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Climate change must be tackled at the international political level, say UN envoys

Climate change must be tackled at the international political level, say UN envoys

Ban Ki-moon (2nd right) with Climate Change envoys
Climate change is no longer a matter for scientific debate, but has become a question to be solved at the international political level, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s three new Special Envoys on the issue said today, pledging to use their experience from previous posts and their contacts with national leaders and other senior figures to galvanize more concerted environmental action.

The three envoys – former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Republic of Korea Foreign Minister and General Assembly President Han Seung-soo and former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar – held a working luncheon today with Mr. Ban, who announced earlier this year that tackling climate change is one of his priorities as head of the UN.

In their first press conference since taking up the assignment, the three envoys said their brief from Mr. Ban was to discuss the issue with the world’s major political figures, especially national leaders, and to formulate proposals ahead of the next high-level international meeting, scheduled for September, and a follow-up conference in Bali in December.

“The scientific basis is now clear. Nobody needs to question the diagnosis,” Dr. Brundtland said. “We know that the world is warming up, and we know that the issue is to be able to act quickly enough so that we can avoid the types of dramatic consequences that are also irreversible… without sufficient action.”

Echoing those remarks, Mr. Lagos said, “The time for diagnosis is over. The time for action is now.”

He added that the UN would come to play a vital role as most countries realized that climate change could not be resolved with a single policy in a single State.

“Therefore, this is the first time where we’ve had a global problem that has to be faced at the global level. And therefore it’s here in this institution where we’re going to be able to solve that or we’re going to fail.”

Reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) earlier this year show clearly that the warming of the earth’s climate system is unequivocal and attributable to human activities, and will have severe economic effects, particularly in developing countries.

Dr. Brundtland stressed that the envoys would make sure they would not cut across existing UN efforts to deal with climate change, but would use their influence and reach among national leaders to generate political momentum on the issue.

Mr. Lagos said that the envoys would concentrate on convincing national leaders, in both developed and developing countries, of the environmental and economic value of seeking alternative fuels to meet their energy needs.

He also noted that many of the initiatives and proposals for dealing with climate change were emerging from civil society, and the envoys would try to build on them.

Mr. Han said he was “awed by the responsibility” granted to him and his fellow envoys by Mr. Ban.

Dr. Brundtland is the former Chair of the World Commission of Environment and Development, which is best known for developing the broad political concept of sustainable development and two decades ago published a landmark report, “Our Common Future.”

Mr. Lagos founded the Foundation for Democracy and Development, which works for sustainable development. Since April 2006, he has been serving as president of the Club de Madrid, where he led the organization – comprised of former heads of State and government in democratic nations – to increase its involvement in environmental issues.

Mr. Han currently heads the Korea Water Forum, which works towards sustainable water management in Asia. He served previously in numerous high-level Government posts, including Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Minister of Trade and Industry, Chief of Staff to the President and Korean Ambassador to the United States.