Secretary-General appeals for decisive action on climate change

Secretary-General appeals for decisive action on climate change

Forests store CO2 helping alleviate climate change
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for decisive action on climate change, citing a new expert report concluding that the world community could significantly slow and then reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases over the next several decades by exploiting cost-effective policies and current and emerging technologies.

In a statement released by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban welcomed the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change,” which concluded that if the world continues on its present course, emissions will rise by 25 to 90 per cent by 2030 compared to 2000.

“The continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions needs to be effectively stemmed,” he said. “The IPCC report confirms that mitigation options, including changes in lifestyle and consumption, are available for all sectors, but enhanced action on the part of Governments and the private sector is urgently needed.”

He emphasized the need for global agreement on the issue, noting that “Mitigating in a cost-effective manner can only be achieved through an enhanced international climate change regime.”

Mr. Ban added that countries need to agree on strong framework by 2010 to ensure that there is no gap between the end of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period in 2012 and the entry into force of a future regime.

“A comprehensive package on the way forward needs to be urgently launched at the United Nations climate change conference in Bali in December this year,” he said, calling on all parties to the Convention on Climate Change to work towards this aim with the political will to decisively abate the problem.

“Climate change will touch every corner and every community on this planet but equally, overcoming climate change can touch on every facet of the global economy in a wealth of positive ways,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which, together with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), established the IPCC.

“It is now up to Governments to introduce the mechanisms and incentives to unleash the ingenuity and creativity of the financial and technological markets in order to realize these economic, social and environmental gains,” he said.

Ogunlade Davidson, co chair of the IPCC working group that produced the report, warned against passivity. “If we continue to do what we are doing now we are in deep trouble,” he said.

The report found that by adopting stronger climate change policies, governments could slow and reverse these emissions trends and ultimately stabilize the level of greenhouse gases remaining in the atmosphere. But it cautioned that the longer it takes to reach a peak in emissions, the more difficult it will be to prevent higher average global temperatures.

Previous IPCC reports issued this February and April have indicated that there will likely be a 2-4.5ºC, rise in the global mean temperature in the 21st century with the best estimate of 3ºC, or 5.4ºF. But a rise of more than 1.5-2.5 ºC could place approximately 20-30 per cent of plants and animals at increased risk of extinction and a temperature increase by 3 ºC would have largely negative consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services, such as water and food supply.

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the report found, need not necessarily cripple economies. The cost of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 will range between a 3 per cent decrease in gross domestic product and a possible gain, depending on savings realized by greater efficiencies.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the report suggested improvements to the energy supply, including improved energy efficiency, switching to cleaner fuels, greater use of nuclear power renewable energy sources, as well as the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel plants.

The report offers a range of potential solutions that could help reduce emissions, including improved vehicle efficiency, better building energy management, reduced rates of deforestation, and methane recovery from landfill sites.

But technologies have their limits. IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri said, “it is probably naïve to believe that merely developing technologies in labs and in workshops would be the answer.” He said unless there is a package of polices and market forces – represented by the price of carbon – “you will not get a major dissemination of technologies no matter how meritorious and desirable they would be.”

Mr. Pachauri said that for the first time, the report looked at lifestyles and climate change. “You can look at technologies, you can look at policies, but what is an extremely a powerful but need for human society as a whole to start looking at changes in lifestyles and consumption patterns changes.”