As state leaders, diplomats and scientists meet at the United Nations climate conference in Poland, natural historian Sir David Attenborough has spoken from the "people's chair" of the need for urgent and concrete action to mitigate global warming.
"Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale".
The former COP presidents made it clear that 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.
The talks in Katowice - at heart of Poland's coal region - precede an end-of-year deadline to produce a "rule book" to flesh out the broad details that were agreed in Paris on limiting the rise in global temperatures to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.
The agreement aims to bolster the response to combating climate change by setting a goal to keep global temperature rise well below the 2 degrees Celsius and actively seeking ways to keep the increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius. "Over the next two weeks, we will work with countries all over the world to put together a rulebook to make sure we all fulfil our commitments".
Citing a recent scientific report, the United Nations chief urged governments to aim for net zero emissions by 2050.
It also stated that its full implementation prompts countries to have practical actions to such elements as "adaptation to climate change impacts", "ambitious emission reductions" and "strong means of implementation to support developing countries in the form of technology cooperation, capacity building, and, especially financial support".
"Leaders of the world you must lead", he added.
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Guterres called for a "huge increase in ambitions" during the two weeks of negotiations in Poland, adding "we can not afford to fail in Katowice".
After a string of damning environmental reports showing mankind must drastically slash its greenhouse gas emissions to avert runaway global warming, Guterres told delegates "we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough".
Africans expect "real action" on climate change, said delegates from the African group, as an worldwide climate conference began in the southern Polish city of Katowice on Monday.
FILE - President Donald Trump stands next to the podium after speaking about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, June 1, 2017. In November, the most comprehensive federal climate assessment to date called climate change 'an immediate threat, not a far-off possibility, ' and detailed how every part of the country will be increasingly harmed as the Earth gets warmer.
Expectations for the Polish talks are low: the atmosphere of political unity built in Paris has been shattered by a wave of populist governments that place national agendas before collective action.
"This is the challenge on which this generation's leaders will be judged, " Guterres said.
Attenborough's speech comes at a crossroad for global climate action.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, addresses representatives of nearly 200 nations during a ceremonial opening of the key U.N. climate conference.
He has also moved to withdraw the US from the Paris pact.