Act now or risk disaster, nations told at UN climate summit

Cristina Cross
December 5, 2018

Guterres called for a "huge increase in ambitions" during the two weeks of negotiations in Poland, adding "we can not afford to fail in Katowice". "We have no time for limitless negotiations", Guterres told the plenary that included several government leaders and heads of state.

"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.

"The Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, with an absolute ceiling well below 2.0 °C, are essential to protect health in the medium to long term", the report said. Climate change also has indirect effects on health due to ecological changes, such as food and water insecurity and the spread of climate-sensitive infectious diseases, and also to societal responses to climate change, such as population displacement and reduced access to health services.

The urgency comes with the backdrop of political divide and high tension among different countries.

The almost 200 nations that signed up to the 2015 Paris climate deal must this month finalise a rulebook to limit global temperature rises to well below 2°C, and to the safer cap of 1.5°C if possible.

A United States delegation, however, is present at COP24 but it remains to be seen what position it will take during the talks.

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The report said radical and unprecedented actions must be taken to handle global warming in 12 years, or face dire consequences, such as extreme droughts and stronger typhoons that may drive millions to poverty.

Separately, negotiators will discuss ramping up countries' national emissions targets after 2020, and financial support for poor nations that are struggling to adapt to climate change. "Cities, regions, civil society and the business community around the world are moving ahead", he said.

He told worldwide leaders at the conference that Poland "has made huge achievements" in becoming more energy efficient over the past 25 years. "This is the challenge on which this generation's leaders will be judged", he added.

At COP23, last year, Prime Minister Bainimarama asked WHO to produce a report on health and climate change.

"Developed nations led by the United States will want to ignore their historic responsibilities and will say the world has changed", said Meena Ramam, from the Third World Network advocacy group. "It is not just about saving the planet in the future, it is about protecting the health of the people right now".

The declaration, however, has been met with resistance from environmental activist groups, which also questioned why coal companies were among the sponsors of the climate talks.

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