UN chief: climate talks at ‘point of no return’

Right now: Save the Children says climate shocks threaten millions of people in Africa. © Getty

Is he right? The world’s biggest climate summit kicked off in Madrid yesterday, with 29,000 delegates from almost every nation. António Guterrez thinks this is our last shot to get it right.

“The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,” said António Guterrez, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), as the global COP25 climate conference opened in Madrid yesterday.

Over two weeks, 29,000 delegates from every country on Earth will try to negotiate new targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and put the words of the 2015 Paris Agreement into action.

To avoid irreversible damage, Guterrez is pushing for nations to agree to “immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a pace consistent to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050”.

Will this high-stakes meeting make a difference? Recent news has been worrying.

Just last week, a UN report revealed that, in 2018, global emissions from the electrical industry rose by 2% despite the international spotlight on the crisis.

Ahead of conference, dozens of islands that could soon be submerged by rising sea levels issued a desperate plea to more powerful nations to heed Guterrez’s warning.

“We see [these talks] as the last opportunity to take decisive action,” said Janine Felson, deputy chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

Are we at a point of no return?

Last chance saloon

The UN said it last year. Guterrez repeated it yesterday. Time and time again, the science has shown that the climate crisis is not a slow and steady process. Very soon — or perhaps we area already there — global carbon emissions will reach a tipping point, after which the devastating effects of climate change will spiral. It is almost already too late.

But others insist that talk of a “point of no return” is meaningless, if not dangerous. Anything and everything we can do to limit the climate emergency will make a difference. If we start thinking that it is all too little, too late, then we are doomed to inaction.

You Decide

  1. Is it too late to stop the climate crisis?

Activities

  1. Make a list of the three most important things that should be discussed at COP25.

Some People Say...

“Right here, right now, is where we draw the line.”

Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old, Swedish climate activist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The 25th Conference of the Parties, or COP25, which is run by the UN, started in Madrid yesterday.
What do we not know?
How much progress COP25 will make. All decisions at the summit must be unanimous, which means that climate-sceptic nations like Saudi Arabia, Brazil or even the USA have the power to slow down progress.

Word Watch

COP25
The 25th Conference of the Parties, which is held each year and attended by around 200 nations.
Negotiate
Reach a deal through talking.
2015 Paris Agreement
This deal commits its signatories to keep global warming below 2C and ideally below 1.5C.
Carbon neutrality
A country is carbon neutral when it removes as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it produces.
Dozens of islands
The 44 states that are members of AOSIS released a joint statement.
Submerged
Totally covered in water.
Heed
Pay attention to.

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