UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon arrived Tuesday in Copenhagen, Denmark, the scene of the historic United Nations climate change conference, to give fresh energy to the negotiations that are set to wrap up at the end of the week with an ambitious new agreement.
Talks were briefly suspended Monday by African nations over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, currently the only legally binding pact on climate change.
Many industrialized countries are hoping to merge the Protocol and the outcome of the two-week Copenhagen meeting, in its second week, into a single agreement.
However, their developing counterparts, among the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, want to extend the Protocol past 2012, when its first commitment period ends, and hammer out a separate agreement this week in the Danish capital.
“This process is not about ramming the interests of a few down the throats of many,” Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told reporters today. “This process is about many trying to address all interests.”
Complicating the negotiations in Copenhagen are the various interests, he said, including small island nations’ fears that they will be inundated by sea level rise, oil producers fearing the future of the economy and major developing nations who are concerned about economic growth and poverty eradication.
The ministerial-level portion of the conference begins today, while the high-level segment will begin later this week.
“Now is the moment to act,” Mr. Ban told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York yesterday before departing for Copenhagen, where some 115 heads of State and government, including the leaders of the world’s top two emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the United States, will gather to hopefully ‘seal the deal’ on a new agreement.
“Seldom in history has a choice been so clear. We can move toward a future of sustainable green growth, or we can continue down the road to ruin. We can act on climate change now, or we can leave it to our children and grandchildren – a debt that can never be paid, that threatens our planet and its people,” he added.
“I call on the world’s leaders to lead. Time is running out. There is no time left for posturing or blaming. Every country must do its part to seal a deal in Copenhagen.”
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and green advocate Wangari Maathai will be inducted as a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on the environment and climate change at a ceremony in Copenhagen today.
“Professor Maathai’s long record of achievement in environmental conservation and sustainable development makes her an excellent choice,” the Secretary-General said Monday.
Professor Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, founded the grassroots group known as the Green Belt Movement, which has planted more than 40 million trees on community lands across Africa and worked to improve environmental conservation and reduce poverty.