Representatives of nearly 200 countries begin annual climate talks in Madrid Monday, shadowed by alarming evidence of a deepening climate crisis and the looming exit of the United States from a global pact to fight it.A pair of grim United Nations reports published in recent days underscore the scope and real-life impact of insufficient climate action — underscored by global protests Friday in the latest show of people power.“Climate change is becoming real in ways people hadn’t imagined earlier,” said Simon Buckle, climate change head at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Maybe they were thinking the impacts would be a long way in the future. They’re not; they’re here.”Presided over by Chile, which bowed out of hosting the meeting after social unrest at home, this latest meeting — known by its acronym COP 25 — aims to finalize rules for implementing the 2015 Paris climate pact.Environmentalists hope it will also set the stage for countries to beef up their greenhouse gas-cutting commitments at next year’s conference in the Scottish city of Glasgow.WATCH: 195 Nations Meet in Madrid for Climate Talks
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FILE – Bundled up against cool temperatures, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks to several thousand people at a climate strike rally, Oct. 11, 2019, in Denver. The rally was staged in Denver’s Civic Center Park.Hitting homePeople have also taken to the streets in record numbers this past year, demanding climate action. Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion are becoming household names, while clean energy use is growing rapidly on the back of plummeting costs.“We’re seeing increased attention to this crisis,” Waskow, of WRI, said. “People are seeing ways in which hurricanes, floods and droughts are really affecting them. They’re waking up to that and need to see change.”Environmentalists point to other positive signals. Last month, the European Investment Bank announced it would no longer finance fossil fuel projects by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, new EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a “Green Deal” plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions regionally by 2050.To be effective, governments must craft climate policies that focus on broader social well-being, Buckle, of OECD, said.“We’ve got to stop thinking that this is an environmental problem,” he said. “This is a fundamental problem for our whole way of development.”So far this year, dozens of countries have promised more ambitious commitments to cutting greenhouse gases. But together, they account for only a small share of global emissions.“We really need the big players to do their part,” Waskow said. “This is really where the rubber is going to meet the road.”