Higgins among leaders demanding ‘urgent action’ on climate

President joins 15 European heads of state and government in declaration ahead of UN conference

President Michael D Higgins has joined 15 other European leaders in a joint appeal to the international community to "prevent the world from sinking beneath the devastating consequences of climate change, global warming and the loss of biodiversity".

In a declaration issued in advance of next month's UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland – known as COP24 – the heads of state call for "urgent multilateral action to stop the global climate crisis".

Commenting on its significance, President Michael D Higgins said: “As signatories to this declaration, we emphasise the tangible and urgent steps we must take, together.”

Referring to the Paris agreement on climate change, he said: “Three years ago, the leaders of the world formally recognised their duty to halt the increases in global average temperatures and committed to take measures to put the world on the path towards a healthier, more just world.”


As the countries of the world gather in Poland, he said the heads of state were “sounding an urgent reminder to the governments and peoples of the world that urgent action is needed – and needed now”.

He added: “We must at state, community and citizen level transform our thinking and our practice. Our situation is grave and urgent. This is our duty, to ourselves, to future generations, and to our shared, vulnerable planet.”

The 15-point declaration states: “our generation is the first to experience the rapid increase in temperatures around the globe and probably the last to effectively combat an impending global climate crisis.”

The leaders highlight global impacts already being felt in the form of a dramatic increase in heat waves; floods, droughts and mudflows, the melting of glaciers and sea-level rise. “Water shortages and crop failures are only some of the immediate results, with devastating impacts such as hunger and forced human displacement,” they point out.

"We have felt the immediate effects as recently as this summer, including in Europe: Heat waves and scorching fires from Greece to the Arctic Circle claimed the lives of dozens of women, men, and children while eradicating the livelihoods of many others," the declaration adds.

The recent IPCC report on the impact of global warming of 1.5 degrees “clearly demonstrates the vulnerabilities, impacts and risks of further global warming to human societies and natural systems, including the attainment of sustainable development and of the [UN] Sustainable Development Goals”, they note.

Mr Higgins participated in the first-ever global political summit on climate change held entirely online on Thursday.

“Our fidelity to the pledges we made in Paris will serve not only to organise and measure our success or failure in this century but the authenticity of our commitments,” he told the Climate Vulnerable Forum summit.

“That authenticity must be demonstrated in the coming years, not only through a just transition to a carbon-free economy, but by the mobilisation of finance, resources and science and technology and, above all, their being made available for climate adaptation,” he added.

The full text of the declaration is available at: https://images.derstandard.at/2018/11/20/Initiative-for-more-Climate-Ambition.pdf

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times