A reckoner on what happened at the UN’s COP24 summit on climate change

By Prarthana Mitra

After a united call from world leaders and environmentalists to fight climate change, the COP24 climate talks, on Monday, sounded another dire warning for the world’s nations to pull their socks up, as the countdown to an imminent environmental catastrophe begins.

Over 200 countries met for a crunch summit in Katowice, Poland, to chart the course of action, in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, financial backers like World Bank Group and natural historian David Attenborough.

Greenhouse emission target

In the wake of recent reports that gave policymakers in advanced and emerging economies a decade to reduce (or at least peak) greenhouse emissions, Guterres noted in his opening addresses, “We are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough”.

After reaching a record high in 2017, according to the UN Emissions Gap Report 2018, published last week, “global greenhouse gas emissions show no signs of peaking.”

Global warming target

Amid calls to keep temperatures within 1.5 degrees C of pre-industrial levels, David Attenborough warned of a collapse of civilisations in a stern speech at the UN summit. Representing the general public at the conference, he presented how ordinary people had responded to the UN’s invitation to participate in the summit as part of an initiative called The People’s Seat.

In the days leading up to the talks, Attenborough encouraged social media users to share their comments and questions using the hashtag #TakeYourSeat, to give users a platform to have their say alongside world leaders at the COP24.

In October a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned the planet could reach that level by as early as 2030, based on current levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach “net zero” around 2050 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C.

Here’s what various stakeholders proposed

At-risk nations such as Fiji, Nigeria and Nepal pleaded their case on Monday, while coal-reliant host Poland pushed for a “just transition” to help communities dependent on fossil fuels change their lifestyle.

Pledges to put the terms of 2015 Paris climate accord terms into action were taken, but we are yet to see what COP24 will achieve. Meanwhile, 15-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg from Sweden attended the conference, asking her contemporaries to lead the charge against the lip-service and futile accords of policymakers. ”We have to realize what the older generations have done to us, what a mess they have created… (and) we have to make our voices heard.”

World Bank Group agreed to raise $200 billion to fight climate change from 2021-25. Saying that climate change poses the greatest risk to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, Jim Yong Kim, president of World Bank, further urged the wider global community to follow its lead.

Meanwhile, a couple of days ago, at the G20 summit, US president Donald Trump refused to sign on to the G20 statement on climate change, getting a separately made section for his nation and becoming the only president refusing to be a part of the agreement. This reiterates his withdrawal from the Paris accord in 2015.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius

Climate ChangeCOP24David AttenboroughDonald TrumpG20greenhouse emissionUN