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School children staged a "climate strike" on Dec. 14, 2018, during the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. School children staged a "climate strike" on Dec. 14, 2018, during the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. 

Polish school children call for climate action

As the close of the UN’s COP24 summit on climate change in Katowice, Poland, was extended by 2 more days until Sunday, more than 30 school students staged a "climate strike" near the venue on Dec. 14 to pressure politicians into greater action in fighting climate change.

By Robin Gomes

Polish teenagers staged an event on Friday at the venue of United Nations climate conference urging the negotiators on the last day of the talks to reach an agreement on ways of fighting global warming.

More than 30 school students from Katowice, the Polish city where the COP24 talks are being held, December 2-14, responded to a call by 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg for a "climate strike" to pressure politicians into greater action in fighting climate change.

COP24 is the informal name for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  Negotiators from almost 200 countries at the Katowice summit were trying to finalize the rules that parties to the 2015 Paris climate accord need to follow, including how they transparently report their emissions of greenhouse gases and efforts to reduce them.

The school students sang Michael Jackson's "Earth Song" and "They Don't Care About Us" near the venue where negotiators were holding talks for almost two weeks, aware that the clock was ticking to reach a deal. 

Hopeful deal in sight

Preparing for more lengthy debate, organizers extended the close of the meeting by two days, until Sunday. Some of the key issues at the talks remain unresolved, but European diplomats and campaigners expressed hope that an agreement was in sight.

"We are heading for the final stretch," said Germany's environment minister, Svenja Schulze. "There's still some dissatisfaction. It's not the case that we can say everything is concluded. But it looks good. I believe that we will be successful in the end."

Scientists say emissions need to drop dramatically by 2030 and reach near-zero by 2050 in order to prevent average global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times.

The current draft text presented overnight by the Polish diplomat chairing the talks avoids "welcoming" the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report on the 1.5-degree target — a possible concession to United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, who had blocked the endorsement of the study Saturday, angering other countries and environmentalists.

A recent scientific report found that capping global warming at that level would prevent many potentially catastrophic consequences for life on Earth.

UN chief warns

Earlier on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres challenged the COP24 negotiators to find consensus and “finish the job,” warning that climate change was running faster than the negotiators to reverse the trend.

“To waste this opportunity in Katowice would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal,” Guterres warned.     

He acknowledged that making some tough political decisions was not easy but urged a compromise saying sacrifices will “benefit us all collectively”. 

14 December 2018, 16:50