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Climate change: The road to Copenhagen 2009

NewsNotes, March-April 2009

Negotiations around the International Climate Change Treaty, which is scheduled to be completed and publicly presented in Copenhagen, Denmark in December, are carefully observed by the United Nations NGO Working Group on Climate Change. To be exact, the working group is watching to ensure that the new treaty will include measures to assist groups of people who are most exposed to climate change conditions and who need international help in order to adapt to the new realities being imposed upon them. Vulnerable societies have not benefited from the development era but currently suffer loss of land, loss of water and loss of livelihood due to climatic changes caused by excessive amounts of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere, which is due to decades of fossil fuels burned in industrialized countries.

The guest speaker at the climate change working group’s February 19 meeting was Mohammad Reza Salamat, a member of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Change Support Team, who updated the group on the secretary general’s strategy for the new treaty.

The negotiation of the Copenhagen Treaty is not precisely the work of the Security Council. Rather, it is the task of the United Nations Framework on the Climate Change Crisis (UNFCCC), which was established as a result of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. However, the secretary general has dedicated 2009 to supporting the work of creating this treaty because he is convinced that climate change is the greatest humanitarian and development dilemma facing the world, and, as such, is also a threat to global peace and security.

Therefore, Ban has established a four point strategy for supporting the UNFCCC:

  • Provide political support for the treaty negotiations: To achieve this, Ban is visiting the heads of state of the world’s governments. While calling for bold action he is soliciting the views of leaders, inquiring about their hopes and soliciting statements regarding their visions for the future. In this regard, Ban was deeply satisfied with his interview with President Obama. Their views coincide and the president expressed his intention of engaging the treaty process actively during the preparatory process. This is very important because any treaty of this magnitude would limp seriously without United States engagement and leadership. In addition, Ban is involving the legislatures that must ratify the treaty and the agencies and bureaus of government responsible for implementation. Salamat mentioned particularly finance, transportation and energy. This is a time for concerted action for global well-being.
  • Make certain that all UN sections are aware of the urgency of the climate change issue: The UN is often responding to situations of crisis around the world but this must not become an obstacle to keeping climate change at the forefront of concern. Putting forth the best possible treaty at Copenhagen will avert crises in the future.
  • Increase global awareness: NGOs are crucial in terms of popularizing the urgency of Copenhagen at the grassroots level. Then, all sectors of civil society ought to be inspired to look toward Copenhagen with hope, even though this means some changes in comfort patterns. The new treaty most likely will be broader in scope than the Kyoto Protocol, which is scheduled to expire in 2012. It is hoped that the new treaty will include provisions for those who are most vulnerable. This will require financial support from wealthy nations, a challenge during the present time of economic downturn. Yet the climate and economic crises are linked; the climate crisis cannot be ignored due to the economic crisis. The business community must be brought on board with a swift and expeditious commitment.
  • Lead by example: Ban is overseeing the renovation of the United Nations buildings. He has insisted upon a green master plan that encompasses the entire complicated renovation. In addition, travel is being diminished throughout the UN system and teleconferences are being increased. For the occasions in which travel is necessary carbon offsetting is being employed. Interestingly, it was noted that when the summer dress code was relaxed in order to diminish the amount of air conditioning used, there was a high energy saving.
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