Climate change poses ‘defining challenge’ of our time, Ban says

7 October 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today warned of the dangers of the fight against the climate change – which he characterized as the “defining challenge of our era” – getting bogged down by shorter-term problems, such as the current global financial turmoil.

Global warming “remains the defining challenge of our era,” Mr. Ban told reporters at his monthly press conference at UN Headquarters. “The danger is that, as with the [Millennium Development Goals], the magnitude of the threat will be obscured by shorter-term problems, and in particular the deepening financial crisis.”

He voiced hope that the next set of UN climate change talks in the Polish city of Poznan in December will produce results through increased cooperation, agreement on a timeframe of work, and, “above all, a strong willingness [on] the part of developed and developing nations alike to lead on an issue that all agree is an existential threat to our planet.”

The Secretary-General acknowledged that in the face of immediate economic difficulties, the fight against climate change could take a back seat.

“Grave as it may be, today’s financial crisis is a passing storm from which we will recover,” he said.

But he warned that “we cannot say that about the potential catastrophe of global warming.”

In a related development, Mr. Ban today lauded Japan’s leadership in fighting climate change through its “Cool Biz” programme, from which the United Nations has drawn inspiration for its own “Cool UN” scheme.

Japan’s initiative aimed to slash electricity consumption through raising thermostats in office buildings and encouraging all levels of Government personnel to shed their jackets and ties.

It “has been an inspiration for the United Nations not just symbolically but literally,” he said in a message, delivered by UN University (UNU) Rector Konrad Osterwalder in Tokyo, on receiving the East Asian nation’s “Cool Biz” award.

In August, the UN launched its own “Cool UN” initiative, with temperatures being raised by five degrees from 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit in most parts of the landmark Secretariat building in New York.

“This practical step to reduce emissions and increase staff awareness of climate change was the ultimate win-win,” the Secretary-General said. “We achieved a reduction in emissions equivalent to 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide. We saved money.”

He said that a reverse process – turning down the thermostat by five degrees Fahrenheit – will take place in the winter.

“Cool UN is just part of the Organization’s efforts to address this global threat,” Mr. Ban said, noting the renovation of UN Headquarters will lead to a “greener and more efficient United Nations.”


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