November 22, 2018 / 7:20 PM / 25 days ago

U.N. goes online for 'most important discussion' of the century

BARCELONA, Nov 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - With a virtual summit on Thursday and veteran British naturalist David Attenborough set to represent “the people” at December’s crucial climate talks, the United Nations and frontline nations are pushing for more ordinary citizens to tackle global warming.

Supported by the world’s biggest advertising agency WPP, the U.N. has enlisted Attenborough - much-loved for his colourful television series “Blue Planet” - to speak on Dec. 3 at its annual climate change meeting in Poland.

The 91-year-old is already encouraging the public to share their experiences and ideas about how to stop the planet heating up using the Twitter hashtag #TakeYourSeat.

“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,” he said.

The 2015 Paris pact set a goal of limiting global warming to “well below” a rise of 2 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, while “pursuing efforts” for a tougher 1.5C goal.

Last month, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a report that the world would heat up by more than 3C with countries’ current pledges to cut planet-warming emissions under the Paris deal.

At the first online intergovernmental summit on Thursday, organised by about 50 countries most threatened by climate change, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Yemen, more than 40 leaders said action must be ramped up.

The leaders of the Climate Vulnerable Forum states pledged to raise the level of ambition of their national climate action plans by 2020 and urged other governments to do the same to keep the 1.5C warming limit within reach.

The Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands set an example this week, submitting new targets to the U.N. to reduce its emissions.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised the green credentials of the “carbon-free” summit, which did not require participants to travel, thereby avoiding heat-trapping emissions.

"We are showing that more can be done with tools and means on hand than we might think," Hilda Heine, president of the Marshall Islands and host of the summit, said in a statement. (Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate)

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