UN: climate change may cost $20
Jan 31, 2008 - The Associated Press
Global warming could cost the world
up to $20 trillion over two decades for cleaner energy
sources and do the most harm to people who can least
afford to adapt, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
warns in a new report.
Ban's report provides an overview of
U.N. climate efforts to help the 192-nation General
Assembly prepare for a key two-day climate debate
in mid-February. That debate is intended to shape
overall U.N. policy on climate change, including how
nations can adapt to a warmer world and ways of supporting
the U.N.-led negotiations toward a new climate treaty
by 2009, U.N. officials said Wednesday.
The treaty, replacing the Kyoto Protocol
when it expires in 2012, could shape the course of
climate change for decades to come. The Kyoto pact
requires 37 industrial nations to reduce greenhouse
gases by a relatively modest 5 percent on average.
Much of the focus has been on the United
States, the only major industrial nation to reject
the treaty, and on fast-developing nations such as
China and India. Many are looking to next year, when
a new U.S. president takes the White House. The leading
contenders in both political parties favor doing more
than the voluntary approaches and call for new technologies
that President Bush espouses.
In his 52-page report, Ban says that
global investments of $15 trillion to $20 trillion
over the next 20 to 25 years may be required "to place
the world on a markedly different and sustainable
energy trajectory." Today, the global energy industry
spends about $300 billion a year in new plants, transmission
networks and other new investment, according to U.N.
Srgjan Kerim, a Macedonian diplomat
and economics professor who is president of the U.N.
General Assembly, told The Associated Press that cutting
greenhouse gases alone will not be enough to pull
island nations, sub-Saharan Africa and other particularly
vulnerable parts of the world back from the brink
of irreversible harm.
"Cutting emissions is a very important
dimension, but that's not enough for this equation,"
Kerim said in an interview this week. "Inventing new
technologies, renewable energies, investing more in
research and development, is also a very viable way
and remedy for resolving the problem."
In December, under the auspices of the
U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the 186
nations that attended a climate meeting in Bali, Indonesia,
agreed on a "Bali Roadmap" of principles to craft
a successor to the Kyoto treaty.
Last year, a Noble Prize-winning U.N.
network of climate and other scientists warned of
rising seas, droughts, severe weather and other dire
consequences without sharp cutbacks in emissions of
the industrial, transportation and agricultural gases
blamed for warming.
That network, called the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, advised that emissions should
be reduced by 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990
levels by 2020.
"Climate change and its implications
is a broader process, more profound than negotiations
among member states," Kerim said. "So our aim, our
goal is to support that process, not to replace it."
Kerim said he wants to encourage partnerships
between businesses and governments, and that he would
refrain from encouraging nations to assign blame --
and added responsibility -- to the United States and
other rich nations for their historical pollution.
"To approach the issue must be a forward
looking way," he said. "We have to now try to find
a way out. And to find a way out, you don't look in
the rear mirror which shows you the back of your car."
British billionaire Richard Branson,
who has decided to invest heavily in "biofuels" along
with his Virgin brand of several hundred companies,
will be a special guest at the assembly meeting, Kerim
"He was one of the first who reacted
and who said that he's prepared to finance projects
for clean energies and technologies," Kerim said.
Like Ban, who told the AP in December
that his No. 1 priority is persuading the world to
agree to new controls on global warming gases before
the end of 2009, Kerim calls the challenges of climate
change "my flagship topic."
In his report, Ban warned that global
warming would probably affect women more than men.
"The challenge of climate change is unlikely to be
gender-neutral, as it increases the risk to the most
vulnerable and less empowered social groups," he said.
Annie Petsonk, a lawyer for the advocacy
group Environmental Defense, said global warming will
most affect poor people and minorities, because the
wealthy can spend more to adapt. "Women in poorer
communities are going to face greater challenges protecting
their children from the spread of diseases, polluted
water, water shortages and so on," she said.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All
rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.