At the start of the most critical week in global efforts to forge a new deal to curb climate change Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today that the world stood at the crossroads between a sustainable future and a path to catastrophe.
“Now is the moment to act,” he told a news conference at United Nations Headquarters in New York ahead of the culmination later this week of the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, where some 115 heads of State and government, including the leaders of the world’s top two emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the United States, will gather to hopefully seal the deal on an agreement.
“Seldom in history has a choice been so clear. We can move toward a future of sustainable green growth, or we can continue down the road to ruin. We can act on climate change now, or we can leave it to our children and grandchildren – a debt that can never be paid, that threatens our planet and its people,” he added.
“I call on the world’s leaders to lead. Time is running out. There is no time left for posturing or blaming. Every country must do its part to seal a deal in Copenhagen.”
Mr. Ban appealed to negotiators to redouble their efforts, find room for compromise and make a final push. “If everything is left to leaders to resolve at the last minute, we risk having a weak deal – or no deal at all. And this would be a failure of potentially catastrophic consequence,” he said.
UN officials have said there are three key layers of action that governments must agree to in the course of the Copenhagen summit: fast and effective implementation of immediate action on climate change; ambitious commitments to cut and limit emissions, including start-up funding and a long-term funding commitment; and a long-term shared vision on a low-emissions future for all.
Mr. Ban voiced confidence in a successful outcome as he himself prepares to leave to join the summit, citing new commitments from industrialized countries, emerging economies and developing nations, and deploring recent efforts to derail progress by those who try to claim that the science about climate change is unconfirmed.
“They are wrong. The science is clear and settled. Climate change is real, we are the primary cause, and it is up to us – here and now – to deal with it,” he said. “Greenhouse gases continue to rise. Climate impacts are escalating. Nature does not negotiate. In Copenhagen, we must summon the moral and political will to act in a spirit of compromise and common sense.”
He acknowledged that the negotiations are difficult and complex – “among the most ambitious ever to be undertaken by the world community” – and noted the strong passions and hard bargaining under way.
“But we also see tangible progress on core issues of technology cooperation and financing. We have reached substantial agreement on ‘fast track’ funding for mitigation and adaptation,” he said, adding that governments are moving toward the common goal of laying a foundation in Copenhagen for a robust, fair and comprehensive agreement that can be turned into a legally binding climate treaty as early as possible in 2010.
“Looking ahead, we need greater clarity on a robust finance package for the middle and longer-term. It is essential that we leave Copenhagen with a clear understanding of how we will meet the financing challenge through 2020.”
Mr. Ban also announced that he would appoint Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai as a Messenger for Peace on climate change, calling her “an excellent choice” in light of her long record of achievement in environmental conservation and sustainable development.