Ban on Ice, or Maybe Not: The Arctic is Melting
OSLO, Norway, September 1, 2009 – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled above the Arctic Circle today to experience for himself the impact of climate change on the fragile region.

"I will try to deliver a clear strong message from my visit to the North Pole," Ban told reporters yesterday in Oslo.

Secretary-General Ban wants to deliver that message to two important climate meetings before year's end. First, the meeting of government leaders that he will convene at UN Headquarters in New York on September 22, a time when heads of state and government will be there for the opening of the General Assembly.

And, the make-it or break-it meeting December 7-18 in Copenhagen where a global agreement on limiting greenhouse gas emissions will be finalized to take effect after the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period expires at the end of 2012.

Ban clearly feels the pressure of time. He repeats that only 15 days of negotiations remain before the start of December's climate change conference

"Now is the time for decision-making," the Secretary-General stressed once again as he has many times this summer to a wide variety of audiences. "We must seal a deal in Copenhagen for a global, equitable and comprehensive deal for the future of humanity and the future of Planet Earth."

At the memorial to Trygve Lie, the first elected UN secretary-general, background, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are surrounded by students. (Photo by Statsministerens kontor)

While in Oslo, Ban attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial of Trygve Lie, a Norwegian who was the first elected UN Secretary-General. He met with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, and King Harald V.

Today, the secretary-general flew to Svalbard to visit the Global Seed Vault, which was established early last year to protect seed samples from the threats of climate change, disease and disasters.

Located near the village of Longyearbyen, about 1,120 kilometers from the North Pole, the vault houses duplicates of unique varieties of the world's most important crops. Permafrost and thick rock ensure that even without electricity, the genetic material stored in the vault will remain frozen and protected.

Ban spent most of the day with scientists, who updated him on the the latest research concerning warming temperatures, melting ice and disappearing glaciers.

He stopped at a Norwegian Zeppelin station, a research center where air in the Arctic region is monitored for various purposes, including determining the effect of greenhouse gases.

On Thursday, Ban will be in Geneva for the high-level segment of the World Climate Conference-3 to lay the groundwork for a global climate forecasting and prediction service, similar to today's weather services.

The secretary-general has great hopes for his September 22 meeting.

He expressed those hopes in Seoul in his speech to the University Presidents' Forum on Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Asia and Africa, at Korea University, on August 17.

"There can be no solution to the challenge of climate change that is not global," Ban said. "But if we can come together in partnership, we can transform today's challenge into tomorrow's opportunity - an opportunity for green growth and sustainable prosperity."

"We can take a big step along this road on September 22nd at the United Nations Summit on climate change."

"We need a major "top-down" push from world leaders - a push on the negotiators to seal the deal that we need."

Ban said more than 100 heads of state and government are expected to join the Summit, including South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

"I am grateful for his support and his engagement," said Ban, "but, we also need a strong bottom-up push from academics and opinion-shapers such as you," he told the educators. "Universities such as yours are founts of ideas and innovation. They are furnaces of innovation and entrepreneurship."

"So, send forth this word. Tell your university students, your colleagues, your political leaders - we must seize this once-in-a-generation chance."

"World leaders must go to Copenhagen in December and make it real," said Ban. "They must seal a deal in the name of humankind."

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.