The twin financial and climate catastrophes have been cause for nervousness worldwide, but Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed that the challenges also open the door for new economic opportunities in the face of the global recession.

"The good news is that we can tackle both at once, as solutions to the climate crisis can catalyze the green growth that is the foundation of long-term economic prosperity," Mr. Ban, who has deemed 2009 the "year of climate change," wrote in the Korean Herald.

If countries must implement green stimulus packages to pull themselves out of economic turmoil and nations reach agreement on a new global climate change agreement at this December's UN conference in Copenhagen, "the world has its best chance in decades to make serious progress on both the climate and economic fronts," he added.

According to scientists, the pace of global warming is accelerating, with the window for action on climate change closing ever faster, the Secretary-General pointed out. Experts have noted that high rates of greenhouse gas emissions are resulting in the world reaching the high end of case scenarios delineated in the 2007 report by the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the definitive standard for climate science.

"Unfortunately, time is not on our side," he cautioned. "The clock is ticking and cannot be turned back." In his piece, Mr. Ban pressed nations to do their utmost to ensure that the upcoming climate talks in Denmark, which he said will be a "watershed moment in history," are given top priority so that negotiations on a success pact to the Kyoto Protocol, whose commitment period ends in 2012, can be concluded.

The agreement reached "must be ambitious, fair and effective in reducing emissions while assisting countries as they adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change," he said. The first round of negotiations for 2009 wrapped up last week in Bonn, Germany.

To ensure that all nations are on board, the Secretary-General said that five key political issues must first be resolved: industrialized nations must set ambitious emissions reduction targets; major developing countries must identify what mitigation steps they plan to pursue in the future; solving the issue of finance; an accountable means to distribute these funds must be set up; and vulnerable countries must be supported in protecting lives and livelihoods.

"By sealing a deal, we can power green growth today and protect our planet for our children and their children to come," he said. Mr. Ban said he disagreed with the view held by some that the global economic downturn is a reason to curtail efforts to tackle climate change.

"To the contrary, it represents an unprecedented opportunity to redirect government stimulus packages into green energy options and to fundamentally retool our global economy so that long-run, sustainable growth is accessible for all," he stated. His native Republic of Korea (ROK) has blazed a trail to a greener, lower-carbon future, he said, with investments in mass transit, energy conservation, forest restoration and water resource management, among others. The country is also an example for others on actions necessary to reduce emissions, the Secretary-General said.

"As a power emerging economy, the Republic of Korea can serve as a bridge between industrialized and developing countries by setting ambitious emission reduction goals for itself."


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