UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka on Tuesday made an urgent call for immediate action to address the opportunities and challenges of a rapidly urbanizing and globalizing world. Her remarks were made in an impassioned speech to world environment ministers at the Ninth Special Session of the Governing Council and Global Ministerial Forum of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
Mrs. Tibaijuka backed up a call by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on world leaders to use the United Nations-backed Kyoto Protocol to move on climate change.
“Our common quest, be it for economic growth, social justice, health and biodiversity or climate protection will depend to a large and increasing extent on our ability to manage our cities and the urbanisation process,” Mrs. Tibaijuka said. “No city, indeed no society, can claim to be sustainable if a significant portion of its population lives in poor and dilapidated housing, with inadequate access to water and sanitation, education and health care."
Mrs. Tibaijuka hailed the excellent working relations between UN-HABITAT and UNEP saying that the two UN agencies both headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, were increasingly working to strengthen the nexus between the natural and built human environments. She said it was important to see this collaboration within the context of the ongoing institutional reform underscored by the 2005 World Summit Outcome.
The Executive Director paid a glowing tribute to her counterpart, Dr. Toepfer whose term at the helm of UNEP is coming to an end in March.
Earlier, Mr. Annan, who also paid tribute to the outgoing UNEP Executive Director, accepted a top global award for his work with the environment. He urged world leaders to use the United Nations-backed Kyoto Protocol to move on climate change, and called on governments, businesses and citizens to adopt a new mindset on energy resources.
“Now that the Kyoto Protocol has entered into force, the world has a dynamic tool for stabilizing and reducing emissions and supporting climate-friendly projects in developing counties,” said Mr. Annan, as he accepted the 2005 Global Leadership for Environment award.
The Kyoto Protocol is the 1997 landmark treaty designed to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that have been determined to cause global warming. The binding pact, which entered into force last February, requires 35 industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
At the meeting in Dubai, Mr. Annan also urged leaders, environmental experts and business executives assembling for the two-day UN-sponsored conference to seriously participate in two parallel sets of global talks meant to intensify global action on climate change.
One set of talks involves the parties to the Kyoto Protocol and aims to set binding emission targets for industrialized countries beyond 2012. A second dialogue involves all 189 parties to the broader UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and looks at a wide range of cooperative action among developing countries.
Echoing remarks by President George Bush last week in his State of the Union address on America's “addiction” to oil, the Secretary-General warned that the world remains “perilously wedded to oil and other fossil fuels.” Mr. Annan added: “All humankind must get the maximum benefit from every barrel, gallon or litre consumed – much as we try to do with water, where ‘more crop per drop’ is our mantra.”
Mr. Annan also held talks with the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.