The 95-year-old documentary filmmaker, who was announced as “the people’s lawyer” at Monday’s ceremonial opening, spoke in front of presidents and prime ministers from more than 100 countries.
He said in much of the existence of mankind that the climate on Earth had fluctuated wildly before stabilizing 10,000 years ago, allowing human civilizations to flourish.
“The stability we all depend on is broken,” he said.
Sir David said the necessary action to limit greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would prevent dangerous global warming was possible if countries moved quickly and decisively.
“After all, we are the greatest problem solvers that have ever existed on Earth,” he said.
“If we work apart, we are a force strong enough to destabilize our planet. We are certainly working together, and we are strong enough to save it.”
The TV station warned against short-sightedness and asked leaders how they could explain to a child that “the smartest species” on the planet could not see the bigger picture “in pursuit of short-term goals.”
He added that the response to the climate crisis should be fair, saying that “those who have done the least to cause this problem will be hardest hit.”
The conference had the chance to “rewrite our history to make this tragedy a triumph.”
“We are all the greatest problem solvers that have ever existed on Earth,” said Sir David.
“Our motivation should not be fear, but hope.”