Leaders of UN, US declare 2009 the year of climate change

Sea level rise caused by climate change will displace millions across the world

12 March 2009 – With nations set to conclude negotiations on an ambitious new greenhouse gas emissions agreement this December, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United States President Barack Obama have stressed the need for 2009 to be the year of climate change.

Mr. Ban, who met with the “visionary” American leader earlier this week at the White House in Washington, told journalists in his monthly press conference at UN Headquarters today that they both agree that climate change poses an “existential threat.”

The two men share a commitment that “2009 must be the year of climate change,” he said, stressing the importance a comprehensive successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol – the legally binding emissions reduction regime whose first commitment period ends in 2012 – at December’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“With US leadership, in partnership of the United Nations, we can and will reach a climate change deal that all nations can embrace,” the Secretary-General noted.

Reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate – have shown unequivocally that the world is warming, almost certainly due to human activity, with potentially disastrous effects including worsening drought in some regions and heavier rainfall in others.

Mr. Ban said today that he and Mr. Obama were of the same opinion that ‘green’ investments are an essential part of any stimulus package targeting the current global economic turmoil.

“If we are going to spend such tremendous sums of money, let us be smart about it,” he said.

He said that during his two-day visit to Washington, climate change also dominated his discussions with key American officials, including Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Last week, the top UN climate change official said that he sees “enthusiasm” in the current US Government to pass laws to reduce gas emissions and a willingness to work towards a new global climate change pact.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said he was “very much encouraged” following his recent meetings with officials in Mr. Obama’s administration and members of Congress.

“There is, I believe, a huge enthusiasm and energy in both the House and the Senate to put cap and trade climate change legislation in place in this country,” he added.

Mr. de Boer also underscored the willingness in the current US administration “to work towards an agreement in Copenhagen, to come with an ambitious domestic policy [and] to engage with international partners” to come to an accord.


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