UN climate summit opens amid calls for strong action

Posted: 24 September 2007

A special UN Climate Change Summit opens in New York today (Monday 24 September),attended by over 150 political leaders. The meeting is intended to send a clear message to the UN's Climate Change Summit in Bali in December to launch formal negotiations for a climate agreement.

Such an agreement would build on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. Heads of State will present their ideas on the action needed in the areas of mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance. Environmental pressure groups want the UN Summit to declare that a comprehensive climate agreement must be negotiated, no later than 2009. It should set clear targets to reduce emissions for industrialised countries as well as quantifiable actions for more advanced developing nations.

"Governments have finally realised that climate change poses a real danger to the planet," says Hans Verolme, Director of WWF's GlobalClimate Change Programme. "For world leaders to come together under the UN umbrella and to commit to deeper cuts in emissions is a watershedmoment."

Climate catastrophe

Economic assessments indicate that the benefits of early action on climate change greatly exceed the cost of reducing emissions, says WWF.. The UN Secretary-General must call for an end of the fossil fuel age by mid-century, it says.

"Clean energy technologies bring many benefits which far outweigh the costs," says Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK. "Theimpending climate catastrophe could cripple economies and devastate livelihoods, so a new global climate deal to channel investments toclean technologies is a top priority for the Secretary-General."

Environmentalists point out that climate change is already having significant impacts in certain regions - particularly in developing countries such as Small Island States and Least Developed Countries. They say the UN Secretary -General must call on rich nations to put funds aside to help the poor to deal with the worst impacts of climate change.

"Floods in Africa once again show that global warming hits those least responsible the hardest," said Kit Vaughan, Climate ChangeAdaptation Advisor at WWF-UK. "It's the responsibility of the largest polluters to pay and support the least developed countries to adapt.

Climate justice

Meena Raman, from Malaysia, will address the participants of the New YorkUnited Nations (UN) 'informal' Climate Summit, a meeting attended today bysome 80 Heads of State.

"The Chair of Friends of the Earth International, Meena Raman, will today warn the world's Heads of State that 'climate justice' needs to be urgently addressed in thefight against global warming.

"The eight most powerful industrialised countries - the G8 - account for43 per cent of the emissions causing climate change, yet have only 13 per cent of the world's population. That's climate injustice, because climate change impacts most severely upon the world's poorest people."

"The technology being promoted to mitigate climate change such as nuclear energy and genetically modified trees are false solutions as they pose risks to the environment, as well as to health and safety, and there aremany serious concerns over carbon capture and storage as well as biofuels."

"More emphasis and priority should be given to energy efficiency and clean renewables. Hopefully, at the UN talks in Bali this December, we will see the launch of negotiations for a post-2012 UN framework to fight climatechange that will end in a more just and climate friendly world," she added.

Alternative summit

On September 27-28 the Bush administration will host its own climate change gathering in Washington, DC. The so-called "major economies"meeting will be attended by the 16 countries that account for around 90 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Bush administration is expected to continue to oppose legally binding targets to fight climate change and instead promote 'aspirational' targets that would allow polluters to go on harming the planet.

"The United States must join the rest of the world in tackling climate change within the United Nations framework, instead of promoting purely voluntary measures that will not achieve necessary emissions reductions", said Elizabeth Bast of Friends of the Earth US in Washington.