United States President George Bush on Tuesday praised the new initiatives on climate change of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and pledged renewed American support for the UN in a world where he said everyone had the “right” to housing, education, health and democratic freedoms.
“The nations in this chamber have our differences, yet there are some areas where we can all agree,” Mr. Bush said. “When innocent people are trapped in a life of murder and fear, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 declaration is not being upheld. When millions of children starve to death or perish from a mosquito bite, we're not doing our duty in the world. When whole societies are cut off from the prosperity of the global economy, we're all worse off.”
The president also said nations must unite to combat illnesses like AIDS and malaria. He added that trade and investment were the best means of fighting poverty in the world. The UN must work to “free people from tyranny and violence, hunger and disease, illiteracy and ignorance and poverty and despair,” Bush said, calling it a “`mission of liberation”.'
“This great institution must work for great purposes: to free people from tyranny and violence, hunger and diseases, illiteracy and ignorance and poverty and despair,'' he said, adding to resounding applause that people everywhere had a “right” to housing, education, good health and democratic freedoms.
On climate change, Mr. Bush said he intended to meeting later during the week with the leaders of “emitter” countries, including China and India, deemed responsible for most of the global emissions to urge them to help curb pollution.
Speaking for the EU, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said “all the developed countries and the largest emitters” must commit to a 50 percent reduction by 2050.
The Secretary-General said he hoped the meeting this week would give impetus to negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, in December on a new global warming agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.
The UN's top climate scientist, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, said sea levels were rising faster and faster in what he described as further evidence of the impact of global warming.
Leaders from Pacific states and other small island nations warned that this could lead to their homelands sinking beneath rising oceans.
“As we in the island states know so very well, climate change is the single most important threat facing the economic development, the peace-and-security and the territorial existence of Small Island States,” said Prime Minister Keith C. Mitchell of Grenada. In a statement on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, he said sea temperature rise is closely correlated with the increasing ferocity of hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons.
Therefore, he said, “we call for the urgent completion of the institutional arrangements for the Adaptation Fund that guarantees that priority be given to the needs of Small Island Developing States.”
California’s Governor, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger told the General Assembly it was time to stop looking back with suspicion at the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on cutting emissions: "The consequences of global climate change are so pressing that it doesn't matter who was responsible for the past - what matters is who is answerable for the future.”
Capping a day and a half of unprecedented global attention to the problem of climate change, the United Nations Secretary-General said: “Everybody agreed that it is now time to act before it is too late and they all agreed that the most appropriate forum would be the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
Summing up the understandings reached, he said participants agreed that “the current international response and pace of negotiations are inadequate; broader and deeper action is necessary; significant reductions in emissions are needed; and industrialized countries need to lead with targets set but all countries can and must contribute to the solution. It is everyone's responsibility to support those who are most affected and most vulnerable.”
With these firm commitments, he said, leaders across the international community had demonstrated “their firm commitment to address [the problem] collectively: they all agreed that this is a global issue affecting all human beings and does require global actions.”
Asked about the participation of United States President Bush, Mr. Ban told journalists: “I appreciate his firm commitment and support.”