Nations Urge Action on Global Warming at U.N. Representatives from nearly 100 countries at the first U.N. General Assembly meeting on climate change signal strong support for talks on a new international deal to tackle global warming.
NPR logo Nations Urge Action on Global Warming at U.N.

Nations Urge Action on Global Warming at U.N.

An iceberg melts in Kulusuk Bay, eastern Greenland. The melting of the Greenland ice cap and its effect on the area around Greenland is one of the more immediate effects of climate change. John McConnico/AP Photos hide caption

toggle caption
John McConnico/AP Photos

An iceberg melts in Kulusuk Bay, eastern Greenland. The melting of the Greenland ice cap and its effect on the area around Greenland is one of the more immediate effects of climate change.

John McConnico/AP Photos

More On Global Warming

Representatives from nearly 100 countries at the first U.N. General Assembly meeting on climate change signaled strong support for talks on a new international deal to tackle global warming.

There was so much interest among worried nations - many facing drought, floods and searing heat - that the two-day meeting was extended for an additional day.

"We now have the momentum," General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa told delegates at the closing session Thursday evening. "What we do with this is more important. We need to ensure that we agree an equitable, fair and ambitious global deal to match the scale of the challenges ahead."

Clinching that deal will likely take several years of difficult negotiations, expected to start at a December meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali. It will focus on a replacement for the Kyoto protocol, which requires 35 industrial nations to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, when the accord expires.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has made climate change a top priority since taking the reins of the U.N. on Jan. 1, urged all countries to reach a comprehensive agreement by 2009, which would leave time for governments to ratify the accord so it could take effect in 2013.

In an effort "to build on existing momentum" and "galvanize political will" for the negotiations, Ban said he was convening a high-level meeting on climate change on Sept. 24, a day before the General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting begins.

The question of what to do to tackle climate change has become increasingly complex because of competing environmental, economic and energy concerns from countries with different priorities.

The United States, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is not a party to the Kyoto agreement, and large developing countries such as China, the second-largest emitter, India and Brazil are exempt from its obligations. They are afraid they will be called on to reduce emissions after 2012, which would hurt their economic growth and poverty-eradication efforts.

At the same time, small island states in the Pacific are demanding action to deal with rising sea levels that could wipe them off the map, while oil-producing countries are concerned that a major source of revenue could be harmed by climate change action in the future.

Koji Tsuruoka, the Japanese Foreign Ministry's director general for global issues and point man for climate change, said inviting world leaders to the Sept. 24 meeting was important because unless new negotiations start "under top leadership, you can't expect any progress or results."

He said it was critical to get all countries to participate in negotiations and avoid the mistake of Kyoto where proceedings were rushed and "the most important passengers" were not on board.

After the Sept. 24 meeting, Tsuruoka predicted that climate change "will become top priority agenda politically to each and every nation."

The two-week Bali meeting will then hopefully agree on a negotiating agenda, perhaps with a roadmap leading to a post-Kyoto agreement, he said.

China's deputy U.N. ambassador Liu Zhenmin called for restrictions of "luxury emissions" by rich countries and said negotiations "on targets of further emission reduction by developed countries beyond 2012" must take place in the Kyoto framework.

The Group of 77, which represents 132 mainly developing countries and China, said the Bali conference will be successful if it takes "fully into account the needs and concerns of all developing countries."

From NPR reports and The Associated Press