United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon lashed out at rich nations that are watering down commitments to fight global warming, citing the typhoon that devastated the Philippines.
Some developed countries “that are supposed to be taking leadership are now backtracking,” Ban said at UN climate talks in Warsaw today. “That’s quite disappointing. We have to take urgent action.”
The comments were meant to goad envoys from almost 190 nations at the meeting to step up their efforts to cut fossil-fuel emissions blamed for damaging the atmosphere. For the first time since the UN-led discussions started in 1992, richer nations led by Japan, Canada and Australia have stepped away from promises to rein in emissions.
Scientists say rising temperatures are spreading droughts, more violent storms and boosting sea levels. Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines with 195 mile-per-hour winds earlier this month, killing thousands and leaving more without homes.
The tragedy represents “an alarm bell, maybe the last alarm bell,” Ban said.
Japan last week shelved its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, arguing that the closure of nuclear reactors following the meltdown in Fukushima in 2011 make meeting that goal impossible.
Ban urged nations to ratify the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, step up financial aid for developing countries and commit to more ambitious emissions-reduction targets to keep warming below the internationally agreed limit of 2 degrees Celcius (3.6 Fahrenheit) since industrialization.
“Current pledges are simply inadequate,” Ban told delegates at a joint event with Polish President Donald Tusk. “We must set the bar higher.”
Two weeks of talks in Warsaw are due to wrap up on Nov. 22. The delegates are aiming to put in place the building blocks for a treaty limiting emissions that could be adopted in 2015 and come into force in 2020.
Ban said there are “serious concerns” about how industrial nations meet their commitment to boost climate-related aid to $100 billion by 2020. “I am urging you to do more.”
The U.S. is still expected to take a leadership role, Ban told a press conference. “We need the developed world to lead this campaign. They have capacity. They have systems and means. It is absolutely necessary and crucial.”