Envoy: Climate Change Must Be Addressed

The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 9, 2007; 11:31 PM

UNITED NATIONS -- Industrialized nations played a major role in generating polluting emissions and must now take the lead in reversing the problem, a U.N. climate change official said Wednesday.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway, said the seriousness of global warming is no longer under debate and the moment for rapid action has arrived.

"We, the industrialized nations, must assume the largest responsibility," she said. "We are the ones who have filled up the atmosphere. We must carry the greatest responsibility for reducing emissions."

Brundtland, who is one of three new special envoys appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, spoke at a conference on sustainable development at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Wednesday's conference marked 20 years since the publication of the U.N.'s research on the environmental impact of industrial growth. Today, Brundtland said, "doubt is eliminated" on the question of the effects of fossil fuels and carbon emissions.

"It is irresponsible, reckless and deeply amoral to question the seriousness of the situation," she said. "The time for diagnosis is over. The time to act is now."

Brundtland emphasized that addressing environmental degradation can begin in individual countries but can only be solved by extensive cooperation in the international community.

"We are all victimized together," Brundtland said of climate change. "Nobody can hide from it. Nobody can buy protection."

She said industrialized nations as well as major developing countries will have to join the fight. The United States is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 international treaty that caps the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted by industrialized countries. Currently, developing countries like China and India are exempt from its obligations.

More than 1,000 diplomats began working on a new accord to succeed the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012 at a meeting this week in Bonn, Germany. The ideas will be put before a larger meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in December in Bali, Indonesia, when U.N. officials hope to launch formal negotiations on a post-Kyoto treaty.

Ban told the conference that fighting climate change was at the top of his agenda and a vital part of achieving sustainable development.

While industrial nations struggle to reduce their emissions without affecting their growth, developing nations are looking to improve their access to energy sources in order to spark growth, Ban said.

Industrial nations have a responsibility to help developing nations adapt to emerging emissions standards, he said.

© 2007 The Associated Press