Press releases

Thursday 15 Mar 2001

Statement by Klaus Toepfer, UNEP executive director on Climate Change

Copenhagen/Nairobi, 15 March, 01 - Without US leadership, effective global action on climate change may not be possible, said Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The United States of America has much to gain from leading the way into the new low-emissions economy of the 21st century.

Without US leadership, effective global action on climate change may not be possible, said Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The United States of America has much to gain from leading the way into the new low-emissions economy of the 21st
century.

Mr Töpfer was speaking today in Copenhagen after discussing climate change issues with Svend Auken, Denmarks Minister of the Environment, who shares the concern of UNEP over the lack of US leadership. Mr. Töpfer, who is in Denmark to celebrate the 10th anniversary of UNEPs collaborating centre on energy and the environment (RISO), was commenting on the news yesterday that President Bush said his administration would not seek to regulate power plants emissions of carbon dioxide.

Earlier this month the UNEP/WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finalized its three volume Third Assessment Report, said Töpfer. The message is clear: Intensive climate research and monitoring gives scientists much greater confidence in their understanding concerning causes and consequences of global warming. The Assessment presents a compelling snapshot of what the Earth will probably look like in the late 21st century, after global warming of 1.4 - 5.8°C (2.5-10.4°F) changes weather patterns, water resources, the cycling of the seasons, ecosystems, extreme climate events, and much more.

While developing countries are at greatest risk,? Töpfer continued, climate change will also pose challenges for rich countries such as Japan, UK and the US. In North America, the IPCC projects increasing frequency, severity and duration of weather disasters including floods, droughts, bstorms and landslides. In all sectors - water, health, food, energy, insurance, governments and human settlements - the risk exists that impacts of climate change will over-stress existing institutional structures and engineered systems designed for a more stable world.

Clearly, all share an interest in minimising global warming. And, the Kyoto Protocol offers the best prospect for an orderly transition to a climate-friendly economy. The resumption of the climate change talks in Bonn in July will provide a critical opportunity for all governments to finalise the details of the Kyoto Protocol so that it becomes operational and effective as quickly as possible."

While there will be winners and losers in the marketplace, significant economic and technological benefits can be achieved by reducing emissions, said Töpfer. This is the conclusion of IPCC Working Group III which recently met in Accra, Ghana, (and included representatives of the US government) based on assessing the extensive technology and economics literature. Researchers confirm that well-designed, market-oriented policies can reduce emissions and the costs of adapting to unavoidable
impacts of climate change while simultaneously generating significant economic benefits. These benefits include more cost-effective energy systems, more rapid technological innovation, reduced expenditures on inappropriate subsidies, and more efficient markets.

The Danish example presented by Minister Auken shows that strong economic growth can be obtained with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This will be presented Friday in a new National Strategy for Sustainable Development, said Töpfer.

Co-operation between developed and developing countries is vital if the full impacts of climate change are to be avoided. The most advanced nations have the technologies to help reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and these technologies need to be transferred to the developing world to help them reduce pollution as their economies grow.?

We know that the US is the world?s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and is therefore an important part of the problem. But, Töpfer stressed, the US is also our best hope for a solution. Simply put, the US is the worlds most technologically innovative country. Its industries are most likely to develop the climate-friendly products and services that must one day soon set the world onto a clean energy path.

*******

For more information, please contact UNEP Spokesman Tore Brevik in Nairobi
on +254-2-623292, or in Europe Robert Bisset on +33-6-2272-5842, email:
robert.bisset@unep.fr or Michael Williams on +41-22-9178242,
michael.williams@unep.ch

See also http://www.ipcc.ch for the IPCC summary reports and other documents,
http://www.grida.no for useful and downloadable reports and graphs.


UNEP News Release 01/COPENHANGEN

Thursday 15 Mar 2001
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