UN summit set to fail the world’s poorest on climate change

The UN summit in New York looks set to end with no firm action on climate change being agreed, despite broad recognition of the devastating impacts it will have and pleas from individual government ministers.

One hundred and fifty heads of state are gathered in New York for the summit, the largest gathering of world leaders in history, to discuss UN reforms and evaluate the pitiful progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goals – none of which is likely to be met by the dates initially aimed for.

Now, the final outcome document of the Summit has been slated by environmental groups for not conveying the threat that climate change poses upon reaching the Millennium goals by 2015.

It refers to the role of the UN Framework on Climate Change and to the Kyoto Protocol, but, according to Friends of the Earth International, it doesn’t go far enough in recognising the authority of the November 2005 UN Climate Summit in Montreal to begin negotiations for the post 2012 international climate commitments.

Neither does it recognise the potential and capacity for renewable sources of energy, in terms of their contribution to poverty alleviation and sustainable development in developing countries.

“World leaders have clearly failed to face up to the urgent need to take action on climate change,” said Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth’s International climate campaigner. “This Summit was a golden opportunity for the UN to commit resources to and support some of the world’s poorest countries who will face the harshest impacts of the world’s changing climate.”

The impact that climate change could have on some of the world’s poorest nations was highlighted by Kessai Note, President of the Marshall Islands: “Global warming and sea level rise continue to threaten us,” he said, calling on all nations to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

“Without such global actions to mitigate climate change and arrest sea level rise, our national efforts and sustainable development will be rendered meaningless, and my people will become environmental refugees.”

Margaret Beckett, UK Secretary of State for Environment told delegates that climate change already hampered development efforts in Africa and could put US$10 – 20 billion worth of aid money at risk every year.

She highlighted the need for partnership between governments and business to combat climate change and said the UK’s G8 Presidency was driving forward the international agenda.

Slovenia’s President, Janez Drnovsek said that climate change was a prime example of the interdependence of all people: “There would appear to be an emerging consensus among scientists that each year we are witnessing increasing numbers of catastrophic events linked to global warming: hurricanes, floods and droughts,” he said.

“Under the aegis of the UN we must therefore work together in the world to find more effective solutions and to contribute to raising the general awareness of people and especially politicians.”

Friends of the Earth International said that the recommendations that were made at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 formed a clear mandate for the UN General Assembly to discuss the transformation of the UN Environment Program into a specialised agency financed by assessed mandatory contributions from UN member states.

“The international community must recognise the need to assist poorer countries in dealing with the impacts of climate change,” said FOEI’s David Waskow. “Money must be made available to help countries adapt to the changing climate, and also to cope with climate disasters.”

By David Hopkins

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