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Key UN climate change meeting kicks off in Valencia

Key UN climate change meeting kicks off in Valencia

Achim Steiner
Government officials and scientists from around the world have gathered in Valencia, Spain, for a United Nations conference that will culminate with the release later this week of a seminal report on addressing the impacts of climate change.

Over the next five days, delegates to the 27th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will synthesize the information gathered by the Panel’s various working groups, and released in a series of three reports earlier this year, into one succinct report that will form the basis of future policy action on climate change.

The Fourth Assessment Report – to be released on Saturday – will guide participants at a major summit next month in Bali, Indonesia, as they seek to try to hammer out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which contains legally binding targets for reducing emissions but expires in 2012.

“What is produced here in Valencia is the guide that every one of the thousands of delegates attending the crucial Climate Convention meeting in Bali will be packing in their suitcases and slipping in their back pockets,” the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in his address to the opening of the session.

“It is the final full stop behind the question as to whether climate change is happening and the likely impacts – many of which will happen in the time-frame of people alive today, not in some far distant future,” stated Achim Steiner.

Mr. Steiner added that “the momentum on climate change in 2007 has being nothing short of breathtaking,” hailing the work of the IPCC and its scientists – the recipients of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, along with Al Gore. It was the IPCC which earlier this year issued a report confirming the existence of global warming likely driven by human activities.

He noted that countries facing the climate challenge now increasingly need assistance and eventually resolution on the question of national impacts – not least for national action on adaptation or “climate proofing economies.”

Making governments, business, cities, civil society and citizens understand the risks but also the rewards they face is part of the “heavy lifting” needed in order to sustain the transition to a low-carbon society over the long haul,” Mr. Steiner said.

Ban Ki-moon, who has made a climate change a priority issue during his term as Secretary-General, will be in Valencia for the launch of the Fourth Assessment Report on Saturday.

Over the weekend, Mr. Ban became the first UN Secretary-General to make an official visit to Antarctica to see first-hand the effects of climate change on its melting glaciers.

“Antarctica is a natural lab that helps us understand what is happening to our world,” stated Mr. Ban. “It is here where our work, together, comes into focus. We see Antarctica’s beauty – and the danger global warming represents, and the urgency that we do something about it.”