Bonn conference hears call for political commitment to tackle climate change

UN summit in September seen as critical

World leaders will need to show “real political commitment” if an international treaty to tackle global warming is to be concluded in Paris before the end of next year, according to the Climate Action Network (Can).

Alden Meyer, spokesman for the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, told a Can-sponsored press briefing last night they would have a "golden opportunity" to show greater ambition at a UN summit in New York this September.

The summit, called by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, is to bring together most of the world's presidents or prime ministers to focus on the issue for the first time since the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, which ended in chaos.

Mr Meyer, a veteran of UN climate talks, said there was a "good mood" at the current session in Bonn, with many issues of substance put on the table. And while there was "still some wrangling going on", he expected it would move the process forward.

Tasneem Essop, of the World Wildlife Fund, said there were "lots of issues that need to be unpacked" and delegates would have to "get into negotiation mode very soon" if this year's UN climate conference in Lima, Peru, was to pave the way for a deal in Paris.

Earlier, President Anote Tong of Kiribati – a low-lying island state in the middle of the Pacific – warned that it was already “too late” to save countries such as his from being swamped by rising seas, even if a climate change agreement was reached by the end of 2015.

‘Total annihilation’

In an interview with CNN, he said “total annihilation” was now inevitable for Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Maldives and the Marshall Islands. But while they were “on the frontline today”, others would be in the same position tomorrow unless stronger action was taken.

A report, compiled by Cambridge University and the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change, has warned that “tensions will increase due to climate-driven water variability in the trans-boundary drainage systems linked to the vast Tibetan plateau”.

It noted that 40 per cent of the world’s population depended on water from the Himalayan glaciers. If these were to melt as a result of rising temperatures, millions in China, India and Pakistan would face shortages. Rivers such as the Ganges and the Yangtze could lose 20 per cent of their flow by 2050.