Senior UN climate change official calls for united global action to forge rapid accord

22 January 2010

The failure of last month’s United Nations summit in Copenhagen to agree on ambitious and immediate global action to combat climate change means that the task has become more, not less urgent, a senior UN official said in an opinion piece published today.

“The window of opportunity to tackle the climate problem closes more rapidly the longer nations delay to act together,” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer wrote in the Bangkok Post. “But Copenhagen has raised the challenge to the highest level of government policy, the level where it must ultimately be resolved.”

He noted that negotiators at Copenhagen came close to decisions on a set of measures which would make a long-term response operational: a framework to help poor countries adapt, a mechanism to speed technology transfer, a programme to build capacity, and agreements to cut emissions from deforestation and agriculture.

“It will take time for countries to digest the implications,” he said. “This is well and good, for they must come to terms with the challenge ahead. Now, industrialized countries can resume discussions to raise their collective mid-term emission cuts into the minus 25 to 40 per cent range that science has indicated would avoid the worst climate impacts. Failure to achieve this can only mean the need for greater ambition later.

“Countries need to discuss how the long-term finance will be raised. Let us also not forget that in Copenhagen, nations pledged $28 billion in short-term finance for immediate action, and this money is sitting in national budgets. Countries need to find how this money can be used as soon as possible to launch immediate action.”

Mr. de Boer stressed that multilateral agreements are the only tool the world has to agree on laws, regulations, accounting norms and market mechanisms for global action in curbing climate change and keep it honest.

“It is increasingly impossible for nations to act confidently without these reference points, in a world where no one bloc calls the shots,” he said. “If countries follow up Copenhagen's outcomes calmly and with their eye on the collective advantage, then they have every chance of completing this promise.”

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