UN Secretary-General Advances Climate Change Cooperation

WASHINGTON, DC, July 17, 2007 (ENS) - President George W. Bush welcomed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Oval Office today to discuss climate change, issues concerning Darfur, plans for an upcoming Middle East conference, and also United Nation plans in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Speaking with reporters after their meeting Ban said, "On climate change, which is very important issue for all humankind, I appreciate President Bush's initiative during Heiligendamm G8 summit meeting."

At the German resort town of Heiligendamm in June, all eight industrialized nations agreed to "substantial" greenhouse gas emissions cuts by 2050 to be achieved as part of a United Nations process, and all acknowledged that global warming is largely the result of human activity, as the latest UN backed scientific report states.

Ban said today, "I extended an official invitation to President Bush today to attend, to participate in a high-level UN debate on climate change, which will be held on September 24th. Your participation will be very much appreciated and I'm looking forward to welcoming you to New York."

President George W. Bush, right, welcomes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to the Oval Office. (Photo by Eric Draper courtesy the White House)
In his remarks, President Bush did not mention climate change, nor did he say whether or not he would participate in the September 24 UN debate.

Bush focused instead on the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur.

At a press conference in New York Monday, Ban said he was encouraged by the expectations surrounding the high-level meeting on climate change which he will convene on September 24 during the General Assembly sessions at UN Headquarters.

The secretary-general said he intends to use that opportunity to generate necessary political will "to give strong political impact and guidelines to the forthcoming Bali meeting."

The UN climate change conference set for December 3 to 14 in Bali, Indonesia is expected to be the forum for talks on a global agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions that would take effect after the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Meanwhile, UN climate change discussions continue.

On July 31 and August 1, UN General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa will convene an informal thematic debate on the topic of climate change as a global challenge at UN Headquarters in New York.

On the first day, two interactive panel discussions will be held in the Trusteeship Council Chamber - one on climate change: the science, the impact and the adaptation imperative, and the other on mitigation strategies in the context of sustainable development.

On the second day there will be a discussion open to all in which UN Member States will make statements about their national strategies and international commitments to address climate change.

Introducing the informal debate, the United Nations sets forth its case for seriousness of the climate change crisis.

"The average global temperature rose by 0.74°C during last century. This is the largest and fastest warming trend in the history of the Earth that scientists have been able to discern," the UN says.

"Current projections show that trend will continue and will accelerate. The best estimate indicates that the Earth could warm by 3°C during the 21st Century."

Russia's gas-fired Surgut power plant shown emitting greenhouse gases. (Photo courtesy RAO UESR)
"Scientists are now certain that most of the change is due to human activities that emit greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases, of which CO2 [carbon dioxide] is the most important, trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to the overall rise of global temperatures, which are liable to disrupt natural climate patterns."

Finally, the UN says, "Eleven of the last 12 years rank among the 12 warmest in the last 150 years. The warming trend has already affected all continents and oceans."

In addition, the secretary-general earlier this month launched the Business Leadership Platform "Caring for Climate," a joint project with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, WBCSD, and the UN Environment Programme, UNEP.

Ban invited business executives participating in the Global Compact Leaders Summit July 5-6 in Geneva to sign on to the statement, "Caring for Climate: The Business Leadership Platform."

Signatories to the statement, including 30 from the Fortune Global 500, commit their companies to "taking practical actions to increase the efficiency of energy usage and to reduce the carbon burden of products, services and processes, to set voluntary targets for doing so, and to report publicly on the achievement of those targets annually." Reporting begins in July 2008.

They also commit to dealing with the climate issue strategically and they undertake to work collaboratively with other enterprises on a sector basis and along their global supply chains, taking joint initiatives to reduce climate risks.

Georg Kell, executive director of the UN Global Compact, called the statement, "a unique and significant business initiative, as it is both a call to governments and a commitment to action by business itself, coupled with an undertaking to communicate progress annually."

According to the statement, business leaders expect from government the "urgent creation, in close consultation with the business community and civil society, of comprehensive, long-term and effective legislative and fiscal frameworks designed to make markets work for the climate, in particular policies and mechanisms intended to create a stable price for carbon."

South Africa's coal-fired Lethabo power station pumps greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. (Photo courtesy Eskom)
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, said, "Climate change is shaping global markets and global consumer attitudes. There will be winners and losers. Companies who seize the opportunities, who adopt environmental, social and governance policies and who evolve, innovate and respond to these challenges are likely to be the pioneers and industry leaders of the 21st century."

Said WBCSD President Bjorn Stigson, "We do possess realistic options for solutions. These include technologies that can create a more resource-efficient economy and can eliminate the waste from resource use, such as carbon capture and storage."

Caring for Climate: The Business Leadership Platform has been well accepted, with 100 large corporations, including such giants as ABB, Coca-cola, Dupont, Japan Airlines, Lafarge, Rio Tinto, and Unilever as well as 53 small and mid-sized business signing on in the first month.

Ban will continue his discussions on climate change, which he described as an issue "close to my heart" when he makes an official visit on July 26 and 27 to San Francisco – the birthplace of the United Nations.

Together with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ban will tour local businesses in the Bay Area that are using green technologies. He said, "I look forward to seeing first-hand how California leads the world on this issue of supreme importance."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.