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COP25 begins in Madrid amid bleak assessments of climate change

By Don Jacobson
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R) chats with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez during the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP25 Monday in Madrid. Photo by Chema Moya/EPA-EFE
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R) chats with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez during the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP25 Monday in Madrid. Photo by Chema Moya/EPA-EFE

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Dozens of world leaders gathered at the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Spain on Monday with a sense of urgency sparked by a pair of alarming scientific reports issued last month.

Ahead of the conference, known as COP25, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned Sunday that the "the point of no return" in preventing the most disastrous effects of climate change is "no longer over the horizon" but rather is in sight and "hurtling toward us."

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At the conference, which was hastily moved to Madrid last month due to civil unrest at its original venue in Chile, participants will discuss progress toward meeting three climate change goals established in the 2015 Paris Agreement, including stabilizing global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

To begin the conference, heads of state at the event will present "an action agenda delivering" a vision for a climate-resilient world, organizers said in a schedule of Monday's events. The program said the opening day will also include a new "financing mechanism to enhance South-South cooperation of the world's most climate threatened nations and special efforts to address the increasingly widespread and far-reaching impact of climate change on human rights."

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It will be the final "COP" before next year's conference in Glasgow, Scotland, at which those goals are expected to be revised and updated.

Looming over the proceedings will be the assessments contained in a pair of scientific reports released last week. The U.N. Environment Program, which coordinates and manages environmental issues among U.N. agencies, said the world's nations must cut emissions 7.6 percent annually until 2030 to reach the Paris levels.

Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization reported combined concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide continued to surge last year, showing no signs of slowing.

The deadly effects of climate change are being felt in Africa, the British charity Save the Children said Monday, with 33 million people there at emergency levels of food insecurity due to cyclones and droughts.

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