COP24 climate conference: World facing 'greatest threat in thousands of years'

Updated 5:59 a.m. ET, December 17, 2018
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2:00 p.m. ET, December 12, 2018

Return of the “High-Ambition Coalition”

From CNN's Mark Tutton in Katowice, Poland

At COP21 in 2015, the emergence of a “High Ambition Coalition” helped drive through the Paris Agreement.

COP24 has just seen the emergence of a new “High Ambition Coalition,” that includes the EU, Canada, Costa Rica, Argentina, New Zealand, Mexico, Norway, Fiji and the Marshall Islands.

The group says it is “determined to step up ambition by 2020,” including through enhanced national climate pledges, increased short-term action and long-term low emission development strategies.

A statement from the coalition adds:

“The Summit must deliver a clear, strong and effective multilateral response to the Special Report on 1.5°C, including by countries stepping up climate ambition."

“We call on other governments and non-Party stakeholders to join us in striving to step up ambition by 2020 in response to the Special Report on 1.5°C.” 

1:38 p.m. ET, December 12, 2018

US delivers high-level statement

Towards the end of the day, the United States delivered its much-awaited statement at the COP high-level segment.

Judith G. Garber, senior bureau official from the Department of State, who heads the US delegation at COP24, listed her country’s accomplishments in reducing fossil fuel emissions, while stressing that fossil fuels would continue to play a role in the US energy mix – along with natural gas, nuclear power and renewables.

She referred to President Trump’s announcement last year that the US would leave the Paris Agreement, “absent the identification of terms that are more favorable to the America people.”

Garber concluded:

“The US will continue to engage our many partner countries and allies around the world to reduce emissions, to continue to adapt to climate change, and to respond to natural disasters.

"We’ll also work with other countries to develop and deploy a broad array of technologies as we continue to promote economic growth, improve energy security, and protect the environment.”

12:40 p.m. ET, December 12, 2018

Al Gore: "We have to pick up the pace"

From CNN's Mark Tutton in Katowice, Poland

Former US Vice President Al Gore today called for urgent action against climate change.

Speaking this afternoon at the Greenpeace Climate Hub, just across the road from the COP24 venue, he said:

"So much is at stake … we have to pick up the pace and that’s why the next two days in Katowice are so important."

He added:

We have a moral obligation and we have the means to make the change.

"For those who doubt that we as human beings have the political will to make big change, just remember that political will itself is a renewable resource."

Gore criticized the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia for their opposition to endorsing a major climate change report, and said:

"It's important to understand where the opposition to saving our future is coming from."

Gore addressed the same subject at a press conference earlier in the day.

9:10 a.m. ET, December 12, 2018

UN chief: "Much remains to be done"

From CNN's Mark Tutton in Katowice, Poland

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres today returned to COP24, after addressing delegates at the opening of the conference last week.

“Returning to Katowice, I see that despite some progress in the negotiating texts much remains to be done,” he said.

He noted that key political issues remain unresolved, with just three days of negotiations left.

“I urge you to find common ground that will allow us to show the world that we are listening, that we care,” he told the conference.

“This is the time for consensus. This is the time for political compromises to be reached. This means sacrifices, but it will benefit us all collectively.”

He then reminded the ministers tasked with reaching an agreement just how much was at stake:

“To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change,” he said.
 “It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.”
7:06 a.m. ET, December 12, 2018

UN Climate Action Award winners

The 15 winners of the United Nations Climate Action Award were honored at a special ceremony last night.

The Momentum for Change award recognizes ideas and initiatives tackling climate change from all over the world.

Winners include:

“Yalla Let’s Bike”: Syrian women are defying traditional gender roles and cycling the streets of war-torn Damascus, to promote sustainable transport.

The initiative, launched in 2014, seems to be working, as according to the UNFCCC bicycle shops claim that sales have risen and that women made up 40% of buyers in the last two years.

River Ganges clean-up: Over 8 million tonnes of flowers are discarded in India’s Ganges river every year for religious purposes, according to the UNFCCC. This is adding to the pollution of the river, which provides drinking water for over 420 million people.

HelpUsGreen has come up with a profitable solution: “flowercycling”. Women collect floral waste and its up-cycled to produce organic fertilizers, incense and biodegradable packaging material.

Read more about all the winners here.

2:27 p.m. ET, December 11, 2018

A trillion trees to capture carbon

From CNN's Mark Tutton in Katowice, Poland

As we sign off for the day, we leave you with an ambitious project from youth initiative Plant For The Planet.

The group hosted a COP side event today and outlined its goal of planting a trillion trees by 2030 – which it says could capture 25% of global carbon emissions.

Speaking at the event, Mette Wilkie, chief of forestry policy and resources with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said: “We need all the tools in our toolbox to help us to get to the target we have of 1.5 degrees and planting trees is definitely one of them.”

She added: “We need to plant additional trees, and protect the forests that we have and make sure we manage them.”

L-R:  Rita Schwarzeluhr-Sutter, Secretary of State, Ministry for the Environment, Germany; Nassirou-Ba, UN Economic Commission for Africa; Mette Wilkie, chief of forestry policy and resources, UN FAO.
L-R: Rita Schwarzeluhr-Sutter, Secretary of State, Ministry for the Environment, Germany; Nassirou-Ba, UN Economic Commission for Africa; Mette Wilkie, chief of forestry policy and resources, UN FAO.

11:47 a.m. ET, December 11, 2018

Arctic warming influencing extreme weather in US and Europe, says report

Human-caused climate change is transforming the Arctic, both physically and biologically, according to a peer-reviewed report released today from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The annual Arctic Report Card found temperatures in the Arctic are warming more than twice as fast as the overall planet's average temperature, and the last five years have been warmer than any other years in the historical record, which goes back to 1900.

"What starts in the Arctic isn't confined there," Thomas Mote, a research scientist at the University of Georgia who authored part of the report, told CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller.

"Changes in sea ice influence ocean currents and the jet stream in ways that can affect weather in lower latitudes, including the United States and Europe."

The report highlighted several of these events over the past year as an example of how Arctic warming can influence day-to-day weather.

Read the full story here.

9:55 a.m. ET, December 11, 2018

Travel and tourism sector responds to climate challenge

How can the travel and tourism sector take steps to attain a carbon neutral world?

This was up for discussion at COP24 today where the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) presented a pathway for the sector to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Gloria Guevara, President and CEO of WTTC announced the creation of an annual “State of the Climate” report to evaluate, monitor and share progress toward this goal.

Ahead of the event, Fiji’s Minister for Defence and National Security, Inia Seruiratu said Pacific Island countries are already experiencing the impacts of climate change.

“The tourism sector is a major revenue earner for our country. Unfortunately, the attractions that drive this sector – our reefs, sandy beaches, clear seas, and forest biodiversity – are under threat from the impacts of climate change.

"I am very encouraged that the sector is eager to engage in such initiatives and strengthen public-private partnerships in the fight against climate change.”

8:19 a.m. ET, December 11, 2018

Carbon capture and storage a "vital lifeline to beat climate change," says report

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) -- technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the air -- must be deployed alongside other clean technologies to stave off the consequences of global warming, according to a new report launched at COP24 today.

The report by the Global CCS Institute tracks the worldwide progress of CCS technologies as well as where and how it can be more widely deployed.

'Our lives depend on it'

Acclaimed teen polar explorer Jade Hameister and proponent of CCS, supported the report:

“Carbon capture and storage is one of the stand-out technologies that exists today. It will form part of the solution and must be pursued as if our lives depend on it – because they do.”

Related: Can this carbon capture technology save us from climate change?