By Matt McGrath
Environment correspondent, Katowice
Four senior figures behind efforts to limit climate change have warned that the planet “is at a crossroads” as key talks opened a day early in Poland.
In a rare move, four former presidents of the United Nations-sponsored talks called for decisive action.
The meeting in Katowice is the most critical on climate change since the 2015 Paris agreement.
Experts say that drastic cuts in emissions will be needed if the world is to reach targets agreed in Paris.
Negotiators at the COP24 conference convened a day early because they are under pressure to make progress.
What’s so different about this meeting?
This Conference of the Parties (COP) is the first to be held since the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C came out in October.
The IPCC stated that to keep to the 1.5C goal, governments would have to slash emissions of greenhouse gases by 45% by 2030.
But a recent study showed that CO2 emissions are on the rise again after stalling for four years.
In an unprecedented move, four former UN climate talks presidents issued a statement on Sunday, calling for urgent action.
They say “decisive action in the next two years will be crucial”.
“What ministers and other leaders say and do in Katowice at COP24 will help determine efforts for years to come and either bring the world closer to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement – including protecting those most vulnerable to climate change – or push action further down the road.
“Any delay will only make it harder and more expensive to respond to climate change.”
The statement was issued by Frank Bainimarama of Fiji, Salaheddine Mezouar of Morocco, Laurent Fabius of France and Manuel Pulgar Vidal of Peru