Nature and Biodiversity

Failure to agree climate deal rules would be suicidal, says UN chief

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel - RC1EBDD5B470

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the desperate need to create an international climate deal. Image: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Bate Felix
Energy Correspondent , Reuters
Nina Chestney
Reporter, Reuters
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Future of the Environment

Failure by countries to agree rules on implementing the 2015 Paris climate agreement aimed at curbing global warming would be suicidal, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.

Participants attend the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland December 11, 2018. Agencja Gazeta/Grzegorz Celejewski via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND. - RC13BA4FD020
Participants attend the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland December 11, 2018. Image: Agencja Gazeta/Grzegorz Celejewski via REUTERS

Guterres told delegates from over 130 countries meeting in the Polish city of Katowice that they had less than three days to find the political will to reach difficult compromises, sacrifices and common ground needed for a deal.

“Failing here in Katowice would send a disastrous message to those who stand ready to shift to a green economy,” he said. “To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.”

Three years to the day after the Paris climate accord was adopted by over 190 countries, delegates in the Polish coal-mining city are still grappling with how the accord will be implemented.

This slow progress after more than a week of negotiations prompted Michal Kurtyka, the Polish president of the talks, to tell delegates time was precious and they needed to find wordings which were acceptable to all.

Environmental activists and some developing countries have also raised concern that the rule book could fall short of pushing countries towards curbing their emissions to meet the Paris targets.

“The clock is ticking. While we spend time debating texts and demanding their implementation, the planet outside is deteriorating. Species are becoming extinct. Habitats disappearing. Emissions piling up,” Brazilian Environment Minister Edson Duarte said.

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Guterres said a recent report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged what global warming beyond 1.5 degrees will mean for billions of people, especially those who live in small island states.

The report outlined a catastrophic future if no action was taken by countries immediately, he said, adding that the window of opportunity was closing.

The Paris Agreement aims to restrict warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

“This may sound like a dramatic appeal, but it is exactly this: a dramatic appeal,” Guterres said.

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Nature and BiodiversityClimate ActionEconomic GrowthGeographies in Depth
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