REPRESENTATIVES from almost every nation in the world are meeting in Poland for the 24th “conference of the parties”, COP24, the annual United Nations gathering to tackle climate change. This is the first meeting since the publication of the report from the world’s leading scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned that, if the world continued on its current trajectory, it would breach 1.5ºC of global warming in just 12 years (News, 12 October).
Speaking to leaders on Monday, Sir David Attenborough said. “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
Sir David was speaking as part of the People’s Seat initiative, which included contributions from citizens around the world who shared their concerns about climate change. He went on: “The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now.”
This call for action was echoed by Christian leaders, 56 of whom wrote a letter to world leaders as part of the campaign Renew Our World. The signatories included the Senior Adviser at the World Evangelical Alliance, Christine MacMillan, and the national leader of New Wine, the Revd Paul Harcourt. They said: “Christians across the world are responding to this urgent issue. From communities already being hit by climate change to those who have contributed most to the problem, we are taking action together. This is the greatest challenge of our generation. We ask you to do more to avert climate change and protect the most vulnerable people who are impacted first and most significantly.”
Ruth Valerio, global advocacy and influencing director at Tearfund, who also signed up, said: “Christians across the world are joining our campaign. We’re calling on world leaders to deliver on their promises to limit global warming in line with the Paris agreement.”
PASir David Attenborough at the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018, in Poland, on Monday
The hosts of the summit, which is being held in the city of Katowice, in the heart of Poland’s coal country, were criticised for receiving sponsorship from some of the country’s largest coal companies. Many delegates were attending from countries that are suffering from the acute effects of climate change, and Christian Aid described the move as a “slap in the face” to vulnerable countries.
The charity’s international climate lead, Mohamed Adow, said that it was “like an arms dealer sponsoring peace talks”.
Despite this, there were also signs of hope for climate activists. The shipping giant Maersk announced that it had set itself a target of producing net-zero emissions by 2050: a significant move from an industry that contributes a large amount of global emissions. Elsewhere, Spain said that it planned to produce 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2050.
The World Bank also announced that it would help to deliver $200 billion, by 2025, to help countries meet their climate goals. However, the Big Shift Global coalition, of which Christian Aid and Tearfund are members, warned that the Bank needed also to reduce its financing of the fossil-fuel industry, otherwise its money would be working “at cross purposes”.
One of the top items on the agenda for the summit will be to agree on a rulebook for the Paris agreement. This “operating manual” will allow all the individual national plans agreed as part of the 2015 accord to be clearly assessed, and those actions implemented.
The conference concludes next weekend.