Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Major New UN Report On Confronting Climate Change

Feb 27: The United Nations (UN) Foundation and Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, presented a new report at a press briefing in New York entitled, Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable. The report was presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has called climate change one of his priority concerns. The report was prepared as input for the upcoming meeting of the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development, and warns of “two starkly different futures” facing humanity: one marked by increasingly serious climate-related impacts and the other aiming to “reduce dangerous emissions, create economic opportunity, help to reduce global poverty, reduce degradation and carbon emissions from ecosystems, and contribute to sustainability.” The report warns, “Humanity must act collectively and urgently to change course through leadership at all levels of society. There is no more time for delay.”

Among the measures recommended in the new scientific report on coping with climate change are improved transportation systems, tighter building codes and financing for energy-efficiency investments. The report notes that the technology exists to “seize significant opportunities around the globe” to reduce emissions and provide other economic, environmental and social benefits. It calls on policy makers to improve efficiency in the area of transportation through measures such as vehicle efficiency standards, fuel taxes, and registration fees or rebates that favor purchase of efficient and alternative fuel vehicles.

The report also calls for improved design and efficiency of commercial and residential buildings through building codes, standards for equipment and appliances, incentives for property developers and landlords to build and manage properties efficiently, and financing for energy-efficiency investments, the report states. It also recommends expanding the use of biofuels through energy portfolio standards and incentives to growers and consumers. The report outlines a role for the international community, through the UN and related multilateral institutions, including helping countries in need to finance and deploy energy efficient and new energy technologies while accelerating negotiations to develop a new international framework for addressing climate change and sustainable development.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), in its role as Secretariat to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), sought to facilitate contributions by the scientific community to the work of the Commission. and invited Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, to convene an international panel of scientific experts to prepare the report outlining the best measures for mitigating and adapting to global warming. To carry out this task, the Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development (SEG) was formed and asked to consider innovative approaches for mitigating and/or adapting to projected climate changes, and to anticipate the effectiveness, cost, and implementation of possible response measures. The members of SEG and the reviewers served as individuals and not as representatives of their governments or institutions.

The SEG concludes, "We believe that these recommendations are consistent with the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and will be broadly endorsed by the expert community, which agrees that both near- and long-term efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change need to be intensified, while at the same time strengthening efforts to promote equitable and sustainable economic development... We include in the Executive Summary the steps needed to build a practical and workable path to a healthier planet, and we, and the scientific community, stand ready to help in the design of an effective and workable set of policies and programs."

Access a release from the UN (
click here). Access an expanded release from the UN Foundation (click here). Access the 12-page executive summary (click here). Access the 166-page full report (click here). Access the Scientific Research Society, an international honor society for research scientists and engineers, with more than 500 chapters and 60,000 members in North America and around the world (click here). Access the UN Foundation website (click here). Access the UN DESA website (click here). [*Climate]