Campaign groups representing citizens from across the world demanded Tuesday that big energy leaves coal in the ground as COP24 host Poland pushed for protections allowing it to continue burning fossil fuel.
With nations locked in UN climate talks aimed at heading off runaway global warming, many parts of the world are already dealing with the storms, floods, fires and droughts our heating planet will suffer.
Man-made emissions have increased annually since the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord was struck and with political progress slowing, people who will bear the biggest burden issued their clearest plea to date: end fossil fuels now.
“The urgency of the climate crisis is very real on the ground because our people are suffering the different impacts of extreme weather,” said Lidy Nacpil, co-coordinator of the Asia Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development.
“Crops will be destroyed not just by flooding and rain but also by droughts. Yet this urgency is not reflected in the actions of governments,” she told AFP.
The People’s Demands initiative has been signed by nearly 300,000 people from over 120 nations.
It calls on richer states — who are responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions — to honour their promises to help fund at-risk countries to adapt to climate change, and developed economies to be fully green by 2030.
They also want a ban on fracking and an immediate, worldwide moratorium on new fossil fuel exploration and extraction.
The UN’s independent panel of climate experts in October issued its starkest findings yet: emissions from fossil fuels must be slashed by half within 12 years in order to hit the Paris goals of limited temperature rises.
But most Western economies remain heavily dependent on fossil fuels.
Poland, which gets roughly 80 percent of its electricity from coal, this week called for nations to weave measures into the UN climate framework that critics fear would allow it to keep polluting for decades.
President Andrzej Duda used his address at the COP opening Monday to say Poland’s dependence on coal “does not clash with climate protection and progress achieved in this vein”.
Poland and other fossil-fuel reliant economies say they need a gradual and “just transition” towards renewables that protects miners and national energy security.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told officials at negotiations Tuesday that “the dialogue with industries is sometimes difficult and complex”.
“But we believe that even in the oil and gas industry, there is a growing conscience that the present trend is not sustainable.”