Announcement / 21 Nov, 2018
People’s Voices to Be Heard at Critical UN Climate Talks

Bonn/ New York/ Warsaw, 21 November 2018 – The renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough is one prominent advocate of an initiative to bring the voice of millions of citizens around the world to the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland at the end of this year (COP24, 2 – 14 December).

The “People’s Seat” initiative combines digital technology, polling and the involvement of passionate climate change advocates, like Sir David Attenborough, to deliver messages about the need to act on climate change—and to engage people in the growing movement to take climate action.

The initiative comes not long after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded the alarm bells with its special report on 1.5 degrees of global warming, warning that the world is headed towards a warming of over 3 degrees Celsius with current pledges under the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

And it comes as governments prepare to finalize the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement at COP24 in Poland and to discuss ways to raise ambition so that its goals can be achieved.

Sir David Attenborough, who will deliver the People’s Seat Address at COP24, based on inputs gathered in the lead-up to the conference, said this was a major opportunity to step up climate action at all levels of society.

“We all know climate change is a global problem – and for that it requires a global solution.

This is an opportunity for people from across the globe, regardless of their nationality or circumstances, to be part of the most important discussion of this century; the unprecedented action needed to reach the Paris Agreement targets.

I encourage everyone to take their seats and to add their voice so that the People’s Address truly represents a mix of voices from across the world.”

The campaign will reach its apex with the People’s Seat Address when Sir David Attenborough will address the COP24 plenary with climate change stories gathered from around the world, collected via social media. The People’s Address will also trigger the launch of the Facebook Messenger ‘ActNow’ Bot on the United Nation’s central Facebook account.

ActNow.bot will make it easier than ever before for people to understand what actions they can take personally in the fight against climate change. ActNow.bot will recommend everyday actions – like taking public transport and eating less meat – and track the number of actions to highlight the impact that collective action can make at this critical moment in our planet’s history.

The People’s Seat concept is endorsed by the Polish Presidency of COP24. Michal Kurtyka, Polish Secretary of State and incoming COP24 President, who said:

“The COP24 Presidency encourages openness, listening and the full participation of civil society in global efforts to tackle climate change. This means encouraging the participation on the ground of observer groups in Katowice, showcasing the climate action of multiple stakeholders, and ensuring that COP24 is a digital COP, thereby allowing people around the world to participate to the greatest extent possible and ensuring the greatest possible transparency. In addition, we are pleased that the UN is pioneering the People’s Seat in Poland, a country which prides itself in being innovative and deploying cutting-edge technologies. “

Sir David Attenborough is launching the campaign with a video inviting viewers to share their thoughts on climate change. Over the next two weeks, thousands of influencers from around the world will also use polling and the hashtag #TakeYourSeat on social media to gather people’s experiences and opinions.

Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, said: “We are already seeing dramatic impacts of climate change around the world with one degree of warming. COP24 needs to provide a robust response by quickly following through with what governments have agreed to do so that the Paris Agreement can unfold its full potential, namely to finalize its implementation guidelines.”

Alison Smale, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, said: “People need to be empowered in their own lives to be the change that we need for a sustainable world. We welcome the use of cutting-edge technology to help everyone around the world reduce emissions through the Actnow.bot. With this initiative, we are calling on citizens to take action in ways that are feasible, fresh and have an impact.”

The initiative was first put forward by Michael Moller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG). Geneva is the location of headquarters of several UN agencies focusing on humanitarian issues. He said: “The challenge to humanity that climate change represents is of such epic proportions that only through collective global action will we have a chance to combat it successfully. Every single human being on our severely stressed planet has to take responsibility.

If we don’t, we all fail with catastrophic consequences. The People's Seat initiative provides the impulse for seriously ramping up global solidarity, especially among the young who, at the end of the day, are the ones who will have to deal with the mess we have left them with.”

For more information, see our Media Fact Sheet. To help promote the campaign, see also our COP24 digital assets, which are in the public domain.