Figueres: alarm bells are ringing

2011-11-28 00:00

THERE is a growing momentum for action on climate change, said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary, Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), speaking ahead of the UN climate change conference (COP17) that opens in Durban today.

“New research findings are sounding the alarm bells for urgent action,” she said.

Figueres said 18 major carbon-emitting countries have passed national legislation that will feed into the COP17 negotiations and there is increasing engagement with climate change issues not only by governments, but also the private sector and civil society.

“We need to make COP17 in Durban the next concentrated step in response to climate change on the international level,” Figueres said.

This means putting decisions made at Cancun’s COP16 into operation.

These include a technology mechanism to promote clean energy and adaptation-related technologies, an adaptation framework to co-ordinate international co-operation and technology transfer to help developing countries better protect themselves from climate change impacts, and an end to the design phase of the Green Climate Fund.

She emphasised the need for an international review mechanism to look at the adequacy of governments’ efforts to reduce emissions, which should start in 2013 and end in 2015.

Figueres said there must also be a serious effort to move into a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.

While she is aware of the EU’s proposal for a legally binding framework to capture 100% of greenhouse gas emissions, she said, it is too soon to know how other countries at COP17 will respond.

Asked about low expectations with regard to the outcome of COP17, she said that if this is the case it is because people don’t understand the complexity of the issues to be negotiated.

“If it was easy we would have done it years ago. We are facing nothing short of the most compelling energy, industrial, and behavioural revolution that humanity has ever seen,” she said. “And the science shows we need to speed up the action.”

• feature1@witness.co.za

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