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UN chief: next US president must lead on climate

Published on 01/09/2008

1 September 2008

GENEVA — The next US president must show greater leadership than previous administrations in tackling climate change, the head of the United Nations said Sunday.

"All the countries in the international community are looking for more and greater leadership from the United States," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after a celebration to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Nobel Prize-winning body has become the reference point for scientific research into climate change and its meetings regularly feature heated debates between nations about how to deal with the phenomenon of global warming.

Ban praised the administration of US President George W. Bush for playing what he called an "important role" in discussing how countries can minimise greenhouse gas emissions, thought to be the main reason for global warming.

But the United States has not done enough to turn talk into action considering it is the world’s number one economy and one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, he said.

Emerging powers such as China and India point to the US rejection of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol when arguing against making commitments on climate change.

Other industrial nations have set themselves binding targets to cut emissions of carbon dioxide – the dominant greenhouse gas – while stating that any effort to achieve a global reduction hinges on US participation.

Ban told journalists in Geneva that all developed countries need to take part if emissions are to be cut by at least half by 2050.

In a report published in 2007, the IPCC said such a reduction would be necessary to stop global temperatures rising more than 3.6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Failure to do so will lead to severe droughts and cause massive hunger and poverty, it said.

"I think that, whoever may be elected as the president of the United States, may be in a better position to lead this process," Ban said.

In the run-up to November’s president election, Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain, have spoken about the need to tackle climate change and even advocated mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, a break with the current administration’s position.

Rajendra Pachauri, who heads the Geneva-based IPCC, said he believes grass roots pressure in the United States will force both men to take the issue of climate change seriously during the campaign.

Any substantive change in US behaviour will have to begin during the next two presidential terms, according to the IPCC.

According to its prediction model, global emissions must begin to drop by 2015 at the latest if the temperature target for 2050 is to be achieved.

[AP / Expatica]