The Heat Is Online

UNFCCC Chief Elyazghi Warns of Climate Crisis

United Nations issues climate change warning
By the Associated Press
, Oct.23, 2002

NEW DELHI, India -- Weather catastrophes around the world show there is little doubt the Earth's climate is changing, the outgoing head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change warned Wednesday.

The Earth is facing a "worrisome situation, with catastrophes occurring daily, causing enormous damage and making climate change an undeniable reality," said Mohamed Elyazghi of Morocco, the outgoing president of the U.N. Convention, at a conference aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curb global warming.

The 10-day U.N. Climate Change Convention is to focus on preparing governments and civilians, especially in developing countries, for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which comes into effect early next year.

Government leaders and environmental scientists from around the world were gathering to discuss implementation of the landmark accord, which calls for cuts in carbon emissions.

The United Nations says recent climate disasters around the world -- from droughts in India to floods throughout Europe -- are potent reminders of the expected consequences of global warming.

Environmentalists warn rising temperatures will increase the frequency and severity of heat waves and tropical cyclones, while possible shifts in climate patterns could lead to changes in rainfall patterns, leading to more intense floods and droughts.

Rules for implementing the accord were concluded last year in Morocco. The convention in New Delhi was to focus on financing for projects to help developing countries adopt climate-friendly technologies for reducing carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

T.R. Baalu, India's minister for environment and forest and the new conference president, said: "Higher priority should be given to adaptation ... keeping in view that those with the least resources have the least capacity to adapt and are the most vulnerable."

Baalu said developed countries must take the lead in changing their habits, and those that have signed the protocol are committed to taking steps that reverse the damage.

While delegates at the conference worked out the nitty-gritty of speeding up funding to implement the protocol, nongovernment organizations held separate meetings where they criticized the slow pace of achieving emission reduction targets and the lack of funds for developing countries to adopt cleaner technologies.

"We believe the Kyoto protocol is woefully inadequate in curbing emissions, considering the enormity of the problem confronting us," said Kate Hampton of Friends of the Earth International.

Environmental activists also warned of the dangers of partial solutions to the problem.

"We have to ensure that the Kyoto protocol comes into force, and at the same time work for cleaner technologies. We shouldn't get sidetracked, nor allow the treaty to be watered down," said Karla Schoeters of the Climate Action Network, a Brussels-based NGO.

So far, 96 countries, including India and the European Union countries, have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which was negotiated in 1997. Afghanistan became the latest country to ratify on Sept. 19, announced Joke Waller-Hunter, the U.N. conference's executive secretary.

The United States has refused to ratify the agreement, saying it will be too costly for industries.

U.N. organizers said the convention would be attended by more than 3,000 delegates from the United Nations' 185 member states.

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