UN Climate Change Debate Expected Sept. 24
Author: Evelyn Leopold
Ban said the international community's awareness has grown rapidly since this year's reports by the UN-organized Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said efforts to rein in carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases would have to start now to limit the impact on humans and nature.
In making global warming one of his top priorities, Ban, in an interview with Reuters Television on Wednesday, said the expected date for a high level meeting was the day before prime ministers and foreign ministers address the General Assembly.
"It has not been announced yet but it is tentatively for Sept. 24," Ban said.
The secretary-general, a former South Korean foreign minister who took office on Jan. 1, said the international community largely agreed the United Nations "should take a leading role in galvanizing much needed actions."
Still, last Friday, the key UN intergovernmental body on the environment ended a conference among ministers from around the world without coming up with a document after the European Union blocked a final paper because it did not include targets for energy efficiency or global warming.
Ban said he was not discouraged by the failure of the Commission on Sustainable Development but had received enough indicators of "growing support on the climate change issues."
Ban has appointed three advisers -- former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and former South Korean foreign minister Han Seung-soo -- to sound out government leaders ahead of the September event and subsequent conference.
The UN meeting in September will likely provide a prelude for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December in Bali, Indonesia, where UN officials hope to launch formal negotiations on a new treaty.
So far the annual UN climate conferences have made little progress in devising new treaty obligations once the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of carbon emissions expires in 2012, possibly leaving the world without global warming regulations.
The issue remains contentious for several governments, including the Bush administration, which has fought mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions that spur climate change.
Washington points to China and other large developing nations, like India not part of the Kyoto treaty, to cap their emissions first. Beijing contends that its emissions per person of carbon dioxide from fossil burning fuel, are less than a sixth of US per capita emissions.
Ban also intends to push the issue in June when he attends a meeting in Germany of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip)