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Posted on on September 24th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Climate change complacency `global suicide pact,’ UN told
Obama addresses climate change summit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States was slow to recognize the magnitude of climate change, but that Washington is moving swiftly to catch up. (Sept. 22, 2009)

Sep 22, 2009

Mitch Potter
UNITED NATIONS – Complacency on climate change is tantamount to a global “suicide pact,” the President of the Maldives warned today as the largest-ever gathering of world leaders grappled with the issue at UN headquarters in New York.

Delivering an impassioned plea that stood out among a series of marquee speeches from the leaders of China, the United States, France and others, President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives pleaded with his powerful counterparts not to let the crisis slip through their fingers.

“We cannot make Copenhagen a pact of suicide — we have to make a deal,” said Nasheed, who in March emerged as a moral voice on climate change after unveiling plans to make the Maldives the first carbon neutral nation.

Today’s UN summit, unprecedented and involving nearly 100 world leaders, marks one of the final opportunities for nations to trade warm rhetoric for hard commitment in the runup to December’s Copenhagen conference, where the UN hopes a new global framework for emissions reduction will emerge to replace the failed Kyoto Accord.

President Hu Jintao told his counterparts that China is readying a four-part package of commitments aimed cutting emissions by a “notable margin.” Including a plan to plant 40-million hectares of carbon-absorbing forest.

But Hu cautioned that China, like other developing countries, “have limited capability” due to technology gaps. “Developing countries need to strike a balance between economic growth, social development and environmental protection.”

President Barack Obama said the U.S., like other nations, was “slow to response or even recognize the magnitude of the climate threat.

“But this is a new day. This is a new era. And I am proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any time in our history,” Obama said.

Doubts remain about Obama’s abliity to deliver on U.S. commitments, given that any pledges must also be sanctioned by the U.S. Congress, where a energy and climate bill may not be ready in time for Copenhagen.

But the momentum building in New York today is expected to bring new urgency to the issue — and, possibly, fresh leadership, as European delegates in particular turn up the heat.

“If we don’t take action we will face total disaster. There can be no further debate on this,” said French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who outlined the European Union’s willingness to spend as much as $100 billion over the next decade on technology transfers to enable developing countries to reduce emissions while maintaining growing economies.

“In Europe we are demonstrating we can move from growth with high carbon footprint to sustainable growth,” Sarkozy said. “No one will have to choose between unemployment and the environment.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in New York today but did not attend the morning sessions. Harper was scheduled to lunch with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and will join up with 25 world leaders tonight for a private dinner at the UN at the behest of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Instead, Environment Minister Jim Prentice took Canada’s seat, where he absorbed the full heft of the messages of Obama, Hu, Sarkozy and the other keynote speakers.

“Canada was seated about 10 feet from the speaker’s podium so it came through very clearly,” Prentice told the Star. “I thought the President of the Maldives made a very compelling speech, with a crisp analysis of the challenge we all face.”

Prentice assessed the UN gathering as a “day where the United States and China are under the microscope,” with smaller nations looking for leadership from the two flagship economies.

On the momentum for a meaningful agreement at Copenhagen, Prentice said: “It’s too early to make categorical predictions. We do have 80 days left … we’re in the thick of this and I remain hopeful.”

Speaking to reporters outside City Hall in New York, Harper dismissed suggestions Canada is on the sidelines of the debate, saying his government is working closely with the Obama administration on a “truly continental approach” to climate change.

“Our position is very clear — we want to see an effective international accord, one that includes all the major emitters of greenhouse gases. And of course we’re working very closely with the Obama administration on a truly continental approach,” the Prime Minister said.

“We think that’s going well but we’ll share those views and those perspectives tonight,” during the UN dinner.


Sarkozy proposes extra climate summit ahead of Copenhagen.


23.09.2009 on

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed that the leaaders of the major industrialised nations hold an extraordinary summit to discuss climate change ahead of the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

Concerns that negotiations on a global climate deal are close to stalemated, despite fresh proposals for domestic measures aiming to counter global warming from China, prompted the suggestion from the French leader, in New York for a day of climate discussions during a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Mr Sarkozy wants industrialised nations to come together before Copenhagen (Photo: United Nations)

“Considering how complex this negotiation is, a new summit before Copenhagen is needed,” he told attendees.
“We are on the path to failure if we continue to act as we have,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon warned ahead of the meeting: “The climate negotiations are proceeding at glacial speed. The world’s glaciers are now melting faster than human progress to protect them – and us.”

However, both China and Japan impressed with offers made over the course of the day.

Chinese President Hu Jintao committed his country to a plan that would see an expansion of forest coverage by planting trees of some 240,000 kilometres and produce 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The Chinese leader also said that his country would reduce “by a notable margin” its carbon emissions growth.

However, he did not attach a specific reduction figure to the pledge.

“At stake in the fight against climate change are the common interests of the entire world,” he said. “Out of a sense of responsibility to its own people and people across the world, China fully appreciates the importance and urgency of addressing climate change.”

Developing countries “should not … be asked to take on obligations that go beyond their development stage,” he added.

Incoming Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama also re-iterated a commitment made shortly after his election that the country will cut emissions by 25 percent by 2020, beating the EU’s binding target of 20 percent by the same date.

The EU has however committed to a cut of 30 percent if an ambitious global deal is reached in Copenhagen.

US President Barack Obama’s presentation to delegates was much anticipated but in the end underwhelmed.

“The threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing,” Mr Obama said. “And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out.”

He outlined steps the US is already taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as doubling the generating capacity from renewable energy sources over three years, constructing offshore wind plants and looking to carbon capture and storage to bury the carbon that is produced by industry and the power sector.

But the American plan to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 already announced and derided as strongly inadequate in many quarters is still tied up in the US Congress and may not be passed in advance of the Copenhagen meeting.

Nevertheless, by the end of the UN conference on Tuesday, Mr Ban and Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, host of the Copenhagen summit, impressed by the Chinese offer, had become somewhat more optimistic.

“This feeling of political momentum – that was very strong,” said Mr Rasmussen.

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