The United Nations General Assembly tomorrow opens its first-ever plenary session devoted exclusively to climate change, seeking to translate the growing scientific consensus on the problem into a broad political consensus for action following alarming UN reports earlier this year on its potentially devastating effects.
The two-day meeting features interactive panel discussions with climate change experts, a plenary debate with statements on national strategies and international commitments by Member States, as well as addresses by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and two of his Special Envoys on climate change, former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and former Korean Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo.
“This debate is a testimony to the political importance of addressing climate change,” General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said. “We will need political action if we are to protect our environment, secure our planet and safeguard our future, for our children and generations to come. This is one of the greatest challenges of our time.”
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported this year that the world’s temperature warmed by .74°C during the last century and that it is likely to rise 3°C in this century unless measures are taken to reduce the rate of warming. The IPCC found that the evidence that warming was occurring is unequivocal and that it is due to human activities.
The debate, featuring prominent scientists, business leaders and UN officials, is expected to raise awareness and momentum for action in preparation for the Secretary-General’s High Level Event on climate change in September.
The debate is being billed as “carbon neutral” since emissions from air travel to bring experts to New York and the entire carbon-dioxide emissions of the UN Headquarters are being off-set by investment in a biomass fuel project in Kenya, Sheikha Haya said.
The fuel switch project in Kenya supports the use of agricultural waste instead of traditional fossil fuels to power a crude palm oil refinery, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating new economic opportunities for local farmers.
Mr. Ban has made urgent international action to curb climate change a hallmark of his office since he became UN Secretary-General in January. Just last Friday he warned that failure to act would have grave consequences for all countries.