Climate Change around the World: A View from the UN Regional Commissions

Article excerpt

The most recent meeting of the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD 15) examined global climate change, along with energy, air and industrial development, as a comprehensive cluster of issues. The risk of climate change commands the most widespread preoccupation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Governments throughout the world.

The UN Regional Commissions have developed approaches to the economic and social consequences of climate change to complement the analysis of its environmental aspects and its consequences for development from a regional perspective.

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The further development within the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of land use, land-use change and forestry activities, including the potential of mobilizing resources for avoided deforestation initiatives and its potential synergy with poverty reduction, is of particular interest to Africa and Latin America. In Latin America, the potential for comprehensive urban-scale programmatic CDM projects involving urban transport, energy and waste management infrastructure is being explored by city authorities (i.e. Mexico City). The potential for carbon capture and storage presents an opportunity for technology development in oil-producing countries for enhanced oil recovery. The high-growing Asian economies pose a challenge of achieving "green growth" or effectively decoupling economic growth from rising energy intensity, excessive pollution, waste generation and high-resource consumption, which exceeds the already stressed ecological carrying capacity of many countries in the region. The Commission's views highlight the diversity of opportunities available in different regions.

From the standpoint of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), some of the main challenges to responding to climate change in Africa are the low levels of access to technology, reliance on rain-fed agriculture and high poverty levels in the region. Therefore, Africa has a high level of vulnerability and low capacity to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. African countries need greater access to funding and other assistance available through the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms and the Marrakech Agreements on Funding to improve technical and institutional capacity, support and accelerate the development and implementation of National Adaptation Programmes of Action. The region also needs to continue strengthening human and institutional scientific capacities and international cooperation to address adaptation at the national and local levels, where vulnerabilities are most pronounced. Sponsoring climate fora--to improve regional cooperation and early-warning and information-sharing systems to reduce agricultural and other vulnerabilities within the region--should also to be enhanced.

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Africa highlighted the need for all countries worldwide to abide by their obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. The region emphasized some priorities as enhancing and expanding policy research on climate and climate-related issues to promote effective knowledge networking, and inform policy and programme development in response to climate change challenges identified by the UNFCCC. This should be matched with enhancing and promoting policy coherence and the integration of climate change mitigation and adaptation concerns into priority development policies and programmes, including poverty reduction strategies.

For the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), many countries are planning to take significant steps to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent a warmer climate and an associated risk of increased extreme events. However, ECE feels that much more is still needed and that detailed plans for implementing measures are often lacking. There is a huge potential for energy savings and for improving energy efficiency in the region, which is both an economic and environmental imperative and can be achieved with existing resources and technologies, as was highlighted at CSD 15. …

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