Top UN officials challenge delegates at Climate Change Conference to take action
The United Nations’ top officials today appealed to delegates from some 150 nations who are attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia to take urgent action to tackle global warming.
“We simply cannot afford to fail our people by leaving this unique island without convergence of science and politics,” Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) told the six heads of State and 144 government representatives attending the meeting.
“The challenge you face is to tell the world that you want to change the direction of the world’s future into a low-emissions economy,” he said. “An economics-based response to climate change will yield numerous, tangible economic gains for all.”
Mr. de Boer said participants should seize the opportunity at the Conference to kick-start formal negotiations, agree on a comprehensive agenda and set 2009 as the deadline for negotiations so that a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol can enter into effect in 2013.
Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, stressed that the science is unequivocal about the warming of the climate system.
The IPCC has also noted that the costs necessary to meet emissions targets by 2030 equate to less than three per cent of global GDP per year.
Emphasizing the crucial rule of the UN in combating climate change, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said that “the multilateral system has been at the heart of facilitating, catalyzing and enabling a global response.”
“What we are actually seeing here in Bali, what we have seen throughout the year of 2007, is that pointing to each other’s differences, focusing on one another’s failures and using those to stop us from acting is leading us down a tragic path,” Achim Steiner said.
Global warming poses a major risk to food security, and increased hunger and malnutrition will result if action is not taken immediately, said Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“Vulnerable people and food systems will be particularly affected,” he said, also speaking on behalf of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). “People who are already vulnerable and food insecure are likely to become even more so.”
Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) warned that efforts to mitigate climate change must take the alleviation of poverty into account.
“Only if industrialization is pursued in a sustained manner can we hope to address climate protection in a way that is compatible economic growth and development,” he said, urging the widespread transfer of clean energy technologies to developing nations.
Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, also appealed for leaders to incorporate sustainable development into efforts to combat climate change.
“Unchecked, climate change may roll back hard-won progress on sustainable development,” he said. “The poorest in all society, especially in developing countries, are most at risk.”
Adaptation measures to global warming must take into account that for the first time in human history, over half the world’s population lives in cities and towns, the head of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) noted.
“From time immemorial, human settlements have been determined by climate conditions,” Anna Tibaijuka said. Emphasizing the importance of the local dimension in halting global warming, she said “how we plan our cities, how we build our houses, our lifestyles in cities and towns, will come to determine the future.”
Tourism is both a contributor to and a victim of global warming, Francisco Frangialli, Director-General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), noted. He asked delegates to “not unfairly target tourism” for it role in climate change. “We satisfy needs that are just as essential.”
Meanwhile, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) announced the creation of a new African centre for climate policy studies. The centre will be a joint collaboration between ECA and Mr. Pachauri’s The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); and Ad Melkert, Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) also spoke at today’s session.
Also addressing delegates today, World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick said that lowering greenhouse gas emissions will have the dual effect of protecting the environment and allowing developing nations to grow their economies.
Meanwhile, the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) stressed the role that information communication technologies (ICT) can play in reducing emissions, such as its use in remote monitoring and the gathering of crucial scientific data.