United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for decisive global action to fight global warming on Sunday during a gathering in Abu Dhabi. Ban specifically encouraged global policymakers to work harder on addressing climate change. Efforts to improve global prosperity and security could be undone by environmental problems unless world leaders take urgent action, Moon told the gathered delegates.
Ban was in the capital of the United Arab Emirates for the start of a conference intended to help delegates prepare for a planned climate summit in September. The Abu Dhabi meeting will prepare the way for a big climate agreement in 2015. This is the target year for such an agreement, a goal set at a 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.
World governments pledged to limit any temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average in order to avoid more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has conclusively linked all of those phenomena to human activity.
The IPCC report, released in April, states that the two degree goal is attainable, but not if governments follow current policies, which are likely to allow a temperature increase of up to 4.8 degrees Celsius (8.6 Fahrenheit) by 2100. The average global temperature has already increased about 0.8 Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Revolution began in the late 18th century.
Ban mentioned certain specific nations that need to cooperate because of their high and growing greenhouse gas emissions. He will visit China later this month to discuss global warming with Chinese leaders. Ban also called on the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to “do more” but did not offer any details on what they were expected to do.
Ban called for a “race to the top” where leaders in government, finance and business make ambitious plans and announce bold plans for major changes. With that in mind, the UN Secretary-General said that this summit would be solution-focused. It would also be a platform for those who are ready to lead the effort to address climate change. The Abu Dhabi Ascent summit, he said, would present attendees with many opportunities to collaborate on taking action to address climate change.
He then defined nine key areas where there is the most potential to make things happen. Those nine priority areas include energy, cities, transportation and agriculture. Ban mentioned some less obvious focal areas as well, such as attacking short-lived pollutants and increasing “resilience.” The United Nations Chief defined those areas as places to focus on taking decisive action on climate change.
Many solutions the world needs in those priority areas exist now, and people are working on many others, said the Secretary-General, but those solutions need to be deployed soon and on a large scale, to avoid crossing “dangerous thresholds.” Delays, he said, will just cost more money.
The push to deal with climate change will bring many benefits, including reduced pollution, better public health, cleaner energy, livable cities and better food security, Ban said. The Secretary-General summarized his position by saying that action on climate change is “feasible, affordable and beneficial.”
At a subsequent press conference, Ban said the Ascent meeting in Abu Dhabi is an opportunity to show that people are ready to work together on creating a low-carbon future. He asked attendees, including the press, to urge their respective leaders to act. He also took the opportunity to call for attendees to be bold in order to mobilize political will for a global climate agreement in 2015.
The Secretary-General also said that there is an urgent need to adopt what works for the attendees’ countries, businesses and communities. Time is running out, he said, and nature will not wait.
The United Nations Secretary-General kicked off the Abu Dhabi meeting with a strong call for action now, leading up to a formal climate change summit later this year. His remarks emphasized the ability for major, productive actions to be taken and the urgency of taking action now.
By Chester Davis