Failure by countries to agree on rules to implement the 2015 Paris climate agreement on global warming would be “suicidal”, the United Nations chief said on Wednesday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told delegates from more than 130 countries meeting in the city of Katowice, Poland, they had less than three days to find the political will to reach the difficult compromises, sacrifices and common ground needed for a deal.
The two-week talks are tasked with breathing life into the Paris accord, which vows to cap global warming at “well under” 2 degrees Celsius and funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries already feeling the sting of deadly storms, heatwaves and drought made worse by climate change.
“Key political issues” deadlocking UN climate talks “remain unresolved”, said Guterres.
“Failing here in Katowice would send a disastrous message to those who stand ready to shift to a green economy,” he said.
“To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.”
As delegates grappled with how the accord will be implemented, the slow progress also prompted Michal Kurtyka, the Polish president of the talks, to tell delegates time was precious and they needed to find wording acceptable to all.
Environmental activists and some developing countries also raised concerns that the rule book could fall short of pushing countries towards curbing their emissions to meet the Paris targets.
“The clock is ticking. While we spend time debating texts and demanding their implementation, the planet outside is deteriorating. Species are becoming extinct. Habitats disappearing. Emissions piling up,” Brazilian Environment Minister Edson Duarte said.
Guterres said a recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged global warming beyond 1.5C will threaten billions of people, especially those who live in small island states.
The report outlined a catastrophic future if no action was taken by countries immediately, he said, adding the window of opportunity was quickly closing.
“This may sound like a dramatic appeal, but it is exactly this – a dramatic appeal,” Guterres said.
A handful of countries at the talks – led by the United States and Saudi Arabia – have blocked efforts to endorse the report in question, which many developing countries see as essential.