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Patricia Espinosa: “It’s Within our Grasp to Finish the Job"

The second part of the high-level segment of the UN Climate Change Conference COP24 resumed today with the UN’s Climate Chief, Patricia Espinosa and other top UN officials making passionate pleas to governments to finish the work they set for themselves and conclude the conference with a strong and effective outcome.

The main objective of the conference is to finalize the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement. With more than 100 Ministers now in Katowice to provide pollical guidance, and with only a few days left to go, Ms. Espinosa said:

“Many political divisions remain. Many issues still must be overcome. But I believe it’s within our grasp to finish the job. (…) Let’s complete the Paris Agreement Work Program and, by doing so, immediately unleash the power of the Paris Agreement itself.”

Ahead of COP24, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report on the achievability and implications of a 1.5°Celsius global average temperature rise compared to pre-industrial levels, the lower temperature goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

In Katowice, Hoesung Lee, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reiterated the key findings of the report, namely that the temperature goal is achievable, but that this can only happen if there if governments take urgent and far-reaching action in all aspects of society, with many implications for policy-making.

“Every bit of warming matters. Every year matters. Every choice matters. With this report, the scientific message is clear. It is now up to you, the governments, to act,” he said.

Mr. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, also spoke addressed Ministers and delegates. He warned that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions were unsustainable, and were already leading to dramatic climate change impacts around the world, from the melting of Artic ice to many incidents of fires flooding this fear.

"We are expecting a 2 to 4 percent increase in global carbon dioxide emissions this year. If we are serious about the Paris Agreement, we need to see different numbers."

He also pointed out that even if pollution of the atmosphere is stopped today, the current levels of CO2 would stay in the atmosphere for many years to come, locking in extreme weather.

At the end of her speech, Ms. Espinosa alluded to the words of Mae Jemison, the first black female astronaut in space, who spoke about traveling to space and exploring the unknown.

“What struck her most was looking back at Planet Earth and seeing not just the beauty of our planet, but the thinness and fragility of the atmosphere surrounding it—the thin blue line protecting all life on Earth. That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s what we’re here to protect: That thin blue line of life. That thin blue line of hope.”

Read the full speech of Ms. Patricia Espinosa here:

Ten days ago, we gathered here to launch COP24, the most important COP since the Paris Agreement.

Our tasks were clearly defined, as was the urgency to complete our work. COP President Kurtyka challenged Parties, saying “without success in Katowice, there is no success of Paris.”

He asked two simple questions: Do we care about our achievement? Do we care about the Paris Agreement?

After ten days, I still believe the answer is “yes”.

As we formally open the High-Level Segment of COP24, I’ve seen incredible dedication to complete our work.

But that work is not finished—far from it. Many political divisions remain. Many issues still must be overcome. But I believe it’s within our grasp to finish the job.

I thank those working tirelessly to make COP24 a success.

This includes our Polish hosts, and those who have supported the negotiators with text preparation, making sure meetings flow smoothly, and providing the support Parties require. This conference runs on your energy. Thank you.

30,000 people from around the world have come to Katowice—all with fresh ideas and energy. They know this is our time. They know this is our moment. They don’t want to waste it.

Here are a few examples of what we’ve seen so far.

The World Bank announced a new set of climate targets for 2021-2025, doubling its current 5-year investments to $200 billion in support for countries to take ambitious climate action.

We launched the High-level Event on Global Climate Action, supported by eight days of focused events and dialogues with an impressive line-up of speakers.

We had the IPCC Special Report on 1.5C, highlighting the key findings of the report, including the impacts of a rise of global temperature levels to 1.5°C.

I’ve also participated in events related to finance, technology, capacity-building, research, gender and youth.

We’ve made progress, but these next days are crucial.

The Katowice package needs to deliver the Paris Agreement Work Program, make progress on finance, and provide a solid basis for the revision of the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Talanoa Dialogue.

Significant progress in the negotiating texts has been achieved, but several political issues remain. To that end, I remind you that the deadline to finalize the Paris Agreement Work Program was not one imposed by us, but by you, the Parties.

By finalizing the Work Program, we can immediately unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement and its promise of a low-emissions, climate-resilient future.

With respect to the Talanoa Dialogue, today we launch its final political phase. The Dialogue represents the voices of millions throughout the world and is a clear reflection of their needs, desires and solutions to climate change.

It also provides a base for the revision of Nationally-Determined Contributions, making it an essential part of our work.

As to the third part of the Katowice package, finance, we must see greater movement on finance throughout the spectrum of these negotiations. This includes the mobilization of funding that will provide greater support and predictability for those suffering from the impacts of climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Each one of you has the power to finish what you were sent here to do. This is the time for consensus. This is the time for compromises to be reached for the good of all people.I recognize this work is difficult. I should know: I was in your position only few years ago—at COP16 in Cancun.

Nobody is more aware of the pressures you face, the extent of your work and the overwhelming need for results.

I’m also aware however, that what allowed us to achieve success in Cancun and, later, in Paris, was because negotiators were working towards a common goal.

We wanted a global framework that would move the process forward. We now have that framework in the Paris Agreement.

But if we’re to achieve our work here and continue building the climate regime beyond Paris, we must have a unifying vision.

It must go beyond frameworks, conventions and negotiating texts—it needs to be about something bigger. We must remember what we’re really fighting for.

Mae Jemison spoke at our Global Climate Action Event.

She spoke about travelling to space and exploring the unknown. What struck her most was looking back at Planet Earth and seeing not just the beauty of our planet, but the thinness and fragility of the atmosphere surrounding it—the thin blue line protecting all life on Earth.

That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s what we’re here to protect: That thin blue line of life. That thin blue line of hope.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We stand at a unique point in human history. Incredible opportunity exists if we embrace the transition towards a low-emissions future and unleash the power of the Paris Agreement.

But we must start building the tomorrow we want it to be…today.

A tomorrow worthy of passing down to our children.

A tomorrow that is cleaner, greener and more prosperous.

A tomorrow that protects the thin blue layer that envelops us.

But we must first achieve our very specific goals at COP24.

So, let’s finish our work. Let’s complete the Paris Agreement Work Program and, by doing so, immediately unleash the power of the Paris Agreement itself.

Let’s rise to the challenge and finish the work the world demands of us and that we demand of ourselves.

Thank you.

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