DOHA - Extreme weather is the new normal and poses a threat to the human race, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday, as he sought to revive deadlocked global climate change talks.
Ban's intervention came as efforts to agree a symbolic extension of the U.N. Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that obliges about 35 developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, looked to be faltering.
In a speech to almost 200 nations meeting in Doha to try to get a breakthrough, Ban said a thaw in Arctic sea ice to record lows this year, superstorms and rising sea levels were all signs of a crisis.
"The abnormal is the new normal," he told delegates at the Nov. 26-Dec. 7 talks. He said signs of change were apparent everywhere and "from the United States to India, from Ukraine to Brazil, drought (has) decimated essential global crops".
"No one is immune to climate change - rich or poor. It is an existential challenge for the whole human race - our way of life, our plans for the future," he said.
Urging nations to cast off their apathy and embrace ambition, he had earlier said that Superstorm Sandy, which lashed the Caribbean and the United States a month ago, had "given us an awakening call".
The failure to agree a Kyoto extension is blocking efforts to lay the foundations of a new global U.N. deal that is meant to be agreed in 2015 and to enter into force from 2020.
At the last attempt in 2009, a summit in Copenhagen failed to agreed a global deal to succeed Kyoto.
Kyoto required countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels from 2008 to 2012.
'A blank slate'
Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University's environmental economics programme, said there was some hope that an accord could be struck in 2015.
"It's a blank slate and there is always hope for long-term happiness," he said, likening the situation to somebody seeking a new romance after being twice divorced.
Ban said that Kyoto should be a platform for future climate change action even though Russia, Japan and Canada are pulling out, leaving a group led by the European Union and Australia that account for only 15 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions.
The defectors say Kyoto is no longer relevant because emerging nations led by China and India will have no targets to curb their soaring emissions from 2013. And the United States, the second biggest emitter behind China, never ratified Kyoto.
Ban also said that rich nations should step up aid to help the poor cope with climate change after a $10-billion-a-year funding programme promised for 2010-12 runs out.
Rich nations have set a long-term goal of providing $100 billion in aid by 2020 and poor nations say they want a clear timetable for aid from 2013. Faced with an economic slowdown at home, most developed nations are only promising "continued" aid.
Britain said it would spend around £1.8 billion ($2.9 billion) to finance climate change measures from 2013-15, on top of previously announced funds for 2011-15. It also unveiled new projects from Africa to Colombia, including a 98-million-pound-scheme ($157.75 million) to aid renewable power generation in Africa.
"If anything, the science is telling us it's now getting warmer quicker than we had previously expected," said Ed Davey, British energy and environment minister. "Our actions as a world are going slower than we had previously hoped."