Ban warns world 'in race against time' to tackle warming


The world is in a “race against time” in tackling climate change as “the window of opportunity to avoid dangerous warming is closing”, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said last night.

As ministers arrived in Doha, Qatar, for the “high-level segment” of the UN’s 18th climate change conference, Mr Ban issued a clarion call to them to show political will in dealing with the many contentious issues that remain to be resolved.

Flanked by Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Mr Ban said global warming had been at the top of his agenda since he took office in 2007 “because it affects everyone clearly and profoundly”.

Binding agreement

Calling on delegates from 194 countries to “match the scale of the challenge [and] sustain momentum” to ensure a binding international agreement on climate change in 2015, Mr Ban said: “We have a clear choice – either to stand together or fall together.”

The secretary general was speaking to the media in advance of the high-level plenary session’s formal opening by Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

Mr Ban admitted that the recently established Green Climate Fund was an “empty shell at this time”. He said it was a matter of credibility for richer UN member states to present vulnerable countries with a road map on how financing for climate change adaptation and mitigation would be met, so that it could be ramped up to $100 billion (€76.5 billion) a year in 2020.

Asked about the role of the US, Mr Ban said he was encouraged that US president Barack Obama had mentioned the need to deal with climate change in his recent victory speech. It was up to the US, the EU and the developed world to show leadership.

Although “some people may not want to see all of this, pretending to be blind”, Mr Ban said climate change was a clear scientific fact and everyone – not only governments, but also the business community, civil society and private citizens – had a role to play.

Qatar’s emissions

When asked about the irony of a climate change conference being held in a country with the highest per capita carbon emissions in the world, Mr Ban said Qatar and other Gulf states were making “quite creative and smart investments” in solar energy.

Last night, the emir of Qatar – where petrol costs 21 cents per litre – hosted a sumptuous dinner at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha for ministers and other delegation leaders in advance of a round-table discussion today on how they could increase their “level of ambition”.

The conference president, Qatar deputy premier Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, said ministers would be able to discuss all the issues frankly and freely, and made it clear that he had no hidden agenda: “I can assure you this is not my style.”

Mr Attiyah gave assurances in response to claims that select “closed-door meetings” were taking place behind the scenes, as happened at the December 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, which turned into a debacle as a result. Doha was very open by comparison, he said.