Doha meeting must take decisive action to tackle growing crisis of climate change
4 December 2012 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged countries to act decisively to tackle the “growing crisis” of climate change, as United Nations negotiations kicked into high gear in Doha, Qatar.
“Let us be under no illusion. This is a crisis. A threat to us all. Our economies. Our security. And the well-being of our children and those who will come after,” Mr. Ban said at the start of the high-level segment of the 18th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“The danger signs are all around,” he added, pointing to the unprecedented melting of icecaps, rising sea levels, and land degradation and drought in various parts of the world.
“No one is immune to climate change – rich or poor,” he stated. “It is an existential challenge for the whole human race – our way of life, our plans for the future. We must take ownership. We, collectively, are the problem. Then we should have the solutions.”
The two-week conference brings together the 195 Parties to the UNFCCC, the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Under the Protocol, 37 States – consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy – have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments.
Delegates at the two-week conference – that ends this Friday – will, among other goals, try to extend the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period expires at the end of 2012.
“I urge all Parties to work with a spirit of compromise – to take the long view and avoid getting bogged down in minutiae,” Mr. Ban told participants. “Let us ensure that we stay on track for an effective, fair, ambitious and universal climate agreement by 2015.”
The Secretary-General said he hoped for five key “deliverables” by Governments in Doha this week, beginning with the adoption of a ratifiable second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
“The Kyoto Protocol remains the closest we have to a global, binding climate agreement. It must continue. It is a foundation to build on. It has important institutions, including accounting and legal systems, and the framework that markets sorely need. Its continuation on 1 January 2013 would show that governments remain committed to a more robust climate regime.”
He also expected progress on long-term climate finance, and ensuring that the institutions set up in Cancun and Durban to support mitigation and adaptation by developing countries – including the Green Climate Fund and the Climate Technology Centre and Network – are fully equipped and effective.
In addition, he expected governments to demonstrate, with no ambiguity, that negotiations on a global and legally binding instrument remain on track, and to show how they intend to act on the gap between mitigation pledges and what is required to achieve the two degrees target.
Recent UN-led reports have pointed to the urgency of keeping global average temperatures from rising beyond an internationally agreed level of two degrees Celsius, beyond which climate change would have serious impacts.
“The gap can be bridged. But time is not on our side,” Mr. Ban warned.
The President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, told the meeting that addressing the problem of climate change must become a core national interest of every UN Member State.
“The window of opportunity to prevent the effects of climate change from spiralling out of our control is closing,” he said. “When future generations look upon the choices we made, let them not be forced to exclaim that we failed to act in time. Let them not have to suffer the consequences of the inability to answer the clarion call to act with conscientious foresight.”
Speaking to reporters in Doha today, Mr. Ban emphasized that “we are in a race against time,” adding that every delay will require greater future effort or will mean greater future harm.
“If we act together with clear purpose, we can meet this challenge. But we need to be united – governments from all regions, business and civil society. We have a clear choice: stand together, or fall together.”Back to Top
New UN report highlights value of indicators for transitioning to green economy
3 December 2012 The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today launched a new report that shows how indicators can measure progress towards a resource-efficient, green economy as well as inform policy decisions that support sustainable societies.
“Green economy indicators provide a mirror on the journey to an environmentally stable, economically sound and equitable society,” said UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner.
“This publication is intended to help policy-makers understand how useful such measurements are for informing policy decisions and advancing their green economy agendas at a national level,” he added, referring to the report, ‘Measuring Progress towards an Inclusive Green Economy.’
The report comes as experts from major institutions and governments meet in Geneva at the first major gathering since the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Brazil in June, which called on the UN and its partners to advance the work on developing methodologies to evaluate green economic policies.
The three-day Geneva meeting aims to learn from countries and businesses that have developed green economy/green growth-related indicators, and provide advice on how to harmonize these approaches, as well as identify the knowledge gaps and research priorities to advance this work.
According to UNEP, indicators can be used at all stages of policy interventions: identifying the key environmental issues; assessing the potential cost and performance of various policy options to understand which investment will yield the highest return in environmental, social and economic terms; and tracking the impact of the policies on human well-being and equity.
“When we put in place a framework to account for and value environmental goods and services, we are making the contribution of nature to our collective well-being more visible, and acknowledging the fact that investing in natural capital is necessary for our continued economic prosperity,” said the Chief of UNEP’s Economics and Trade Branch, Steven Stone.
UNEP pointed out that currently, most countries concentrate too heavily on gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of economic performance, and policy-makers do not factor in depreciation of fixed assets such as forests, clean air or water resources.
“The idea is to supplement GDP, which monitors macroeconomic activity, with other measures that better reflect the multidimensional nature of human well-being and quality of life,” said a UNEP Economic Affairs Officer and co-author of the new report, Sheng Fulai.
The report details a range of indicators that policy-makers can use to formulate, focus and track the impact of their green economy policies, including in the areas of climate change, resource efficiency, green investment, employment, and health.
The report notes there are already several indices and indicators available for countries interested in promoting sustainable development, such as the new UN System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA), which sets new statistical standards for collecting and integrating economic and environmental data.
Government officials from Barbados, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Morocco, Thailand and Uruguay, all of whom are engaged in developing a comprehensive set of indicators to inform their national green economic policies, are attending the Geneva meeting.
Also participating are representatives from academia, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.Back to Top
2012 set to be ninth warmest year on record
28 November 2012 Temperatures this year are the ninth highest on record since 1850 despite the effect of La Niña, a meteorological phenomenon which is supposed to have a cooling influence on the Earth’s atmosphere, says a new United Nations report released today.
High temperatures were accompanied by unprecedented melting of the Arctic sea ice and multiple weather and climate extremes which affected many parts of the world.
The findings are among the highlights of the provisional UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) statement on the state of the global climate, which provides an annual snapshot of weather and climate events around the world.
The report, which is based on three global temperature sets, was released today at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, where thousands of representatives from governments, international organizations and civil society are meeting to advance ways to cut global carbon emissions and pollution.
“Naturally occurring climate variability due to phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña impact on temperatures and precipitation on a seasonal to annual scale, but they do not alter the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change as a result of human activities,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
“The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere. Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” he added.
Notable extreme events were observed worldwide during the period of January–October 2012, the report states, including heat waves in North America and Europe, drought in the United States, China, Brazil and parts of Russia and Eastern Europe, floods in the Sahel region, Pakistan and China, and snow and extreme cold in Russia and Eastern Europe.
The Atlantic basin also experienced an above-average hurricane season for a third consecutive year with a total of 19 storms, with 10 reaching hurricane status, the most notable being Sandy, which wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and the US east coast.
East Asia was severely impacted by powerful typhoons, the biggest one being Sanba, which impacted the Philippines, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula, affecting thousands of people and causing millions of dollars in damage.
In March, WMO will publish final updates and figures for 2012 in its annual statement on the status of the global climate.Back to Top