At the opening of a ministerial meeting in Krakow on 23 October, designed to prepare for the outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice in December (COP24), the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, outlined her expectations for the COP.
At the so-called ‘Pre-COP24’ in Krakow, Ms. Espinosa said: “Success at COP24 means finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Program (....) I ask all of you to take one message back to your countries: that people of the world want us to achieve results at COP24 and we intend to reach those goals.”. Read her full address here:
I’m pleased for this opportunity to address you as we prepare for the most important COP since the signing of the Paris Agreement.
Today, I will talk about why this COP is so important, what we must achieve, and our expectations for every representative in this room.
Before I do, I’d like to thank the Polish government for hosting COP24, Minister Kowalczyk, COP President Designate Mijal Kurkyta and their team for organizing it, and the people of Katowice who have invited us to their city.
You bear a huge responsibility. There is no doubt that the results of this Conference will have a long-lasting impact in Poland’s role in the world. We are grateful for your leadership.
In this enormous task, I am confident that all the Parties are behind you and let me reiterate that the Secretariat is here to support you.
Let’s talk about why this COP is so important.
Let me be clear—all COPs are important. But consider this:
The Special Report by the IPCC unequivocally states that the world is not on track to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C, as outlined in the Paris Agreement—and the window to achieve this is closing rapidly. We’re almost out of time.
It’s not rhetoric—it’s reality.
It’s not politics—it’s science.
And it’s not a suggestion—it’s a warning.
…a warning that we are in danger of running out of time before runaway climate change is beyond our control.
This is frightening—for everyone.
And people throughout the world have made it very clear. They expect their representatives—you—to do something about it.
Crucially, the Report tells us that time remains to limit climate change. But only if we work with unprecedented speed, fulfill the Paris Agreement, and re-commit ourselves to the multilateral process.
It’s one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced. This was clearly recognized by Heads of States—your governments—at the recent General Assembly in New York.
They stressed this point as the most important threat we face collectively as humanity. The message couldn’t be clearer.
But, we’re moving in the wrong direction. The International Energy Agency tells us that energy sector carbon emissions will rise again in 2018, after hitting record levels in 2017.
This is illogical, irresponsible and—if things don’t change—completely irreversible.
That’s why COP24 must be a success.
We have several goals to achieve, but one stands above all others: finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Program.
We should be confident that we will be able to approve the Work Program. But I am worried.
Parties made some progress at COP23 in Bonn.
And they had another opportunity to make progress at a special session in Bangkok—but it wasn’t enough.
All this while the stakes have never been higher…or the urgency greater.
So, we must diligently work on the negotiating texts here so that we can achieve in Katowice.
Certainly, after Katowice, further work will be needed in developing the climate change regime throughout all its details.
However, success at COP24 means finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Program—period.
We no longer have the luxury of time, nor do we have the luxury of endless negotiations.
A completed Work Program will not only provide guidelines for the Paris Agreement, but unleash its full potential. More than that, it sends a signal of trust that nations are serious about addressing climate change.
We need progress on several other issues as well, including commitments to boost global climate action and ensuring nations fulfill their financial pledges to support the climate regime.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let us never forget that climate change, if left unadressed, will take almost every single challenge humanity faces and make it worse.
It will destabilize the global economy, which will affect all nations.
By 2030, the loss of productivity caused by a hotter world could cost the global economy 2 trillion dollars.
It will create conflict over resources and impact migration.
It’s estimated that climate change could displace between 50 million and 200 million people by 2050.
Worse, it will result in incredible suffering and hardship for people and societies throughout the world.
But addressing climate change, and committing to a low-emissions future—one that is more resilient and sustainable—offers incredible opportunity.
It’s not just an opportunity to do the right thing—it’s an opportunity to completely transform the way we produce and consume, and the way we live.
And that means new markets, new businesses, and, for so many people throughout the world, new jobs…quality jobs…a just transition to a future that is just for all people.
As Secretary-General Guterres so clearly put it, the idea that tackling climate change is expensive and could harm economic growth is nonsense. In fact, the opposite is true.
The International Labour Organization reports that the green economy could create 24 million new jobs globally by 2030.
Ladies and gentlemen, incredible opportunity exists if we embrace a low-carbon future and unleash the power of the Paris Agreement.
But we must first achieve our very specific goals at COP24.
I ask all of you to take one message back to your countries: that people of the world want us to achieve results at COP24 and we intend to reach those goals.
So, let’s prepare accordingly. Let’s get ready to work. Let us recommit to multilateralism. And let’s finish the job the world demands of us.