GENEVA - UN chief Ban Ki-Moon on Monday called for "global action" this year to limit climate change as international weather experts began a quadrennial congress in Geneva.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) meeting comes ahead of a key conference in Paris at the end of the year which will be the first attempt to clinch a planet-wide deal on global warming since the near-disastrous 2009 UN summit in Copenhagen.
The Paris accord, which would take effect from 2020, would aim at limiting global warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.
"This 17th World Meteorological congress comes at a pivotal moment," Ban said of the Geneva meet, which runs until June 12.
"As the global thermostat rises, meteorological services are more important than ever," Ban said.
"This year governments will make major decisions on sustainable development and climate change. 2015 must be a time for global action," he added.
WMO head Michel Jarraud said the congress must buttress co-operation and investment in weather and climate observations and services.
"So far in 2015, as in preceding years, weather-related disasters have destroyed or disrupted millions of lives and livelihoods," Jarraud said.
"The great majority of natural disasters are related to weather, climate and water," he said.
"WMO already has an important role to play and this will become increasingly important in the future," said Jarraud, who is stepping down next year after three terms, and whose successor will be chosen at this congress.
"We have more than a responsibility. We have a moral duty to take action to limit climate change. If we don't do it, we will be judged by our children and our grandchildren." The November 30 to December 11 Paris conference faces an uphill task to find a consensus among the 196 parties involved.
At the core of the deal would be a roster of national pledges for reducing greenhouse gas emissions - the invisible pollution from fossil fuels that drives climate-damaging temperature rise.
So far, only 38 parties have put their carbon pledges on the table, according to the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Among the major emitters, submissions have been made by the United States, the European Union, Russia and Canada, but not by Australia, Brazil, India and Japan.