x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Don’t let our plans become undone

The two-day Abu Dhabi Ascent meeting has been organised in preparation of a high-level summit on climate, to be held in September in New York, under the aegis of the UN secretary general.

Former US Vice President and Climate Reality Project Chairman, Al Gore gives a speech during Abu Dhabi Ascent event, a ministerial meeting to prepare for a September 23 climate change summit in New York on May 4, 2014 in Abu Dhabi. Ban Ki-moon urged ‘bold’ actions by countries around the world to reduce greenhouse emissions and fight global warming. AFP Photo / Marwan Naamani
Former US Vice President and Climate Reality Project Chairman, Al Gore gives a speech during Abu Dhabi Ascent event, a ministerial meeting to prepare for a September 23 climate change summit in New York on May 4, 2014 in Abu Dhabi. Ban Ki-moon urged ‘bold’ actions by countries around the world to reduce greenhouse emissions and fight global warming. AFP Photo / Marwan Naamani

ABU DHABI // Climate change “is the defining issue of our time”.

These were the words of UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, as he addressed a high-profile meeting on climate at the Etihad Towers hotel in the capital on Sunday.

“The effects are already widespread, costly and consequential – from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the poorest countries to the wealthiest,” Mr Ban said. “If we do not take urgent action, all our plans for increased global prosperity and security will be undone.”

The two-day Abu Dhabi Ascent meeting has been organised in preparation of a high-level summit on climate, to be held in September in New York, under the aegis of Mr Ban. The discussions will focus around nine areas, including energy, cities and transport, sustainable agriculture and finance.

Other ministers and leaders at Sunday’s meeting included former US vice president Al Gore, former British prime minister Tony Blair and former Mexican president Felipe Calderon.

Ultimately, the initiative aims to mobilise political support to ensure the successful completion of a global treaty to limit the amount of greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere.

The negotiations process, which requires the consensus of all UN member states, has been “quite disappointingly slow”, Mr Ban said during a meeting with media on Sunday, explaining that governments have been focusing on domestic economic challenges.

The Abu Dhabi and New York meetings are not part of the formal negotiations but rather aim to inspire political will to act on the issue with greater urgency so that an ambitious climate treaty can be agreed at a meeting in Paris in late 2015.

“I am urging the political leaders who come to this meeting and the summit meeting to direct the negotiators so that they will accelerate their negotiations,” he said. “I am asking them to look beyond their national boundaries. This is an issue for the entire humanity, we have only one planet Earth.”

Mr Ban also commended the UAE’s progress in adopting renewable energy, saying he was “inspired” during a visit to Masdar City. On Monday he is scheduled to visit the 100-megawatt Shams One concentrated solar power plant. “This is the way, the creative way of using resources and energy,” he said.

The audience also heard from Sheikh Abdullah, the Foreign Minister. “We are living in an interconnected world and what affects one country affects us all,” he said. “That is why the UAE strongly believes in collaboration and multilateral initiatives. No country can combat climate change on its own, but together we have the ability to achieve tangible and successful results.”

Mr Gore, co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and champion for environmental issues, detailed how important it is to reduce greenhouse gases.

Humanity, he said, has been using the atmosphere “as an open sewer”.

“We are dumping 90 million tonnes of heat-trapping pollution into it every 24 hours,” he said.

The results are already evident from climate records which show the process of warming is accelerating, Mr Gore said.

“Thirteen of the 14 hottest years ever measured have been in this century, and it is 2014,” he said. “Last year was the 37th year in a row warmer than the 20-century average. Last month was the 350th month in a row warmer than the 20-century average.”

The hotter average temperatures mean more frequent and violent storms, said Mr Gore, as he flicked through images of recent extreme weather events in the US, the Philippines and Pakistan. “We are going to prevail,” he said. “The only question is how long will it take.”

vtodorova@thenational.ae