The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon on Thursday said the world had to avoid backsliding in the fight against global warming and devise a "Green New Deal" to fix the twin climate and economic crises.
In an address to more than 100 environment ministers from around the world, he said the crises were an opportunity to address both challenges simultaneously:
"Managing the global financial crisis requires massive global stimulus. A big part of that spending should be an investment - an investment in a green future, an investment that fights climate change, creates millions of green jobs and spurs green growth.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.
Picture © unescap.org
"We need a Green New Deal", he told the ministers gathered in Poznan, Poland for UN climate talks overshadowed by the concerns about a global recession.
"Yes, the economic crisis is serious," he said. "Yet when it comes to climate change, the stakes are far higher. The climate crisis affects our potential prosperity and peoples' lives, both now and far into the future."
"This is a deal that works for all nations, rich as well as poor. It is an idea that was embraced with enthusiasm at the recent development conference in Doha, Qatar, and at the meeting of finance ministers in Warsaw which concluded this past Tuesday.
"We also urgently need a deal on climate change to provide the political, legal, and economic framework to unleash a sustained wave of investment. In short, our response to the economic crisis must advance climate goals, and our response to the climate crisis will advance economic and social goals," he said.
In short, Mr. Ban, said, "what we need, today, is leadership -- leadership by you". Prior to the address he held a private meeting with heads of UN agencies, including Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, to discuss these issues. She also later addressed an open meeting of the Chief Executive Board of the United Nations presided by Mr. Ban.
The Poznan talks are reviewing progress at the halfway mark of a two-year push to work out a global pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, the UN pact binding 37 nations to curb emissions by about 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
Mr. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, took the cue and added: "We need to hear, feel and see your resolve to complete the task that you set us all in Bali a year ago. You launched the Bali Road Map to fulfill this task – not to procrastinate on it. The Bali Road Map is about issues of today, not about delay."
He cited examples of what he called clear signs of urgency – Mauritania in the grip of a triple stranglehold with a spreading desert, encroaching ocean and worsening floods. The Maldives island nation saving up for exodus because of rising seas.
"Distrust and suspicion have haunted these talks for much too long," Mr. de Boer said. "This is your opportunity to move on, to tell the world how you will deliver together, to tell the world how you will reach out to each other on finance and technology, to tell the world how you will create governance structures for finance in which no one is more equal than the next."
Developing nations, such as China and India, say recession is no excuse for the rich to delay fighting climate change. "If Europe sends a signal that it can make deep cuts only in the prosperous times, what are the developing countries supposed to say?" asked Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo.
In Poznan, details of a new Adaptation Fund to help poor countries adapt to the impacts of rising seas, droughts, floods and heat-waves are among the most contentious remaining issues. Tuvalu's Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia, whose Pacific island nation is threatened by rising seas, accused some industrialised nations of "burying us in red tape" to deny access to cash in the Adaptation Fund.
The fund could reach about USD 300 million a year by 2012 to help build coastal defences or develop drought-resistant crops.
"We will not sink," he said to applause. "Were not contemplating migration ... we will survive," 'Mr. Ielemia said.
Addressing the plenary on behalf of the world's least developed countries, Mr. Mohamed Shareef, Deputy Minister of Housing, Transport and the Environment of Maldives, said there was no time to lose.
"We understand the need for discussion and to bring ideas to address climate change – but we don't have the luxury to waste time any more," he said. "We have to consolidate our ideas and concrete steps should be agreed to take the decision on time. Copenhagen is only a year from now…"
He said the world's poorest countries appreciated steps being taken by the European Union. Speaking for the Union, French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Barloo said the world's most powerful economic bloc would be ready to cut its emissions by up to 30 percent if an agreement is reached in Copenhagen next year.