This week’s historic high-level meeting on climate change has galvanized world leaders to take urgent action to stem global warning, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
The discussion convened by Mr. Ban at UN Headquarters in New York drew more than 80 heads of State or government, making it the largest-ever gathering on the issue, which he has identified as one of his top priorities.
“I sensed something remarkable happening, something transformative – a sea-change, whereby leaders showed themselves willing to put aside blame for the past and pose to themselves more forward-looking questions,” he wrote in an op-ed published in yesterday’s International Herald Tribune. “Where do we go from here? What can we do, together, in the future?”
As it stands today, climate change has two main facets, the Secretary-General noted. On the one hand, science has proven that human activity is at the root of the increased severity of extreme weather, while on the other, the world has realized the magnitude of the problem and has finally taken a firm stand to fight it.
With climate change expected to be responsible for devastation ranging from dramatic water shortages for half a billion people to the desertification of most of northern China, Mr. Ban noted the fear voiced by the Micronesian leader that his country will sink under the rising seas.
“How do we explain this to our people, to future generations, that we have nothing for them,” President Emanuel Mori asked.
Looking on the bright side, the Secretary-General pointed out that Brazil told participants at the meeting in New York that it has slashed Amazon basin deforestation by half, that India is dedicating two per cent of its annual GDP to controlling floods and food security programmes and that California is blazing the trail in both the political and business realms to tackle climate change.
Countries will seek their own methods to combat climate change, but “the important thing is that all agree: national policies should be coordinated within the United Nations, so that our work together is complimentary and mutually enforcing,” he said.
Additionally, Mr. Ban said there is a shared sense of the necessity to address climate change now. It is no longer purely an environmental concern, but a political one. “This represents a turning point, with enormous implications,” he noted.
The gathering has generated international momentum for the major climate change summit to be held in December in Bali, Indonesia, the Secretary-General said.
That meeting seeks to determine future action on mitigation, adaptation, the global carbon market and financing responses to climate change for the period after the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol – the current global framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – in 2012.
“We need a breakthrough – an agreement to launch negotiations for a comprehensive climate change deal that all nations can embrace. It will be difficult but I am optimistic. We are in a different place, today, than yesterday,” Mr. Ban stated.
“Our job is to translate the spirit of New York into deeds in Bali.”