Top UN officials exhort countries to take action on climate change

14 May 2009

Warning that the clock is ticking towards a major United Nations conference in Copenhagen this December where nations are expected to reach agreement on a new greenhouse gas emissions pact, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the world body’s top climate change official today urged the international community to pick up the pace of negotiations.

Addressing reporters in New York, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), noted that the Denmark gathering is only 200 days away.

He said he is encouraged by progress made in the past 100 days, including the “very clear commitment of the new United States administration to the issue of climate change, to re-engage in the international negotiations to come to an agreement in Copenhagen in December, but also to put an ambitious domestic policy package in place.”

Further, Mr. de Boer said he is heartened to see that many countries – China and the Republic of Korea in particular – are seriously considering changing the direction of their economic growth as part of their recovery packages.

“Climate change as an issue has survived politically the financial crisis,” he said.

Even if there is “strong commitment” to conclude negotiations in December, Mr. de Boer cautioned that the limited amount of time remaining could threaten the comprehensiveness of any agreement.

The international community is “on track” to clarifying four key issues, Mr. de Boer said. Firstly, developed countries must lay out how much they are willing to slash emissions by 2020, and secondly, major developing countries must in turn identify what actions they are willing to take to curb their own emissions.

Thirdly, the topic of financial support for adaptation and mitigation for poorer nations is crucial. “I do not believe that developing countries will be willing to address climate change in a much more vigorous way unless there is international support,” he said. “They’ve made it clear that their overriding concern is economic growth and poverty eradication.”

Lastly, he called for the establishment of an international governance structure to oversee a long-term climate change regime.

Speaking at the launch of a report by the Commission on Climate Change and Development, comprising 13 renowned individuals, Mr. Ban emphasized that “climate change is happening, now.”

Stressing the necessity of leadership in reaching a deal in Copenhagen, he called attention to the need for adaptation for the world’s poor to help them to deal with some of the worst consequences of global warming.


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