Mrs Robinson’s new role

Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 08:11

Nobody could accuse UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of having a shortage of ambassadors to promote the urgency of tackling global warming, following his appointment this week of former president Mary Robinson as his latest Special Envoy for Climate Change. She now joins three other special envoys in this area, former prime minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg and former president of Ghana John Kufuor, both of whom were appointed last December, and former major of New York City Michael Bloomberg, who was given responsibility for cities and climate change in January.

It would appear that the UN secretary-general felt the need to surround himself with such heavy hitters to ensure that the climate summit he is convening in New York this September is a diplomatic success. This will, no doubt, be measured not just by the number of world leaders who turn up but also in terms of their clout. US President Barack Obama will be there as well as Taoiseach Enda Kenny and many other European leaders, although there are still doubts about whether German chancellor Angela Merkel will attend. A persuasive call from Mrs Robinson might do the trick.

Ban Ki-Moon, like many others, has his eye on the prize of achieving a comprehensive global agreement to deal with climate change at the UN’s 21st conference on the issue in Paris at the end of next year. Whatever happens, the UN secretary-general is determined to avoid a repetition of the débacle of Copenhagen in 2009, when the whole edifice collapsed like a house of cards. Thus, firmer building blocks are now being put in place for Paris in December 2015.

The world can ill-afford another débacle. May this year was the warmest since records began and there are numerous other indicators that we’re running out of time to avert catastrophe. Given her experience as a climate advocate through her own foundation, Mrs Robinson is uniquely well-equipped to assist in ensuring that the often tedious UN climate negotiations are kept on track.

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