A Plea for Action
In an impassioned speech, Ban Ki Moon, United Nations (UN) Secretary General, pleaded for agreements at the UN climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico. He told delegates of the threats facing the planet, the world economy, and the fate of the human race if agreements to address climate change are delayed.
“The longer we delay, the more we will pay – economically, environmentally, and in human lives,” Ban said. “I am deeply concerned that our efforts have been insufficient, that despite the evidence and many years of negotiation, we are still not rising to the challenge.”
He reminded delegates of the purpose and reason why the climate change conference is taking place stating that agreements in the talks are crucial and that individual country efforts to curb emissions are vital to our the planet’s survival.
“We are here for a reason: to protect the people and the planet from uncontrolled climate change. To do that, we need to make progress in these global negotiations and through national actions each of you takes in your countries to curb emissions [of harmful gases] and increase resilience,” Ban said.
He recalled the warning of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) saying that global emissions of greenhouse gases need to peak within the next decade before decreasing substantially if the goal of limiting average temperature rises to two degrees above pre-industrial levels is to be achieved.
Ban also said that final agreements on all climate change issues may not be immediately felt, but stressed that progress must be made on several fronts.
“You can take significant decisions here in Cancun on forests, on adaptation, on technology, and on the creation of a new fund for long-term climate financing,” he said. “You also need to make progress on mitigation, on anchoring your national commitments, on accountability and transparency, and increasing clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.”
Re-living the Kyoto Protocol
Industrialized countries committed themselves to reduce greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Protocol will expire in 2012 while its replacement is currently being negotiated.
Ban said that every country must take action and should not wait for negotiations to be concluded if countries want the adverse effects of climate change staved off.
“Science warns that the window of opportunity to prevent uncontrolled climate change will soon close,” Ban said. “The world – particularly the poor and vulnerable – cannot afford the luxury of waiting for the perfect agreement. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
UN does not take it sitting down
He also highlighted some of the UN’s initiatives to address climate change one of which is the REDD Plus scheme. The scheme seeks to create incentives to reverse the dire trend of deforestation and conserve forests’ carbon stocks. The scheme is also a coalition of UN entities that work with the private sector and governments to achieve universal energy access and to significantly cut energy intensity in the next two decades.
“My High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Financing concluded that it is challenging but possible for developed countries to realize their goal of raising $100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to support climate action in developing countries. I encourage parties [to UNFCCC] to use the Group’s findings as inputs to your climate finance negotiations,” Mr. Ban said.
Climate Change, Poverty, and the Millennium Development Goals
The intensity and unpredictability of weather conditions also pose threats to social and economic conditions. Ban, referring to the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which is to eradicate poverty by 2015, said that efforts to address extreme poverty are directly related to problems of climate change. The more peoples of poor nations are exposed to intense natural disasters brought about by changing weather conditions, the more they suffer social and economic hardships.
“Now, more than ever, we need to connect the dots between climate and poverty, energy, food and water,” Ban said. “These issues cannot be addressed in isolation.”
He recalled the story of a teenage boy he met in Bangladesh who had survived the floods that inundated his village, as mud flows cascading down deforested land nearly washed away his home.
“As the flood waters retreated, cholera struck. He survived. Many did not,” he said.
While in Cancun, the Secretary-General has meetings with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, as well as with representatives of the African Union, the European Union, the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the United States.