to fuel transport is another cause of the increase in emissions
Tony Gutierrez Rising demand for oil to fuel transport is another cause of the increase in emissions

It is a meeting where lots of governments are coming together to discuss what to do after a climate change report came out in October saying global temperature rises should be limited to 1.5°C.

"The good news is that we do know a lot of what we need to be able to do to get there", said David Waskow of the World Resources Institute. "Time is running out", Attenborough said.

Trust in the Paris process has been hit by US President Donald Trump's decision to renege on his country's commitment, and there are fears the political will to act is waning as negotiations drag on.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a dramatic appeal to world leaders to take the threat of global warming seriously and to act boldly to avert a catastrophic rise in temperatures before the end of the century. "The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world, on which we depend, is in your hands".

The UN chief's remark was directed at conference host Poland, which relies on coal for 80 per cent of its energy. "For many people, regions and even countries, this is already a matter of life or death".

Attenborough also promoted the "ActNow.bot", a Facebook campaign the U.N.is launching that will recommend actions people can take to protect the planet.

"We need serious solutions from serious leaders, not unsafe schemes and political tricks aimed to keep big polluters polluting", she said.

Citing a recent scientific report, the United Nations chief urged governments to aim for net zero emissions by 2050. "Governments and investors need to bet on the green economy, not the gray".

"America is more than just Washington or one leader", he said, calling Trump "meshugge" - Yiddish for "crazy" - for deciding to withdraw from the Paris accord.

More news: Trump wants 'full and complete' sentence for Cohen

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