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Attenborough at COP24: Climate Change 'Greatest Threat' to Civilization

  • Environmentalist filmmaker Sir David Attenborough said the blame of climate change falls on older generations.

    Environmentalist filmmaker Sir David Attenborough said the blame of climate change falls on older generations. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 December 2018

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

British broadcaster and environmentalist Sir David Attenborough, of the “Blue Planet” and “Planet Earth” series, urged world leaders to tackle climate change which he called "our greatest threat in thousands of years" at the two-week United Nations (U.N.) Climate Change Conference 2018 (COP24) in Poland Monday.

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"Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale." said Attenborough, 92, who was given a "People's seat" alongside 24 heads of state at the climate conference in Katowice, a Polish coal city. "The continuation of our civilizations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands."

The world is currently on course to significantly overstretch the limits for global warming that had been agreed upon in the landmark 2015 Paris Accord on climate change. The accord had intended to prevent further extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss of ecosystems, including species of plants and animals.

"It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. "Climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late."

The Katowice Climate Change Conference, which includes the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) is widely considered the most important U.N. conference since Paris, as it comes just before an end-of-year deadline for international powers to agree on a "rule book" on action enforcing actual measures to mitigate the effects of climate change.

However, U.N. leaders and others have been struggling to respond to the urgency of a slow-moving disaster that is gaining greater prominence. The task is monumental. Leaders are tasked with 14 days of debates and conversations to provide practical measures that respect the ideological pressure set out by the Paris Accord while setting forth plans of action over ways to evolve beyond fossil fuel consumption.

However, the global political landscape has changed since 2015, giving way to doubts over the promises of the Paris accord in which it was established what was needed to curb the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in order to prevent catastrophic climate events and loss of environments, but did not specify how it could be done.

"The wave of optimism and global cooperation that carried us to and through Paris has now crested, broken and is now tumbling," Michal Kurtyka, Poland's deputy environment minister and president of the COP24 talks told delegates.

Poland, where the talks are being held, is dependent on coal which is the most polluting of fossil fuels. The Polish government has called for a "just transition" to help communities who rely on fossil fuels to transition without grievance.

Already in Paris and across France, riots from the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement who are protesting fuel taxes, exemplifies the dilemma for world leaders who have to reckon with ways to introduce long-term environmental policies while balancing the costs for their constituents.

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