Press Releases

    DSG/SM/276
         ENV/DEV/876
         8 December 2005

    Climate Change Science Solid, Threat Clear, Yet Global Community Failing to Meet Challenge, Says Deputy Secretary-General to Montreal Meeting

    NEW YORK, 07 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette's statement to the High-Level Segment of the eleventh Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the first Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Montreal, 7 December:

    The evidence for climate change is all around us. Declining ice and snow cover in the Arctic. Retreating glaciers there and elsewhere. Extreme weather events occurring with ever greater frequency. And all of this too pronounced, and too concentrated, to be explained away as random.

    Scientists largely agree that the future picture is equally disconcerting. We will see species extinctions. Rising sea levels. Diminishing agricultural yields in many areas. And impacts on human health.

    This is science, not science fiction. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations' scientific advisory process, has examined the evidence. Their authoritative assessment suggests that climate change is happening, that human activities are among the main contributing factors, and that we cannot wait any longer to take action. Indeed, the longer we wait, the higher the costs. And while developing countries are most vulnerable, all countries will suffer.

    The science is solid. The threat is clear. Yet, our response is failing to meet the challenge.

    Every year, this conference offers an opportunity to take stock of the struggle against climate change. This year, there is also something to celebrate: the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. Moreover, the World Summit at the United Nations three months ago stressed the importance of this conference in advancing the global discussion on long-term cooperative action to address climate change. We must sustain this momentum.

    Certainly, we can and must build on what we have.

    As parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change and -- many but not all of you -- to the Protocol as well, you have an obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, and to fulfil the other promises you have made.

    You have created new and useful tools such as the clean development mechanism, which allows developed countries to support climate-friendly sustainable development projects in developing countries, and thereby earn credits towards their emission-reduction commitments. You should explore ways to strengthen these tools, and resolve to make greater use of them.

    But what we have is not enough. The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol takes us only to the year 2012. We need a framework that goes beyond that, and embraces action by all countries to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations. I urge all industrialized countries to intensify their efforts to bring emissions well below 1990 levels, thus paving the way for action in the developing world.

    Let us also understand that, no matter how much we do to reduce emissions, the build-up has already been enough to make some climate change inevitable. Therefore, we will need to adapt to climate change. Fortunately, there is much we can do to soften the impact, such as building flood walls, and planting crops more suited to warmer temperatures.

    Climate change is a burden. But it is also an opportunity. The right mix of policies and incentives could galvanize the development of greener technologies, and inspire important changes in corporate and consumer habits. Providing modern energy services for sustainable development to the 1.6 billion people who lack access to electricity could prevent indoor and local air pollution, and reinvigorate the fight against poverty.

    The private sector has a vital part to play. But first and foremost, it is the job of Governments to set the wheels in motion. And the lead must come from the industrialized countries. They are responsible for most of the world's current greenhouse gas emissions. And they are best placed, both economically and technologically, to make -- and help others make -- the necessary changes.

    The world is on a perilous path. We are, in effect, carrying out an uncontrolled experiment with the global climate, which involves serious risks for ecosystems, economies and human health. This conference can help shape a different, more hopeful, more secure future. I urge you to be bold and creative. There is really no time to lose.

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