KATOWICE (Poland) • The world is "way off course" in its plan to prevent catastrophic climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said yesterday as the COP24 climate summit officially opened in Poland.
After a string of damning environmental reports showing that mankind must drastically slash its greenhouse gas emissions to avert runaway global warming, Mr Guterres told delegates "we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough".
The nearly 200 nations that signed up to the 2015 Paris climate deal must this month finalise a rule book to limit global temperature rises to well below 2 deg C, and to the safer cap of 1.5 deg C if possible.
But the rate of climate change is rapidly outstripping mankind's response.
With just 1 deg C of warming so far, the earth is blighted by raging wildfires, extreme drought and mega storms made worse by rising sea levels.
"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," Mr Guterres said.
Some of the nations most at risk from climate change had the chance yesterday to plead the case for immediate action.
Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who was president of last year's COP climate talks, said nations must act now to stave off disaster.
"Or, God forbid, (we) ignore the irrefutable evidence and become the generation that betrayed humanity," he said.
The World Bank said yesterday that it 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.
The bank and its two sister organisations plan to double their investments in climate action to about US$200 billion (S$270 billion) from 2021 to 2025, with a boost in support for efforts to adapt to higher temperatures, wilder weather and rising seas.
The latest figures on climate funding for developing countries show that barely a quarter has been going to adaptation, with the bulk backing adoption of clean energy and more efficient energy use, aimed at cutting planet-warming emissions.
"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 chief executive officer Kristalina Georgieva.
Of the US$100 billion that the World Bank plans to make available in the five years from mid-2020, half would go to adaptation measures, it said. Those include building more robust homes, schools and infrastructure, preparing farmers for climate shifts, managing water wisely, and protecting people's incomes through social safety nets, Dr Georgieva said.
British broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough, who was given a "People's seat" yesterday at the two-week climate conference in the Polish coal city of Katowice alongside two dozen heads of state and government, urged world leaders to get on and tackle "our greatest threat in thousands of years".
"The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands," said the naturalist.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS