The future of the Paris climate agreement is being charted now in a Polish city that proudly displays its coal-mining heritage. The U.N. climate talks that began Monday in Katowice, Poland, aim to finish the Paris “rulebook” — implementing guidelines for the 3-year-old pact.
Failure to strike a deal by the end of next week would undermine global trust in the climate deal in the wake of a U.N. report last year that showed only a swift decarbonization could avert disaster.
“Leaders of the world, you must lead,” British broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough said at the conference’s opening Monday. “The continuation of our civilizations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands.” U.N. chief António Guterres echoed that message, urging representatives of nearly 200 nations to work together. “Only global answers,” he said, “can solve global problems.”
But the meeting’s backdrop — a city in southern Poland whose growth was fueled by discovery of coal reserves in the mid-18th century — was odd, given the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s urging that the world reject coal almost completely by 2030 to have a chance of restraining global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and averting catastrophe.
Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s international climate lead, called coal’s prominence in Katowice a “slap in the face” to delegates, especially those from developing countries that are most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts. “It is like an arms dealer sponsoring peace talks,” Adow said.
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