UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged rich and poor nations to agree on new steps to fight global warming, telling a 189-nation conference that Europe and the US must take the lead in avoiding a climate "catastrophe."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the EU and US to lead on climate issues
Ban warned against "backsliding" on clean-air targets just as EU leaders in Brussels considered a watered-down plan for making industry buy permits to emit carbon dioxide, the gas most blamed for global warming.
Europe's apparent wavering stoked discord at the UN climate conference, part of efforts to reach a global deal next December to reduce emissions of gases emitted when fossil fuels are burned.
Guyana's president, Bharrat Jagdeo, said he feared the world's economic downturn would divert money and attention from fighting climate change as countries seek to protect jobs and industries.
"If Europe sends a signal that it can make deep commitments only in prosperous times, what are the developing countries going to say, including China?" Jagdeo told delegates gathered in Poznan, Poland, for the last two days of this year's main UN climate meeting.
Emissions have been rising most rapidly in emerging economies such as China and India. In bargaining for a global deal, developing nations are under pressure to curb emissions in return for pledges of new cuts by industrialized countries.
Ban urged governments to treat the global financial crisis as an opportunity to speed investment in clean technology. He evoked the New Deal, a massive public works programme launched by US president Franklin D Roosevelt during the Great Depression.
"We need a Green New Deal," he told government leaders as they began two days of high-level talks. "This is a deal that works for all nations, rich as well as poor."
UN chief calls on EU, US for leadership on climate issues
Environmentalists have also called on Obama to take the lead on fighting climate change
He singled out the EU and US president-elect Barack Obama as leaders in the push for a new, broader pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that ties rich nations to emissions cuts and expires in 2012.
"What we need, today, is leadership," Ban told delegates. "We look for that leadership from the European Union."
Pressure group Oxfam International accused France, which currently chairs the EU, of pandering "to industry scare-mongering" and to countries resisting more ambitious emissions trading plans such as Poland, Italy and Germany.
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, France's state secretary of ecology, told reporters that the EU's overall goal -- cutting the 27-nation bloc's emissions 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 -- remains firm.
With the rest of the world waiting for Obama to take office, no major breakthroughs were expected at the two-week conference that began December 1.
Delegates reached one goal Wednesday when they agreed on a work programme to help governments chart the way through substantive negotiations next year.
"We are not standing still," German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.
But Yvo de Boer, the top UN climate official, made plain that progress toward a grand bargain has been slow and the key disputes remain unsolved.
"Distrust and suspicion have haunted these talks for much too long," he told delegates. "This is your opportunity to move on."
Fund for the developing world a sticking point
The money is there to help climate refugees but how to give it is in question
A key dispute at this year's conference involves how to activate a fund for projects to protect poor countries against the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and expanding deserts. At issue are oversight rules for distributing money from the fund.
"We are very disappointed with the manner that some of our partners are burying us in red tape," said Apisai Ielemia, president of the island nation of Tuvalu.
Ban urged governments to move beyond the blame game and start making a deal.
"Yes, the economic crisis is serious. Yet when it comes to climate change, the stakes are far higher," he said. "Let us save ourselves from catastrophe and usher in a truly sustainable world."