NEWSMAKER: Fight against climate change enters UN official’s daily life

10 September 2009

Criss-crossing the globe to make the case for the need to combat global warming means that Rajendra K. Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), must find other ways to halt the damage being done to the planet.

“I really have one area where unfortunately I am guilty of a pretty large carbon footprint, and that is in terms of travel,” Mr. Pachauri told the United Nations News Centre in a Newsmaker interview.

But he said he has no choice in this regard because he must spread the message on the urgency of tackling climate change. “I have to go all over the world and I have to convince people this is a serious problem that we have to address.”

Mr. Pachauri helms the IPCC, which was set up in 1988 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) with the aim of providing governments with a clear scientific view of what is happening to the world’s climate.

In his personal life, Mr. Pachauri, who started his career in India as a mechanical engineer, said he is extremely careful to not be too consumptive in his habits.

“I’m not a consumerist, just buying and throwing stuff away,” he said.

In his daily life, the official said that he is careful in using transport, sets the thermostat at a high level and turns the lights off when he leaves the room. He has also converted to vegetarianism.

“I try to do what little I can,” Mr. Pachauri said.

Since he became involved in the field of climate change two decades ago, he said he has seen a massive shift in how global warming is viewed thanks to the accumulation of scientific data.

“We also know on the basis of observations, on the basis of what we see all around us, and based on recorded measurements, that climate change is a reality.”

Despite this evidence, the IPCC chair expressed regret that some nations continue to be paralyzed with inertia when it comes to curbing greenhouse gas emissions. “It just unfortunate that while leadership in most countries realizes what needs to be done, they are hiding behind very short-term and narrow so-called national interests,” he said.

Countries, he stressed, have the opportunity to rectify this situation in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December when talks on a new emissions agreement are set to conclude.

The IPCC has warned that if the world continues on its present course, emissions will rise by 25 to 90 per cent by 2030, compared to 2000 levels.

“If we don’t get an agreement and the world continues to increase its emissions of greenhouse gases, climate change will take place and there will be some very severe impacts that will be felt in several parts of the world,” Mr. Pachauri said.

Both developed and developing nations must do their part, but wealthier countries, which bear greater responsibility for global warming, have to set an example, he underscored. The Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, “is being observed in its breach rather than adherence to the limits that were set.”

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