On World Environment Day, UN officials call for end to carbon addiction

5 June 2008

Top United Nations officials have marked World Environment Day by urging individuals, companies and governments alike to kick their addiction to carbon dioxide, a main contributor to global warming.

Top United Nations officials have marked World Environment Day by urging individuals, companies and governments alike to kick their addiction to carbon dioxide, a main contributor to global warming.

“Our world is in a grip of a dangerous carbon habit,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, which is observed annually on 5 June.

“Addiction is a terrible thing. It consumes and controls us, makes us deny important truths and blinds us to the consequences of our actions,” he added.

The main celebrations for the Day – whose theme this year is “Kick the Habit: Towards a Low Carbon Economy” – are being hosted by New Zealand, one of five countries that has pledged to become “climate neutral.”

Mr. Ban stressed that global warming was becoming the defining issue of the era and will hurt the rich and poor alike. “Mitigating climate change, eradicating poverty and promoting economic and political stability all demand the same solution: we must kick the carbon habit,” he stated.

Earlier today, Mr. Ban joined New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the launch of the ‘Together’ campaign, an initiative of the Climate Group – an international charity dedicated to working with big business and government to help solve climate change.

Speaking at the event, the Secretary-General said that climate change is too big a challenge for any country, corporation, or community to address alone. He added that initiatives such as the ‘Together’ campaign make it clear that individuals can halve their daily carbon emissions through some very simple measures.

“Each one of us can take steps that will make a difference. And if we all begin to act, our collective actions will make a big difference,” he stated.

Earlier this year, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a climate neutral network of corporations, cities and companies, known as CN Net, to energize the growing trend towards carbon neutrality.

“If we are to move the global economy to a greener and cleaner one, a sharp reduction in the inefficient use of fossil fuels allied to an increased up take of renewable energy must be at the centre of the international response,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

He noted that the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that greening the global economy might cost as little as a few tenths of global gross domestic product (GDP) annually over the next 30 years.

“It will also be a driving force for innovation, new businesses and industries and employment opportunities across the developed and developing worlds,” he added.

There are promising signs, driven by the existing emissions reduction treaty – the Kyoto Protocol – and even deeper emissions reductions are on the horizon, he noted. For example, close to 60 countries have targets for renewables, including 13 developing countries, while around 80 have market mechanisms in place to encourage renewable energy development.

On the occasion of World Environment Day, UNEP has launched a guide to low-carbon living, entitled “Kick the Habit: The UN Guide to Climate Neutrality,” as well as “Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Tourism Sector,” a report prepared in collaboration with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Adopting a low-carbon lifestyle does not necessarily require drastic changes, according to UNEP. Simple changes such as waking up to a traditional wind-up alarm clock rather than an electronic one, or drying clothes on a washing line versus a tumble dryer can all help to reduce greenhouse gases.

Mr. Steiner pointed out that some choices are big – from smart taxes to encourage offshore wind farms as opposed to more coal-fired power stations – while others are small, such as thinking about which appliances to buy and how to travel.

“But multiplied across the world and acted upon by 6.7 billion people, the public have the power to change the future – have the power to personally and collectively influence economies to ‘Kick the CO2 Habit’,” he said.

Meanwhile, UNWTO has also urged the tourism sector to be innovative when seeking long-term climate neutrality. The agency also reports that it is collaborating with the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization to promote a new air travel carbon calculator.

For its part, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is today rolling out its Green Jobs Initiative, aimed at helping governments, employers and workers to overcome the challenges of transitioning to greener enterprises and jobs.

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