Madrid, Dec 3 (AFP/APP): Confronted with a climate crisis threatening civilisation itself, humanity must choose between hope and surrender, UN chief Antonio Guterres told the opening plenary of a UN climate conference Monday.
“One is the path of surrender, where we have sleep-walked past the point of no return, jeopardising the health and safety of everyone on this planet,” Guterres said.
“Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand, that fiddled while the planet burned?”
Some 40 presidents and prime ministers took turns working that theme as the 12-day talks began, with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen at one point holding up a plush polar bear.
“All of you, just like me, are so-called decision-makers, and probably have children or grandchildren who you love,” he said in a scolding tone. “Think about those children when you take a decision on behalf of your country.”
But it was no coincidence, perhaps, that Van der Bellen’s position is largely ceremonial, and that few heads of state from the world’s major carbon polluters turned up.
Notably absent were the leaders of China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan, which together account for 60 percent of global CO2 emissions.
“What is still lacking is political will — to put a price on carbon, to stop subsidies on fossil fuels, to stop building coal power plants,” said Guterres, who earlier excoriated the efforts of the world’s biggest economies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as “utterly inadequate”.
Only the European Union has stepped into the breach, with its new leader aiming for the bloc to reduce emissions to “net zero” by mid-century.
It has long be clear, in any case, that COP25 would not deliver greater climate ambition, with all eyes turned toward next year’s meet in Glasgow — the last before the 2015 Paris Agreement becomes operational.
The Madrid conference did get a boost Monday from US Congressional leader Nancy Pelosi, who came from Washington to ensure the world that the United States was still serious about taming climate change despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris deal.