‘Pivotal’ climate change talks to start amid urgent warnings
Crunch climate talks begin in Poland this week amid growing concern that political action is lagging behind the rise in global temperatures.
The United Nations’ conference, called COP24, is the most important gathering of climate negotiators since the Paris summit three years ago.
Officials will thrash out a “rulebook” for declaring and monitoring cuts in greenhouse gases.
They will also spell out how contributions will be made to a fund intended to mitigate the effects of climate change in less developed countries.
The conference follows a series of scientific reports this year warning that far bigger cuts to emissions are needed than were agreed in Paris.
In 2015 world leaders, including US president Barack Obama, China president Xi Jinping and prime minister David Cameron, signed up to a deal that would keep the rise in average global temperature to no more than 2C.
But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in October that the planet is responding faster and more dramatically to the warming atmosphere than had been predicted – and the temperature rise must now be kept to no more than 1.5C.
Professor Chris Rapley, a climate scientist at University College London said the Earth “has been sending us some very strong messages” since the Paris deal, and described the Polish conference as “pivotal”.
“All of our worst fears are founded,” he said.
“The system is changing more rapidly than we considered it would and this is serious and we need to do something about it.
“In all parts of the globe there is too much water, too little water, fires, extreme events.
“We know the world has warmed a degree compared with pre-industrial times and this is a red flag.
“It won’t be too long if we carry on before we hit the 1.5C guard rail.”
More than 180 countries have signed up to the Paris Agreement, but President Donald Trump has said the US will withdraw because it is bad for coal mining jobs. He has said climate change is a “hoax”, but has since backtracked.
Morgan Currie, a US lecturer at Edinburgh University, has monitored how US federal agencies have reported and archived climate data under the current administration.
She and her collaborators found evidence that web pages have been taken offline, documents deleted and the language altered.
She told Sky News: “If we actually exit the Paris climate agreement, we will be one of three nations in the world who’ve done that. He will be breaking with global consensus.
“The US has enormous impact as well, with regards to other countries who might not find the agreement convenient this gives them a way out.
“If the US exits, other countries might too, making it harder to achieve the changes we need.”
Frustration over the slow progress of climate action has resulted in a rise of groups such as Extinction Rebellion.
The group has blocked roads and bridges in London, and wants its activists to get arrested or even jailed to underscore the urgency of action from world leaders.
Annie Randall, one of the activists, went to the Paris summit and will be in Poland this week, but she’s disillusioned.
“I don’t have much faith in agreements like Paris because they are not up to date.
“It is behind the scientific data; way too conservative.
“It is essentially greenwashing.”