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Now is not the time to lose focus on climate change, United Nations climate chief Patricia Espinosa says.
During an address Monday at the opening ceremony of the U.N.'s Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, the 63-year-old Mexican diplomat urged world leaders to remain focused on addressing the ongoing climate crisis despite other challenges facing populations across the globe — inducing "conflict, energy, food, and economic crises" as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
But according to Espinosa, who will complete her second term as head of the U.N. climate office at the end of 2022, there is no time to waste with addressing climate change.
"I appeal to all of you, especially in these difficult and challenging times, not to lose hope, not to lose focus, but to use our united efforts against climate change as the ultimate act of unity between nations," she said at the event.
"We must never give in to despair," the diplomat added. "We must continue to move forward. Look at what we have accomplished in the last six years. Look at what we've accomplished in the last 30."
But Espinosa also pressed world leaders to take action, and fast. Earlier in her speech, the climate chief said decisions on how to address the ongoing climate crisis are needed "now," and that "very difficult decisions" must be made to do so.
"We must understand that climate change is moving exponentially. We can no longer afford to make just incremental progress," she said. "We must move these negotiations along more quickly. The world expects it."
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The Earth is currently about 1.1°C warmer than it was during the 19th century, according to the U.N.'s website. At this pace, the U.N. believes countries are "not on track to meet the Paris Agreement target" of preventing the global temperature from exceeding 1.5°C, which "is considered the upper limit to avoid the worst fallout from climate change."
Over the next 10 days, Espinosa and "diplomats from around the world will try to lay the foundations" for the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt this November, according to the Associated Press.
At the opening press conference held later in the day, Espinosa said she believes the 10-day meeting "marks the start of a new face in the intergovernmental climate change process [and] the process of implementation."
But "one thing is very clear" about the climate crisis, Espinosa noted: "We don't have time" to waste.
"We have a blueprint and we have a framework and we have the rules to ensure that it is transparent," she said while addressing the media. "So I think it's time to get on with the job."