President calls on world leaders to act now

President Mohamed Nasheed gave an impassioned speech at the UN summit on climate change at New York yesterday, urging international action against global warming rather than just empty pledges.

The president, who followed US President Barack Obama in speaking order, said from his observations, once the dust of the rhetoric had settled at climate change conferences, “sympathy fades, indignation cools, and the world carries on as before.”

“We in the Maldives desperately want to believe that one day our words will have an effect, and so we continue to shout them even though, deep down, we know that you are not really listening,” he said.

Nasheed said developed countries must acknowledge their historic responsibility for global warming and accept emission reduction targets consistent with an average temperature increase below 1.5 degrees celsius.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said if climate change continued unchecked, global temperatures would rise by up to 6.4 degrees celsius within a century, leading to frequent cyclones, heat waves and heavy rains.

President Nasheed with Bill Clinton
President Nasheed with Bill Clinton

World leaders convene at the Danish capital in December to hammer out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol in what is widely perceived as an eleventh hour attempt at keeping the worst consequences of climate change at bay.


Despite several high-level meetings so far this year, negotiations have stalled between the developed and developing world. While countries such as India and China argue the onus of curbing emissions is on rich, industrialised nations, the latter are loth to commit.

Speaking yesterday, Nasheed said developing countries must play their part under the “principle of common but differentiated responsibility”. The transfer of technological know-how and finance from rich nations to poor was further essential in achieving global cuts to emissions.

“I would argue that the threat posed by climate change is now so acute, the science so clear, the solution so apparent, and the cost-benefit analysis of action and inaction so alarming, that such horse-trading and brinkmanship must be left in the past,” he said.

Failure to reach broad agreement in Copenhagen would be morally inexcusable, economically short-sighted and politically unwise
Ban Ki-Moon
UN Secretary-General

Addressing members yesterday, both the US and China expressed similar commitment to cutting emissions. Obama said while developed countries such as the US were responsible for taking the lead on climate change action, the developing world must also cooperate.

Further, the global recession should not be used as an excuse for complacency. “Unease is no excuse for inaction…Each of us must do what we can to grow our economies without endangering our planet, and we must do it together. We must seize the opportunity to make Copenhagen a significant step forward in the global fight against climate change.”

Likewise Chinese President Hu Jintao said his country was committed to tackling climate change.

“We will endeavor to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level,” he said. “Second, we will vigorously develop renewable energy and nuclear energy. We will endeavor to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15 percent by 2020.”

Time to act

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon who opened up the meeting stressed the urgency of tackling climate change, which if unchecked would result in the Arctic being ice-free by 2030.

He said he was moved by the eloquence of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the impact that climate change will have on their future existence.

Yesterday, AOSIS unanimously passed Nasheed’s call for their declaration to be framed in positive rather than negative language to emphasise what can be achieved. The declaration calls for a cap in temperatures of 1.5 degrees as well as financing to help islands adapt to global warming.

“Climate change is the pre-eminent geopolitical and economic issue of the 21st century,” continued Ban Ki-Moon. “It rewrites the global equation for development, peace and prosperity. It will increase pressure on water, food and land…. reverse years of development gains…. exacerbate poverty…. destabilise fragile states and topple governments.”

While, many thought tackling climate change was an expensive undertaking, he added, failure to do so would wreak inestimable damage.

The UN secretary-general added a successful new deal must commit to ambitious targets, help vulnerable countries, have financial backing and be equitable to the needs of developing countries.

“Failure to reach broad agreement in Copenhagen would be morally inexcusable, economically short-sighted and politically unwise,” he said. “We cannot go down this road. If we have learned anything from the crises of the past year, it is that our fates are intertwined.”


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Maryam Omidi

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