UN Chief warns “Nature isn't waiting while we negotiate”

UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

On Tuesday, Head of States, UN Representatives and Ministers convened to inaugurate the final three days of the climate change negotiations in Cancun. The high-level event comes one year after the summit in Copenhagen, where the expected outcomes were not reached. This year, the frustration resulting for the countries failure to show substantial commitment to combat climate change was, once again, apparent.

During the opening ceremony, Secretary-General said: “I am deeply concerned that our efforts so far have been insufficient.” He added: “We are still not rising to the challenge.”

Christiana Figueres Olsen, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said: “You are now at the juncture at which you need to prove that the governments of the world are indeed ready to respond. A solid response to Climate Change demands nothing less than putting international climate policy back on track. You can only do that by moving beyond the boundaries of short-term national interests.”

Achim Steiner, United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director, stressed that countries’ current, voluntary pledges to reduce emissions would, at best, offer the world limited protection against serious damage from shifts in climate. “Deeper, obligatory cuts are needed,” he added.

The Secretary-General pointed out that a final agreement on all issues may not be immediately possible, but stressed that there has to be progress on several fronts at the Cancun conference.

He added that decisions on forests, adaptation, technology, and on the creation of a new fund for long-term climate financing should be made in Cancun. He also remarked that it is vital to make progress on mitigation, anchoring national commitments, accountability and transparency.

Mr. Ban said he was encouraged that governments had nearly met their pledges to raise $30 billion in emergency climate funds for poor countries up to 2012, but also made clear that they didn’t go far enough.

During the press conference he said: “We need to make progress on the actual delivery of funds, along with a transparent and robust accountability system.”

The Secretary-General also told reporters that “we cannot sustain gains towards our Millennium Development Goals or preserve the ecosystems that sustain us, we cannot ensure safety and stability for the poor and vulnerable without progress on climate change.”

Mr. Ban also reminded all that even though climate change is one of the most pressing challenges affecting humanity, it is also a great opportunity.

An opportunity “for cleaner air, better public health, short-term economic recovery and long-term growth, new jobs in the green industries that will power the global economy,” he said.

The Cancun Climate Change conference will end in three days, and as the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, civil society, the United Nations, and many member states hope to leave Cancun with the certainty that significant progress has been made on a future global agreement.

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