UN seeks major role in fighting climate change

( dpa )- The United Nations sought Monday to promote a global partnership for "immediate practical action" to support the negotiating process launched in Bali, Indonesia, to work out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol by the end of 2009.

The UN General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened a two-day debate at the UN involving the private sector, international organizations and governments to seek their commitment to support the outcomes of December's Bali conference.

"We have moved climate change up to the top of the (UN) agenda, where it belongs and we cannot now let those who depend on us down," Ban said in opening the discussion, while Kerim emphasized UN participation and its resources were needed for the "greatest effect."

But it was successful entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson, chief executive and founder of the Virgin Group, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Financial News, who struck concrete proposals. The two billionaires have separately launched a number of environmental projects.

The Bali conference set out a "road map" to complete negotiations on a new global climate treaty by the end of 2009, allowing enough time for governments to ratify it before the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Ban said governments at Bali had declared their political will, which, combined with the authoritative and compelling scientific evidence, should move forward the process of agreeing on a new climate treaty.

"Developed countries need to take a clear lead, but success is possible only if all countries act. The more ambitious the commitments by developed countries, the more actions we can expect from developing countries," Ban said.

Branson, who has offered a 25-million-dollar prize for any scientists who can develop a technology to remove carbon from fuel, challenged the world's 20 richest nations to contribute to a 500- million-dollar prize for the same purpose.

"All of us should be delighted to write our 25-million-dollar cheques because the successful person could literally have saved most of mankind," said Branson, a daring entrepreneur and philanthropist.

He also called for an "Environmental War Room" to tackle climate change on all fronts, pointing out that extracting carbon represents only one front.

"It's a battle that may never be won," Branson said. "We need an overall battle plan. We need a War Room."

He said the world would need another Winston Churchill, who led Britain and allies to win World War II against Nazi Germany, to lead the war room. That group would identify the best ideas and map out tasks for each parties to fight climate change and save the environment.

Bloomberg urged the US, the world's biggest polluter, to lead by example and enact a tax on carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

Bloomberg said the US must show leadership in fighting carbon emissions by setting "real and binding carbon reduction targets."

"So long as there's no penalty or cost involved in producing greenhouse gases, there will be no incentive to meet such targets," he said. "For that reason, I believe the US should enact a tax on carbon emissions."

US President George W Bush has refused to join the Kyoto Protocol, a global treaty in effect since 2005, which sets limits on industrial nations' carbon emissions largely responsible for global warming. But many US states and cities have pledged to meet the Kyoto targets despite federal opposition.

The Bush administration has also opposed a nationwide tax on carbon dioxide emissions or a cap-and-trade programme where companies can sell or buy extra pollution credits.

The debate at UN headquarters was attended by European Union and European Parliament representatives, mayors and government ministers.

Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti said her city has signed the "Covenant of Mayors," which is a European programme for concrete and measurable targets to reduce carbon dioxide and other atmospheric emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. That programme also called for increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy by 20 per cent.

"We need to make people aware and participate to this process, we need to share their ideas and enthusiasm to reach this goals ," she said.

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