UN's Annan Launches Plan to Help Africa on Climate
NAIROBI U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched a plan on Wednesday to help Africa fight global warming, and criticised a "frightening lack of leadership" in confronting what he called one of the world's biggest threats.
"Global climate change must take its place alongside those threats -- conflict, poverty, the proliferation of deadly weapons -- that have traditionally monopolised first-order political attention," he told ministers at a U.N. conference.
Annan announced the plan by six U.N. agencies called the "Nairobi Framework" to help developing nations, especially in Africa, get more funds to promote clean energies such as wind and hydropower. He urged rich donor nations to contribute.
Annan also said the U.N.'s environment and development agencies were launching a scheme to help poor nations factor climate change into development plans, such as building roads, bridges or buildings to withstand more floods or droughts.
"Climate change is not just an environmental issue, as too many people still believe. It is an all-encompassing threat," he said at the talks, which are seeking ways to extend the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol on fighting climate change beyond 2012.
"While the Kyoto Protocol is a crucial step forward, that step is far too small. And as we consider how to go further still, there remains a frightening lack of leadership," he said.
Annan, a Ghanaian who will step down from his U.N. post in December, did not mention any country by name in his address to environment ministers from about 100 nations.
The United States, the world's biggest source of greenhouse gases, and Australia are the only major industrialised nations outside Kyoto, under which 35 countries have accepted caps on emissions of such gases from power plants, factories and cars.
President George W. Bush pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, saying that its caps on emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, would harm the U.S. economy and that developing nations were wrongly omitted from goals for 2012.
Bush favours big investments in new technologies, such as hydrogen or to capture and bury emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from burning coal.
Annan said failure to confront climate change would damage the world economy. "It is increasingly clear that it will cost far less to cut emissions now than to deal with the consequences later," Annan said.
He said higher temperatures could damage health by spreading diseases, or undermine food production via droughts. Coastal cities including Lagos or Cape Town could be swamped because of melting icecaps, while competition for scarce resources could cause migrations or tensions between people.
At the talks, negotiators reaffirmed a goal of agreeing an extension of the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 but disappointed environmentalists by failing to set any deadlines for accords.
A committee of delegates from 165 nations merely reaffirmed it would end work "as early as possible and in time to ensure that there is no gap" between the first period of Kyoto ending in 2012 and new limits for industrialised nations from 2013.
"It was the minimum needed to keep this process moving forwards," said Jennifer Morgan of the U.K.-based environmental think-tank E3G. Delegates also agreed some details of a fund meant to help poor countries adapt to climate change but proposed putting off thorny issues about how to manage the cash until 2007. The fund is now worth $3 million but could rise to $700 million by 2012.