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Annan Blunt On Climate Change

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
by William M. Reilly
UPI U.N. Correspondent
United Nations (UPI) Nov 16, 2006
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will occupy his post for about six weeks more, seemed to be pulling no punches during a get-tough speech on global warming. He told the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday it must be taken as seriously as the issues that have traditionally monopolized first-order political attention such as conflict, poverty and the proliferation of deadly weapons. Annan said there should be no more excuses.

"A few diehard skeptics continue trying to sow doubt," the secretary-general said. "They should be seen for what they are, out of step, out of arguments and out of time. In fact, the scientific consensus is becoming not only more complete, but also more alarming. Many scientists long known for their caution are now saying that global warming trends are perilously close to a point of no return."

This is pretty tough talk from the world organization's top diplomat.

"Instead of being economically defensive, let us start being more politically courageous," Annan said. "The Nairobi conference must send a clear, credible signal that the world's political leaders take climate change seriously. The question is not whether climate change is happening, but whether, in the face of this emergency, we ourselves can change fast enough."

Those political leaders the secretary-general was directing his remarks to include heads of state and governments of countries who are members of the United Nations and, in effect, his boss.

"One of the things that has obliged him in the past, is he has to go on working with them," one senior U.N. official told United Press International, referring to Annan's new stance. "Now that he is on his way out the door he feels free to speak out."

Annan said climate change is not just an environmental issue, but is "an all-encompassing threat." He cited growing threats posed by climate change to human health, the global food supply, to communities facing inundation due to rising sea-levels, and even a threat to peace and security.

Economists also are warning about the cost of climate change, the secretary-general said, citing the study released last week by Britain's Nicholas Stern, warning climate change could shrink the global economy by 20 percent and cause economic and social disruption on a scale with that of the two World Wars and the Great Depression.

Annan said responding to climate change did not mean the economic growth of nations would be impaired. In fact, he told the conference it could be cost-effective.

"Low emissions need not mean low growth, or stifling a country's development aspirations," he said, adding, "it will cost far less to cut emissions now than to deal with the consequences later."

The U.N. chief, retiring Dec. 31 after serving two terms of five years each, called for more research and development, saying current levels "are woefully, dangerously low," and for more "green" approaches to meet surging energy demand.

There is a need to help people adapt to global warming and its effects, particularly in the world's poorest countries.

More than 100 ministers and 6,000 participants attended the conference in Nairobi where discussions moved forward on efforts to support adaptation to climate change, as well as on future commitments to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, that cause climate change, after the 2012 expiration of the Kyoto Protocol, which contains binding emissions targets.

Edward Mortimer, Annan's director of communications and chief speech writer, told UPI there were other issues the secretary-general was expected to speak forthrightly on in the next few weeks ranging from development and bio-technology to nuclear, human rights and global governance topics.

"He wants to leave the international community with some reflections on the lessons learned and express his beliefs from the last 10 years," said Mortimer.

Asked why Annan chose to speak out on climate change in Nairobi, Mortimer replied, "He probably would have had to anyway; It's a no-brainer; It's not taken seriously enough, only one major government in the world has" the United Kingdom.

After delivering his remarks at the conference, the secretary-general met with reporters and continued his tough talk.

"We cannot wait until 2012 and I'm really hopeful that, given the kind of movement we are seeing now, the pressures governments and leaders are coming under, we will come up with a mechanism that will go beyond 2012," the U.N. chief said, adding that failure to reach an agreement "would be catastrophic."

Source: United Press International

Related Links
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Talks On Post-2012 Kyoto Format Hit Political Snag
Nairobi (AFP) Nov 16, 2006
Efforts to deepen action against climate change struggled against political obstacles on Thursday, the penultimate day of marathon UN talks to address the world's most pressing environmental threat. Negotiators battled for consensus among industrialised countries over the shape of a poker game, due to start next year, on future commitments for cutting greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol, delegates said.

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