NEWS: ‘We cannot waste more time on climate change’, UN summit says

Almost 200 nations began talks today to define how the 2015 Paris Agreement will be implemented in order to prevent the most destructive impacts of global warming.

The two-week 24th conference of the parties of the United Nations Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) started on Sunday 2 December in Katowice, Poland.

With 2018 being the deadline that the 197 signatories of the Paris Agreement agreed to adopt a work programme by in order to lower global warming temperatures, the UN says the meeting is ‘particularly crucial’.

 “The clock is ticking on climate change, the world cannot afford to waste more time: we must collectively agree on a bold, decisive, ambitious and accountable way forward,” read a press statement issued on 29 November.

The conference comes in a critical year for information on global warming, with scientists warning the window is narrowing on time available to act.

Rising sea levels due to global warming are threatening species with extinction, scientists say. Photograph: polar bear / iStock

In October, a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that there are only 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C before disastrous consequences are manifest.

Beyond this, even half a degree will significantly lead to extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice. The IPCC found, for example, that coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (99 percent) would be lost with 2°C. Countries have pledged to keep ‘as close as possible’ to, or ‘well below 2°C’ as part of the Paris agreement.

It was also revealed in March that up to half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas, such as the Amazon and the Galapagos, could face extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked.

Even if the Paris Climate Agreement 2°C target is met, these places could lose 25 percent of their species, the landmark study by the University of East Anglia, the James Cook University, and the World Wildlife Fund warned.

Based on current trends global warming could reach 3°C to 5°C by the end of this century. The World Meteorological Organization has said that globally the past four years have been the hottest on record. 

Opening the UN meeting, Sir David Attenborough addressed delegates: "If we don’t take climate action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon."