Disasters show 'screaming' need for action - climate chief

2nd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres on Thursday warned that a string of weather calamities showed the deepening urgency to forge a breakthrough deal on global warming this year.

Speaking before some 40 countries were to address finance, an issue that has helped hamstring UN climate talks, Figueres said floods in Pakistan, fires in Russia and other weather disasters had been a shocking wakeup call.

"The news has been screaming that a future of intense, global climate disasters is not the future that we want," Figueres, newly-appointed executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told reporters.

"Science will show whether and how those events are related to climate change caused by humanity's greenhouse-gas emissions, but the point is clear: We cannot afford to face escalating disasters of that kind."

Figueres called on governments to agree on "four or five" major planks at year-end UNFCCC talks in Cancun, Mexico, which would then serve as a platform for a 2012 global pact on climate.

"We read it that countries are assuming their responsibility, that they're being realistic, that they're being productive, that they're being constructive and that they're counting on very clear outcomes from Cancun," she said.

One of the issues in Cancun will be funding.

"The regulation of the financial issues is a key precondition for the successful conclusion of the climate negotiations in Cancun," said Swiss Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger, in a speech to open the talks.

Hundreds of billions of dollars are needed to prevent future emissions of greenhouse gases by emerging economies and help poor countries facing worsening drought, flood, storms and rising seas.

The Geneva talks, running until Friday, gather more than 40 countries at ministerial level, including big advanced economies, emerging giants and countries representative of poor nations.

The tentative goal is to establish a "dialogue" on the broad lines of how to gear up as much as 100 billion dollars a years by 2020.

The many questions include the resources of this fund, the role of the private and public sector and how the money would be administered.

On Friday, Dutch Environment Minister Tineke Huizinga will unveil a website detailing action so far on "fast-track" finance of 30 billion dollars that has been promised over the next three years.

Both are the key pledges made by rich countries at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen last December, an event that bickering, textual wrangling and finger-pointing brought to within an inch of catastrophe.

Mistrust festers today, especially among developing countries eyeing the few solid promises made at that ill-fated meeting.

Developing countries in particular want assurances that the 30 billion dollars in short-term finance will come from new sources and is not siphoned off from development aid or existing budgets, said Oxfam policy advisor Romain Benicchio.

Switzerland and Mexico, co-hosting the meeting, insist the Geneva talks do not constitute the gathering of a cosy elite.

Instead, they say, the outcome will feed into the UN process, deemed the sole valid vehicle, despite its many problems, for dealing with the climate peril.

The 194-nation UNFCCC forum next meets in Tianjin, China, in October followed in Cancun from November 29-December 10.

After the traumatic outcome of Copenhagen, expectations have been dialled down.

At best, say experts, Cancun will deliver good progress on the main issues, but the world will have to wait for another year before a draft treaty sees daylight.

If all goes well, the accord would take effect beyond 2012, after present commitments under the UNFCCC's Kyoto Protocol expire, setting down a charter for drastically curbing man-made greenhouse gas emissions and building financial support.

© 2010 AFP

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