Strong words from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at Copenhagen climate summit

Publish date: May 24, 2009

COPENHAGEN – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon while opening a three-day climate conference here spoke up with some surprisingly strong words, zeroing in on the world climate crisis as being no excuse not to act when time is critical to save the climate.

Speaking at the World Business summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen attended by some 700 participants, Ban said, “Some say we can’t afford to act in the middle of the financial crisis. I disagree. What we can’t afford are more short sighted solutions.”

He said that time is of the essence and stressed that the current world financial meltdown must not scuttle efforts on climate change and green technology, which could actually kick-start crucial elements of the world economy.  

The current summit is one of several conferences leading up to the big climate meeting in Copenhagen in December (COP15). During the COP15, the member countries of the UN climate convention will negotiate a new agreement on climate change that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires by the end of 2012.

The opening of the summit saw scuffles between police and protesters. Activists accused the big business participants  of the summit of being  responsible for the current climate crisis, and asserted that they should be the ones to solve it.

Bellona President Frederic Hauge is attending the summit and said it was uplifting to listen to the Secretary-General.

“Ban Ki-Moon was unusually clear. It was liberating to listen to him both during his speech and at the reception afterwards,” said Hauge. “It was also liberating to hear him say that there are very many jobs to be found within green technology. I have never heard him so outspoken before.”

Crucial for the future – opponents ‘running out of time’
During his speech Ban Ki-Moon emphasized numerous instances in which a new climate agreement was crucial for the future of the planet.

“Climate is the core of all the greater challenges we face today,” he said.

And for the opponents and the sceptics of a new climate deal he had the following message: “For those who are directly or implicitly lobbying against climate action I have a clear message: your ideas are out of date and you are running out of time.”

CO2-emissions have to decrease
Ban went on to saying that greenhouse gas emissions need to peak within the next 10 years and then decrease if we are to succeed with the climate effort.

“We know that the price of doing nothing will be much higher than if we act now,” he said. “We know that we have the tools, but what we lack is the will,” the Secretary-General told those gathered at the summit.     

Amongst them were the Queen Margrethe and Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark. The main speaker of the summit was former US Vice-President, and Nobel Peace Prize co-winner for his work in climate change issues,Al Gore.

New economic order
In his speech, Gore said that the cost of polluting is too low and that this cheap cost is the decisive obstacle against real climate efforts. Gore explained how the economics that were developed during the economic crisis in the 1930s didn’t incorporate a price for damaging the environment.

“We are transitioning to energy sources which are eternally free: sun, wind and earth itself,” Gore said. He also praised US president Barack Obama for already having upgraded the American climate effort.

“Gore was crystal clear as always,” said Frederic Hauge, adding, “Gore is very satisfied with Obama, which I agree with, but there is still a long way to go. At least now we’re discussing if the US climate effort is good enough and not how bad it is. That is a great improvement.”

Indeed, Ban himself, while praising the new US legislative effort to cap emissions, also said he didn’t think the United States was going far enough.

The bill that passed through the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday aimed to cut US greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming by 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020.

"That’s clearly lower than other countries are now aiming, particularly the European Union," Ban said in a sideline interview with Reuters during the summit.

"I appreciate President Obama and his administration taking an active role. Now we need to continue to encourage the United States to do more," he said, adding that he welcomed the House of Representatives Committee.

Several climate profiles
The summit attracted several high-profile participants in the world climate battle, among them Danish Environment, Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard, Norwegian Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Secretary-General of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Ivo de Boer.

For more information about the ongoing summit, click here.

During the summit opening on Sunday, there were clashes between protesters and police. About 300 protesters tried to break police barriers and get in to the conference centre, but were stopped by the police. Some 38 of the protesters were taken in custody by the police.

With the slogan “It’s our climate not your business!” the protesters managed to hook into the loudspeaker system at the conference centre and play loud reggae-music to interrupt summit participants.  

According to the protesters it’s wrong that the big companies, which in the protesters view are responsible for the emissions and the climate crisis, should be the ones to find the solutions – because they will set profit before anything else.

This article was written by Annicken Vargel and translated by Håvard Lundberg. Charles Digges contributed to this report.

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