Patricia Espinosa: “It’s Within our Grasp to Finish the Job of COP24”

The second part of the high-level segment of the UN Climate Change Conference COP24 resumed today with the UN’s Climate Chief, Patricia Espinosa and other top UN officials making passionate pleas to governments to finish the work they set for themselves and conclude the conference with a strong and effective outcome.  

The main objective of the conference is to finalize the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement. With more than 100 Ministers now in Katowice to provide political guidance, and with only a few days left to go, Ms. Espinosa said:

“Many political divisions remain. Many issues still must be overcome. But I believe it’s within our grasp to finish the job. (…) Let’s complete the Paris Agreement Work Program and, by doing so, immediately unleash the power of the Paris Agreement itself.”

Ahead of COP24, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report on the achievability and implications of a 1.5°Celsius global average temperature rise compared to pre-industrial levels, the lower temperature goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

In Katowice, Hoesung Lee, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reiterated the key findings of the report, namely that the temperature goal is achievable, but that this can only happen if there if governments take urgent and far-reaching action in all aspects of society, with many implications for policy-making.

 “Every bit of warming matters. Every year matters. Every choice matters.  With this report, the scientific message is clear. It is now up to you, the governments, to act,” he said.

Mr. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, also spoke addressed Ministers and delegates.  He warned that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions were unsustainable, and were already leading to dramatic climate change impacts around the world, from the melting of Artic ice to many incidents of fires flooding this fear.

"We are expecting a 2 to 4 percent increase in global carbon dioxide emissions this year. If we are serious about the Paris Agreement, we need to see different numbers."  

He also pointed out that even if pollution of the atmosphere is stopped today, the current levels of CO2 would stay in the atmosphere for many years to come, locking in extreme weather.

At the end of her speech, Ms. Espinosa alluded to the words of Mae Jemison, the first black female astronaut in space, who spoke about traveling to space and exploring the unknown.

“What struck her most was looking back at Planet Earth and seeing not just the beauty of our planet, but the thinness and fragility of the atmosphere surrounding it—the thin blue line protecting all life on Earth. That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s what we’re here to protect: That thin blue line of life. That thin blue line of hope.”

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