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Chairing the meeting, Ambassador Walter Stevens, Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation in Geneva, highlighted the link between climate change and its humanitarian impacts, and urged participants to take action to mitigate potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences.
Ambassador Stevens recalled the commitments taken by States under the Paris Agreement, which pledged to take effective measures to limit ongoing global warming, and reaffirmed the support of the European Union and its Member States to the Paris Agreement.
Referring to Commissioner Stylianides' remarks at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, Ambassador Stevens quoted: "disasters across the globe, small and large-scale, natural and man-made, continue to remind us how vulnerable we are. […] Our world is facing a critical moment in history. Climate change is a colossal risk and challenge to us all. […]The citizens of this world expect their leaders to act, and we simply cannot afford the cost of inaction."
In his keynote remarks, Mr. John Doyle, from the EU Foresight Group, spoke on the climate emergency and the imminent risk of temperatures rising above 1.5-2 degrees. He recalled the 1989 words of former UN Environment Program Director, Noel Brown, saying that "Governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human control". Mr. Doyle expressed his regrets that decision-makers missed this window of opportunity.
In the ensuing panel discussion, composed by representatives of FAO, UNDRR, the Platform on Disaster Displacement, Drawdown Switzerland, and Realfoodsystems.org, focused on the implications of climate change on people displacement and food systems while pointing to risk reduction efforts, including examples of technology driven solutions to mitigate humanitarian consequences. Panelists emphasized the risks that local populations were exposed to, and stressed the projections of potential displaced persons in the coming years.
Speakers also discussed the need to transform food systems, currently under pressure due to urbanization, globalization, and changing consummation patterns. The Director of the FAO Liaison Office with the United Nations in Geneva, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues Birkett, appealed to create sustainable food systems, promoting resilience and inclusivity.
Finally, panellists quoted the UN Secretary-General's warning: "Climate change is moving faster than we are", and called everyone to act to mitigate climate change and its humanitarian impacts.