Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change speaks during a press conference in Poznan, Poland, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008. The United Nations Climate Change Conference will start Monday Dec. 1 in Poznan. [Agencies]
The global financial crisis already has delayed some green energy projects, stoking fears that a shortage of investment money will lead to cheap and dirty decisions on new power plants, the UN's top climate official said.
Instead, investors should see the crisis as "an opportunity for green growth" as they replace up to 40 percent of the world's power generation over the next decade, said Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"The financial crisis will have an impact on climate change," he said Sunday. As investment money dries up, oil prices are dropping, which could discourage clean energy investments. "You already are seeing around the world a number of wind energy projects being pushed back," he said.
On Monday, 10,000 delegates from 186 countries and environmental activists begin a two-week conference on an agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The conference concludes with two days of talks among 150 government ministers, to be opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Kyoto accord put limits on carbon emissions from many industrial countries and called on them to help poor countries adapt to the effects of human-induced global warming.
The negotiations over the next 12 months, leading to an agreement to be signed in Copenhagen, Denmark next year, "will affect the world that we leave behind us," De Boer said.
Scientists warn of potentially catastrophic results unless emissions begin to fall within the next 10-15 years, from rising sea levels and fiercer storms to shortages of water, mass migrations and the extinction of species of plants and animals.
The US refused to ratify the Kyoto agreement, saying it would be harmful to the economy.
Delegates in Poznan expect the conference to be energized by the statements of President-elect Barack Obama, who has signaled a turnaround in US policy and promised to take a leadership role on climate change.
De Boer welcomed Obama's pledge last week to a conference of US governors to launch an energy revolution as a way to create millions of new jobs and help revive the American economy.
"I'm very happy with what he has already committed to do," De Boer said.
Obama is not sending his own team to the Poznan conference, but has asked a congressional delegation led by Democratic Sen. John Kerry to report back to him. In a conference call with reporters last week, Kerry said it would take the Obama administration at least a year to prepare domestic legislation that would clear the way for a US signature on a new climate change treaty.
Acknowledging the reality of the US legislative process and the complexity of the pact, De Boer said an agreement may not be ready for signing by next December.
"Do we have to agree on every last comma in every last rule on every last aspect of a Copenhagen agreement? Or do we need to have a political understanding on the key elements?" he said.
If negotiators could agree in Copenhagen on the nature of emissions commitments and on financing for poor countries, the details could be worked out later, he said.
Delegates agreed last year on a 2009 deadline to allow time for the treaty to be ratified and ready to function when the Kyoto agreement expires.
(China Daily December 1, 2008)