The collapse of civilization and extinction of much of the natural world is “on the horizon” due to climate change, Sir David Attenborough declared at the opening day UN climate talks in Poland.
The naturalist and TV presenter called on global leaders and decision-makers, who have gathered in Katowice for the COP24 conference, to take charge on driving down greenhouse gas emissions as climate change was the greatest threat facing the world “in thousands of years”.
“The world’s people have spoken, their message is clear, time is running out, they want you, the decision-makers, to act now. They’re supporting you in making tough decisions but they’re also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives,” he added.
“The continuation of our civilizations and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands.”
Sir David was speaking on behalf of the UN’s “People’s Seat” initiative to give ordinary people a voice at the international talks by gathering their thoughts, ideas and concerns through social media.
He endorsed the “ActNow.bot” which helps people discover simple everyday actions they can take to tackle climate change.
“The people have spoken: leaders of the world, you must lead, the continuation of our civilizations and the natural world upon which we depend are in your hands,” he added.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned negotiators at the meeting that the world was in deep trouble. “Climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later, before it’s too late. For many people, regions and even countries, this is already a matter of life and death,” he said.
Climate action was not just the right thing to do, it made social and economic sense, Mr Guterres said, pointing to how action to cut emissions would curb air pollution deaths, generate millions of jobs and trillions of dollars.
Mr Guterres said he had four simple messages:
Firstly, “science demands a significantly more ambitious response”. Secondly, “the Paris Agreement provides the framework for action, so we must make it operational”. Thirdly, “we have a collective responsibility to invest in averting global climate chaos, to consolidate the financial commitments made in Paris and to assist the most vulnerable communities and nations”. Fourthly, “climate action offers a compelling path to transform our world for the better”.
The World Bank announced it is doubling investments in climate action with US$ 200 billion for 2021-2025, including US$ 50 billion towards helping countries adapt to the impacts of global warming.
Bank president Jim Yong Kim said the poorest and most vulnerable people were at the greatest risk, and urged other financial institutions to follow its lead.
“We are pushing ourselves to do more and go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same,” he said. “This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future.”