Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for renewed global solidarity to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and the financial crisis, telling ministers gathered at a United Nations conference in Poland that the world cannot afford to let economic woes hinder progress on “the defining challenge of our era.”
Addressing the opening of the high-level segment of the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Mr. Ban stressed the need to act now and avoid any backsliding on commitments to tackle these threats.
“The world is watching us. The next generation is counting on us. We must not fail,” he told participants from nearly 200 nations, who have been meeting for nearly two weeks as part of UN-led negotiations aimed at reaching an ambitious global climate change deal next year.
The Poznan conference marks the half-way point in efforts to reach agreement on a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, the legally binding regime for reducing greenhouse gas emissions whose first commitment period ends in 2012.
The Secretary-General noted that managing the global financial crisis requires massive global stimulus, adding that a big part of that spending should be investing in a green future. “An investment that fights climate change, creates millions of green jobs and spurs green growth.”
What the world needs is a “Green New Deal” – one that works for all nations, rich and poor, he stated.
“In short, our response to the economic crisis must advance climate goals, and our response to the climate crisis will advance economic and social goals,” said Mr. Ban.
Looking ahead to next December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, he called on the current meeting to sketch out the critical elements of a long-term vision, with ambitious goals and emission reduction targets for industrialized countries. At the same time, he said developing countries needed to limit the growth of their emission, with robust financial and technological support.
Mr. Ban also called for a recommitment to the “urgency of our cause,” and asked countries to keep climate change at the top of national agendas.
Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told delegates they should lay the cornerstone for strong action in Copenhagen by giving “new meaning” to the term leadership.
Stressing that “action expresses priorities,” he urged participants “to send the world a clear signal from Poznan that you are ready to put in place finance structures to shift the global economy on to a low-emissions pathway.”
At a news conference later, Mr. Ban said he was heartened to see the United States re-engage actively in global climate discussions. “I look forward to their leadership on the road to Copenhagen,” he declared. “The clock is ticking. Emissions are rising. We must harness the political will required to reach agreement next year.”
Mr. Ban was asked whether climate change negotiations had been held back by the attitude of the US delegation under President George W. Bush. “The American administration under President Bush - in fact they have also [made] a very constructive contribution by initiating and convening a major economist meeting, and they have also taken many technological innovations,” he replied.
“Now we really hoped that they should have done more proactively by joining the Kyoto Protocol,” he added, noting that President-Elect Barack Obama had assured him in a telephone conversation that he would make climate change a priority issue and that the partnership between the UN and US would be further strengthened.
“The whole world is watching how the United States and the new administration will deal with these climate change issues,” he said. “I am very much encouraged by the very forthcoming and engaging positions of the Obama administration… I hope we can expect much closer and more constructive participation and contribution by the United States.”
Mr. Ban said he was considering convening a summit-level meeting on climate change at the time of the General Assembly General Debate in New York in September, pending further discussion with Member States.