Climate change not just environmental issue, Annan says

7 November 2001

The fight against climate change is not just an environmental issue but also a matter of fundamental development, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in a message to ministers and policy-makers gathered in Marrakech, Morocco, to finalize rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol.

In his message to the Seventh Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Secretary-General said the adverse impacts of climate change endangered economic and social progress and that the world community's response to it would require significant, long-term changes in economic and social behaviour.

He also emphasized that following the agreement last July in Bonn on the climate change treaty, joining forces against global threats to human society and the planet has never been more important.

"Success in Marrakech would sustain this momentum, generating hope that the Kyoto Protocol could be ratified by the industrialized countries and enter into force in time for next year's Johannesburg Summit," Mr. Annan said, referring to the UN conference on sustainable development, in the statement delivered on his behalf by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Meanwhile UNEP warned today that harvests of some of the world's most important food crops could fall by as much as a third in some crucial parts of the planet as a result of climate change, with the decline coming at a time when there was an urgent need to raise yields to feed a growing global population.

In addition, key cash crops such as coffee and tea in some of the major growing regions would also be vulnerable over the coming decades to global warming, forcing desperate farmers into higher, cooler, mountainous areas and resulting in greater pressure on sensitive forests and threatening wildlife and the quality and quantity of water supplies.

Scientists have found evidence that that rising temperatures, linked with emissions of greenhouse gases, can damage the ability of vital crops such as rice, maize and wheat, to flower and set seed, UNEP said in a statement. The new studies indicated that yields could tumble by as much as 10 per cent for every one degree Celsius rise in areas between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, including large swathes of Africa, Asia and Latin America.


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