Climate change is 'most important issue we face — United Nations chief

Challenge Naturalist David Attenborough addresses the climate change conference in Poland

The comments were made in Katowice, Poland, the city hosting the UN's COP24 climate talks - a multilateral meeting drawing together about 200 countries to set the rulebook for the 2015 Paris climate accords.

The Secretary-General started by noting that climate change is already "a matter of life and death" for many people, nations and countries of the world, and that the science is telling us we need to move faster.

Hosting the talks in the heart of its coal region of Silesia, Poland tried to set the tone for the two-week meeting by promoting the idea of a "just transition" for miners and other workers facing layoffs as countries adopt alternative energy sources.

"We need to act urgently, and with audacity", Espinosa said.

Guterres called climate change "the most important issue we face".

While business is participating in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the dialogue could be much more effective.

While the United States is withdrawing from the climate pact, the US Department of State said it was sending a delegation to the Katowice conference.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the climate summit in Poland on Monday with a dire warning to world leaders: Act now to combat rising temperatures or there will be catastrophic consequences.

"Our greatest threat in thousands of years", Attenborough said.

He called on the almost 200 countries represented in Katowice, Poland, to take the issue seriously, and commit to the course of action agreed to in Paris in 2015.

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But Guterres said governments should embrace the opportunities of shifting to a "green economy" rather than cling to fossil fuels such as coal, which are blamed for a significant share of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2018 Emissions Gap Report from UN Environment which annually presents a definitive assessment of the "emissions gap" - the gap between anticipated emission levels in 2030, compared to levels consistent with a 2/1.5 degrees Celsius target.

He later told reporters that realities of global climate changes are "worse than expected, but the political will is relatively faded after Paris" and is not matching the current challenges. In terms of power generation in the country, 80 per cent of it comes from coal-based power plants and the summit is sponsored by JWS - the largest coal producer in Poland.

But a year ago President Trump shocked the global community when he pulled the USA out of the agreement, saying he would negotiate a new "fair" deal which would not put American businesses and workers at a disadvantage.

"For some people, this is a life-or-death situation without a doubt", said Natalie Mahowald, a Cornell University climate scientist and lead author of the IPCC report.

Citing a recent scientific report, the United Nations chief urged governments to aim for net zero emissions by 2050.

German Ambassador in Dhaka Peter Fahrenholtz stressed that the negative effects of climate change becoming perceptible for more and more people worldwide must immediately be taken seriously and must urgently be fought on a global level.

The World Bank has also announced a doubling of its climate fund, promising $200bn in funding over five years to support countries taking action against climate change.

Many countries are already dealing with the droughts, higher seas and catastrophic storms climate change is exacerbating.

As developing nations begged for vastly quicker action, host Poland was pushing its own agenda: a so-called "just transition" to greener energy which critics fear would allow it to continue burning coal for decades.