In the Polish coal city of Katowice, delegates from nearly 200 nations debate how to meet the Paris target of limiting global warming to between 1.5 and 2.0 degrees Celsius.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appears on screens when delivering a speech during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, December 3, 2018.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appears on screens when delivering a speech during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, December 3, 2018. (AP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the climate summit in Poland by issuing a dramatic appeal to world leaders Monday to take seriously the threat of global warming and act boldly to avert a catastrophic rise in temperatures before the end of the century.

Guterres named climate change as "the most important issue we face."

"Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption," Guterres told representatives from almost 200 countries gathered in Katowice, Poland.

TRT World's Assed Baig reports.

The UN chief chided countries, particularly those most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, for failing to do enough to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord. The 2015 agreement set a goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5 C (2.7 F) by the end of the century.

Citing a recent scientific report on the dire consequences of letting average global temperatures rise beyond 1.5 degrees, Guterres urged countries to cut their emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and aim for net zero emissions by 2050.

Such a move, which experts say is the only way to achieve the 1.5-degree goal, would require a radical overhaul of the global economy.

"In short, we need a complete transformation of our global energy economy, as well as how we manage land and forest resources," Guterres said.

He said governments should embrace the opportunities rather than cling to fossil fuels such as coal, which are blamed for a significant share of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to steer businesses and consumers away from heavily polluting forms of energy, he urged countries to embrace carbon pricing, something few countries have yet to do.

Guterres also called on negotiators not to lose sight of the fact that the challenges they face pale in comparison to the difficulties already caused by climate change to millions of people around the world seeing their livelihoods at risk from rising sea levels, drought and more powerful storms.

TRT World's Assed Baig has more.

Attenborough urges climate meet

British broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough on Monday urged world leaders, meeting in Poland to agree ways to limit global warming, to get on and tackle "our greatest threat in thousands of years".

Known for countless nature films, Attenborough has gained prominence recently with his "Blue Planet II" series, which highlighted the devastating effect of pollution on the oceans.

"Leaders of the world, you must lead," said the naturalist, given a "People's seat" at the UN climate conference in Katowice.

"The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands," he said.

"Just transition"

The two-week conference, in Poland's southern coal mining region of Silesia, is expected to work out how governments can report on their efforts to reduce green gas emission and keep global warming within the Paris accord limit.

"This is the challenge on which this generation's leaders will be judged," Guterres said.

Host Poland proposed a declaration for a "just transition" away from coal mining, the supplier of its main source of energy, which calls for winning social acceptance for the necessary changes.

Fiji's prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, who presided over last year's summit, said the "just transition" proposal shouldn't just consider the fate of workers in the fossil fuel industries, but all people around the world whose lives are affect ed by climate change.

$200 billion pledged

Meanwhile, the World Bank will give equal weight to curbing emissions and helping poor countries deal with the "disastrous effects" of a warming world as it steps up investments to tackle climate change in the first half of the 2020s, it said on Monday. 

It announced $200 billion (175 billion euros) in climate action investment for 2021-25 - a major shot in the arm for green initiatives but one which needs bolstering by state funding.

“We must fight the causes, but also adapt to the consequences that are often most dramatic for the world’s poorest people," said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva, as leaders flagged rising needs at UN climate talks in Poland.

Of the $100 billion the World Bank plans to make available in the five years from mid-2020, half would go to adaptation measures, it said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies