UN Chief Calls for Increased Efforts to Fight Climate Change

19 September 2011

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 8 September urged world leaders to redouble efforts in the fight against climate change, insisting that time was running out to prevent the worst consequences of global warming. Speaking at the end of his South Pacific tour, Ban stressed the need to conclude an ambitious global emissions-cutting deal at this year's climate summit in Durban, South Africa.

The UN head was speaking at Sydney University following his visit of small Pacific nations, including some seriously threatened by rising sea levels. Countering sceptics of global warming, Ban said that climate change poses a real threat.

"The facts are clear. Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise," Ban said. "Millions of people are suffering today from climate impacts. Climate change is very real."

The consequences of climate change are significant, he said. The current drought in the Horn of Africa is only one of many examples of the suffering caused by global warming.

Timely action is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change and to save millions of lives in the regions threatened most. Environmental migrants have already reshaped human geography. Continuing rises in sea levels and desert advances will reinforce this trend.

Ban's call for increased efforts in the fight against climate change comes only a few months before leaders from 193 countries meet in Durban, South Africa, for this year's UN climate summit.

Ban argued that at the November talks, leaders must conclude an ambitious agreement to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases driving climate change. This is necessary to prevent an increase in global average temperatures of 2 or more degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Scientists argue that such a rise in temperatures would have devastating consequences for agriculture, sea levels, water resources, and human wealth.

"Moreover, given that the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires next year, a political formula must be found to ensure that a robust, post 2012 climate regime is agreed upon, and is not delayed by negotiating gamesmanship," Ban said.

But some observers say that political deadlock over the future of the Kyoto Protocol will prevent the conclusion of a meaningful agreement, a scenario similar to that seen at the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. China and the US refuse to support binding emission targets as part of a new commitment period, while Canada, Japan, and Russia have rejected the possibility of an extension of the Kyoto agreement.

Ban discarded criticism that few achievements have been made so far. He pointed to the 2010 climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, where countries agreed on a Green Climate Fund to manage US$100 billion a year by 2020 in support of poor nations threatened most by climate change.

Ban also said that individual country actions are underway and claims that this can inspire global efforts. China pledged to reduce carbon intensity by up to 45 percent, and India is to increase clean energy investment by more than 350 percent in this decade.

ICTSD Reporting; "U.N. Chief Urges World To Redouble Efforts On Climate Talks," REUTERS, 8 September 2011; "UN chief steps up demand for urgent climate action," BUSINESS GREEN, 8 September 2011; "UN chief calls for urgent action on climate change," BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK, 8 September 2011; "Ban Ki-moon challenges climate sceptics," THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8 September 2011.

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