It took many hours of sailing, but UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived late Tuesday night at the spot north of Svalbard where the Arctic Ocean finally starts turning to ice. Ban could see the results of climate change for himself, and vowed to pressure world leaders into doing something about it.
“It so much more convincing, so much stronger when I can tell world leaders that I have been here, that I have seen what’s happening,” Ban told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten while on board the Norwegian Coast Guard vessel Svalbard .
After a round of meetings with government officials in Oslo on Monday, during whichBan addressed recent criticism leveled against him, the UN secretary general flew to Svalbard along with his UN delegation and Norway’s cabinet minister in charge of foreign aid and environmental issues Erik Solheim (with Ban in photo at right) . The Norwegians were keen to show Ban around the Arctic archipelago and introduce him to scientists in the area who are constantly studying the effects of rising temperatures.With less than 100 days remaining before UN climate talks get underway in Copenhagen, Ban already had made it clear there’s no time to lose in trying to reverse climate change. He also has invited world leaders to New York later this month and more than 100 have accepted, including the presidents of China and the US.
“I will tell them what climate change is doing to our fragile planet,” Ban told Aftenposten , adding that new political leadership is needed. Ban said he will welcome leaders from countries producing the highest amounts of emissions, from developing countries, “from east and west and from the small island states” that already are directly threatened.
“I will do all I can so that they feel the political heat from each other,” Ban told Aftenposten . “I will tell the worlds’ leaders that when the ice melts in the Arctic, it doesn’t just hit the polar bears, but also the entire global environment, weather systems, everything.
“People around the world think climate change is happening slowly, that we have plenty of time. We don’t. It’s happening now, and it’s happening very quickly.”
Ban said he has no doubts that climate change has been caused by human activity. He acknowledged that there are still some doubters but claimed they are “a minority among minorities. They’re not a serious problem any longer.”
‘Clear, ambitious goals’ in Copenhagen
Ban seemed to reject suggestions that recent criticism about his leadership style could hinder his ability to win a deal in Copenhagen. He acknowledged that there has been little progress up to now, but when asked whether he honestly feels it’s possible to achieve productive results in Copenhagen, Ban said that climate change is now at the top of the global agenda, that the US is discussing climate issues with China, that China is talking with India and India with the US. “That’s good,” he said.
Ban is calling for “clear, ambitious goals” for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, for major developing countries to promise national measures, for acceptance of a new global framework for financial and technological exchange between north and south and acceptance of a process with new meetings and programs in the years to come.
The meeting in Copenhagen, he cautioned, is not the end of the line but part of a process.
Ban was due to visit Svalbard’s famed Global Seed Vault on Wednesday before flying on to Geneva for the Third World Climate Conference of the World Meteorological Organization, the UN agency dealing with weather, climate and water.