United Nations: Nearly 100 countries speaking at the first U.N. General Assembly meeting on climate change signaled strong support for negotiations on a new global deal to tackle global warming.
There was so much interest among worried nations with many facing drought, floods and searing heat, that the two-day meeting was extended for an extra day so that more countries could describe their climate-related problems, how they are coping, and the help they need.
“We now have the momentum,” General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa told delegates at the closing session on 2 August. “What we do with this is more important. We need to ensure that we agree on an equitable, fair and ambitious global deal to match the scale of the challenges ahead.”
Clinching that deal will likely take several years of intense and difficult negotiations, which are expected to start at a December meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali. It will focus on a replacement for the Kyoto protocol, which requires 35 industrial nations to cut their global-warming emissions 5% below 1990 levels by 2012, when the accord expires.
Comprehensive agreement by 2009: Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has made climate change a top priority since taking the reins of the U.N. on 1 January, urged all countries to reach a comprehensive agreement by 2009, which would leave time for governments to ratify the accord so it could take effect in 2013.
In an effort “to build on existing momentum” and “galvanize political will” for the negotiations, Ban said he is convening a high-level meeting on climate change on 24 September, a day before the General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting begins.
The question of what to do to tackle climate change has become increasingly complex because of competing environmental, economic and energy concerns from countries with different priorities.
U.S which is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is not a party to the Kyoto agreement and large developing countries such as China, the second-largest emitter, India and Brazil are exempt from its obligations. They are afraid they will be called on to reduce emissions after 2012, which would hurt their economic growth and poverty-eradication efforts.
At the same time, small island states in the Pacific are demanding action to deal with rising sea levels that could wipe them off the map, while oil-producing countries are concerned that a major source of revenue is going to be harmed by climate change action in the future.
World leaders to meet on 24 Sept (eve of General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting)
Koji Tsuruoka, Japanese Foreign Ministry’s director general for global issues and point man for climate change, said inviting world leaders to the 24 Sept. meeting is important because unless new negotiations are launched “under top leadership, you can’t expect any progress or results.”
He said it is also critical to get all countries to participate in negotiations and avoid the mistake of Kyoto where things were rushed and “the most important passengers” were not on board.
U.S and China account for 40 - 45% of global emissions. China’s deputy U.N. ambassador Liu Zhenmin called for restrictions of “luxury emissions” by rich countries and said negotiations “on targets of further emission reduction by developed countries beyond 2012” must take place in the Kyoto framework.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the General Assembly the U.S. is committed to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is holding the Bali conference, and its objective of stabilizing concentration of greenhouse gases.
Bali Conference to factor in concerns of developing nations
The Group of 77, which represents 132 mainly developing countries and China, said the Bali conference, organized by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, will have a successful conclusion if it takes “fully into account the needs and concerns of all developing countries.”
Pakistan’s Environment Minister Mukhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat, whose country heads the group, added that Pakistan wants the Bali conference to agree on “a comprehensive and clear timeframe” to achieve a post-Kyoto accord.
Yvo de Boer, executive director of U.N. Framework Convention, was encouraged to hear China, India, Brazil and Mexico talking about efforts they have made to address climate change and to hear Pakistan say an agreement must be reached in Bali.
Now, de Boer said, “we need a signal from heads of state and government to launch negotiations in Bali in December and begin talks on the design of a long-term climate change regime.”