UN chief tells world: we need a Green New Deal

Reuters

Posted at Dec 12 2008 12:22 AM | Updated as of Dec 12 2008 08:22 AM

POZNAN, Poland - The world must avoid backsliding in fighting global warming and work out a "Green New Deal" to fix its twin climate and economic crises, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

"We must re-commit ourselves to the urgency of our cause," Ban told about 100 environment ministers at December 1-12 U.N. talks in Poland which are working on a new climate treaty but have been overshadowed by worries about recession.

"Yes, the economic crisis is serious," he said. "Yet when it comes to climate change, the stakes are far higher. The climate crisis affects our potential prosperity and peoples' lives, both now and far into the future."

"There can be no backsliding on our commitments," he said of efforts to shift from fossil fuels toward renewable energies.

Ban urged leadership on the climate from U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and from the European Union. An EU summit ending Friday will try to break the bloc's deadlock on a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.

He appealed for a modern, global environmental equivalent of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's 1930s "New Deal," which lifted the United States out of the Great Depression.

"We need a Green New Deal," Ban declared.

Coping with the financial crisis would need a "massive stimulus," he added. "A big part of that spending should be an investment -- an investment in a green future."

The U.N. Climate Panel says global warming from greenhouse gases, mainly generated from burning fossil fuels, will cause more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas.

The Poznan talks are reviewing progress at the halfway mark of a two-year push to work out a global pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N. pact binding 37 nations to curb emissions by about 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

Leadership

John Kerry, designated head of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Obama would invest heavily in renewable energies and "green jobs" to help end the recession.

"President Obama will be like night and day compared to President Bush," he told reporters of Obama's climate policies.

Obama wants to cut U.S. emissions, now running 17 percent above 1990 levels, back to those levels by 2020. Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol and his laxer policies would allow emissions to keep rising until 2025.

Kerry said it was "absolutely essential" that China, which has overtaken the United States as the world's top carbon dioxide emitter, gets more involved in combating global warming to win U.S. endorsement of any new treaty.

Developing nations, led by China and India, insist that rich nations should first set deep cuts.

In Poznan, details of a new Adaptation Fund to help poor countries adjust to the impacts of rising seas, droughts, floods and heatwaves were among the most contentious remaining issues.

Tuvalu's Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia, whose Pacific island nation is at risk from rising seas, accused some rich countries of "burying us in red tape" to deny access to the fund.

"We are not contemplating migration ... we will survive," Ielemia said to applause from delegates.

The Adaptation Fund could reach $300 million a year by 2012 to help countries build coastal defenses or develop drought-resistant crops.

Among other nations, Mexico said it planned to set caps on greenhouse gas emissions next year for the first time.

The Poznan talks agreed a timetable for work next year, including three preparatory meetings before a conference in Copenhagen, where the successor to the Kyoto Protocol is due to be finalized in December.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the decisions meant that backers of Kyoto would have to set goals for emissions cuts beyond 2012 by end-March. "There is a deadline for countries to put their cards on the table," he said.