Posted by Imaduddin
UNITED NATIONS: The largest gathering of world leaders on climate change opened at the United Nations on Tuesday facing calls for action to put the planet on course toward reversing global warming.
“Today, we must set the world on a new course,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told leaders from 120 countries. “I am asking you to lead.”
The meeting is the first high-level gathering since the Copenhagen conference on climate change ended in disarray in 2009.
Diplomats and climate activists see the event as crucial to building momentum ahead of the Paris conference in late 2015 that is to yield a deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions after 2020.
But no-shows from the leaders of China, the world’s biggest polluter, and India, the number three carbon emitter, are casting a cloud over the event.
In his address, Ban called for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and declared that by the end of the century the world must be carbon neutral.
“Climate change threatens hard-won peace, prosperity, and opportunity for billions of people,” Ban said. “We are not here to talk. We are here to make history.”
Ban was joined at the opening by former US vice president and climate crusader Al Gore, Hollywood celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio, Chinese actress Li Bingbing and Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN climate panel, which won the Nobel peace prize in 2007.
Leaders are to take turns at the podium throughout the day, from President Barack Obama representing the world’s second biggest polluter to Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of the Pacific island-nation of Tuvalu, which faces the prospect of being wiped out by rising sea waters.
China is sending Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli while India will be represented by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.
Despite much enthusiasm from climate activists for the summit’s potential to create impetus, some see the event as falling short of what is needed to get serious about the environment.
“Few governments will be in a position to make any real commitments,” wrote the aid agency Oxfam in an assessment of the summit’s likely outcome.
The initiatives to be unveiled by the private sector, foundations, and green groups at the summit, the group said “are helpful but few, if any, are really ground-breaking.”
The summit is being held after marches drew hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on the streets in cities worldwide on Sunday in a show of “people power” directed at leaders reluctant to tackle global warming.
Key players from the private sector are also stepping into the fray to trumpet their commitment to greening, with Apple CEO Tim Cook announcing on Monday that the tech giant would prioritize low-carbon growth.
The summit talks are separate from the negotiations held under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will culminate with the Paris conference in December 2015.
The United Nations is seeking to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, but scientists say current emission trends could hike temperatures to more than twice that level by century’s end.
One recent report warned that a surge in carbon dioxide levels had pushed greenhouse gases to record highs in the atmosphere, increasing at their fastest rate in 30 years in 2013.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first international agreement to reduce emissions, has commitment periods, the last of which expired in 2012. But it has since been renewed. However the protocol was never ratified by the United States.
Attempts to negotiate a new treaty ended in fiasco at the Copenhagen conference in 2009 and the pressure is on to avoid a repeat of that failure at the UN talks in Paris next year.