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Developed nations, US, must take lead on climate

Annan says developed nations, including US, must take lead on climate change

21 May – Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stressed that developed countries, particularly the United States -- the world's leading emitter of greenhouses gases -- must take the helm in stemming global climate change.

Delivering the commencement address to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Massachusetts, on Sunday, Mr. Annan noted that the US, which produced the most greenhouse gases largely because it was the world's most successful economy, must "join in reducing emissions and in the broader quest for energy efficiency and conservation."

The US was the first developed country to ratify the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which aimed to stabilize concentrations of greenhouses gases at safe levels. The Secretary-General noted that the treaty's Kyoto Protocol, which contains binding emissions-reduction targets for developed States, has yet to enter into force because of disagreements over how to operationalize it. "There is concern throughout the world about the decision of the new [US] administration to oppose the Protocol," he observed.

Warning of the "very real danger" that gains in combating climate change could be lost, he painted a picture of melting polar icecaps threatening coastal areas, extreme weather causing billion-dollar calamities, and a "warmer and wetter" world in which infectious diseases spread more easily. "This is not some distant, worst-case scenario," he cautioned. "It is tomorrow's forecast."

With climate change negotiations set to resume in July, Mr. Annan said, "I can think of no better moment for everyone to reflect on this global threat, and to consider what more we can do in response."

While stressing that all leaders must take the issue seriously, the Secretary-General pointed out that developed countries must "show the way" since they were responsible for most of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Looking on the positive side, Mr. Annan said the battle against climate change could provide an opportunity to reinvigorate the fight against poverty, inspire changes in corporate and consumer habits, and "shape globalization so that the environment does not become one of its prime casualties."

"Today, though we have the human and material resources to win the fight against climate change, the time for a well-planned transition to sustainable development is running out," Mr. Annan told the Fletcher School graduates, adding "unless, that is, you do your part."


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