UN secretary-general tells world leaders to quickly get serious about climate change
While last week’s Group of Eight (G8) meeting in Italy once again underscored the need for a new international plan to confront global warming, the rhetoric fell short because politicians from the world’s richest nations failed to agree on mid-term reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions.
Yes, the industrialised nations incrementally moved the climate change yardstick forward by agreeing they would cut emissions by 80% by 2050, when they expected global emissions to fall by 50%.
And, yes, the G8 and other leading economies from developing nations agreed in their subsequent Major Economies Forum (MEF) meeting that world temperatures must not rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius above levels recorded prior to the Industrial Revolution 150 years ago if humankind is to be spared the worst ravages associated with global warming caused by burning fossil fuels.
What was not agreed to at the meetings, however, was meaningful and necessary emission-reduction targets for 2020, contrary to the European Union which has already approved cuts of at least 20% below 1990 levels.
This lack of commitment by other nations and regions to deal with the carbon monster that modern society has thrived upon for far too long caught the immediate ire of none other than UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“The time for delays and half-measures is over,” Ban said. “The personal leadership of every head of State or government is needed to seize this moment to protect people and the planet from one of the most serious challenges ever to confront humanity.”
Ban, who is among those attempting to pressure countries to reach a strengthened post-Kyoto pact on greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen in December, said the long-term goals announced last week are simply not credible without transparent mid-term targets.
“Developed countries must lead by example in making firm commitments to reduce their emissions by 2020 on the order of the 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us is required. It is disappointing to note that thus far, the mid-term emissions targets announced by developed countries in the MEF are not in this range.”
According to the UN news website, Ban said countries at last week’s meetings in Italy have a special responsibility since they have caused more than 80% of global emissions.
“If they fail to act this year, they will have squandered a unique historical opportunity that may not come again… We stand at a historical crossroads. Business as usual is no longer viable.”
However, Ban also noted that “based on the principal of equity,” all nations must join the fight against global warming. Rich countries can help developing nations with funding and technical assistance required to mitigate climate change, he said, while poor countries can also increase efforts to slash emissions.
The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is pleased that Ban is using his international pulpit to shed light on politicians nervous that cutting emissions might somehow harm national economies dealing with the ongoing global recession and diminishing energy reserves.
Policy makers should be reminded, however, that numerous studies indicate embracing a new green economy, one that includes a rapid expansion of wind power and other renewables, is the only way out of our present morass.
For some time now, EWEA believes, there has been ample empirical evidence to show that a low-carbon revolution can increase high-technology jobs, promote research and development, provide ever-larger amounts of local, affordable, sustainable electricity and help begin to cool the troubled Earth’s warming atmosphere. Like Ban says, it is time for politicians to act like leaders and begin the long overdue de-carbonisation process.
When dealing with the potential catastrophes unchecked global warming is likely to unleash in the not too distant future, there is no other logical course of action.