Al Gore addressing delegates during the high-level meeting at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi.
Former US Vice President Al Gore addressing delegates during the Abu Dhabi Ascent climate summit  meeting in the UAE Capital on Sunday.


ABU DHABI — From the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the poorest countries to the richest, climate change impacts are already widespread, costly and consequential, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, urging stakeholders gathered in the UAE capital to consider concrete actions to tackle the phenomenon now before it is too late, reports Wam.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time. If we do not take urgent action, all our plans for increased global prosperity and security will be undone,” said the UN chief in opening remarks to the Abu Dhabi Ascent Sunday, which he is co-hosting with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government to prepare for and build commitment ahead of the UN Climate Summit set for Sep 23 in New York.

More than 1,000 participants, including UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, former US Vice President Al Gore and 100 UAE government ministers , have gathered in Abu Dhabi for the two-day event to chart new routes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening climate resilience.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan discusses the UAE’s efforts to control its carbon footprint on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi Ascent at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan discusses the UAE’s efforts to control its carbon footprint on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi Ascent at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi.

The Abu Dhabi Ascent is the first international meeting to draw on the conclusions of the recently issued reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found the consequences of climate change are already being felt, and that, while present action is insufficient, there are still pathways towards a low carbon future that could minimize the phenomenon’s impacts.

Action now, said the report, is necessary in order to avoid much higher costs in the future.

Thanking the UAE government for being pioneers on the journey to a low-carbon future, Ban said: “It is the future we need and we have to lay the foundations today. We have little time to lose.”

“That is why it is important that governments complete a meaningful new climate agreement by 2015 that will rapidly reduce emissions and support resilience,” he continued, explaining that the upcoming New York summit is designed to shape a collective ambitious vision rooted in concrete action.

“I am inviting heads of state and government, along with mayors and senior representatives from business, finance and civil society, to join a ‘race to the top’,” said the secretary-general, adding that he was also asking the participants to announce bold commitments and actions that will catalyze transformative change.

The UN chief said that his summit will focus on solutions. It will provide a high visibility platform for those who are ready to lead so they can invite others to follow.

“Our meeting here in Abu Dhabi is a major milestone on the ascent to the summit. It gives you a chance to experience the wealth of opportunity that exists so you can leave here ready to join others in acting.”

Ban went on to set out the nine key areas he has identified with the greatest potential for fast, meaningful results. These include energy, cities and transport, finance, resilience, agriculture and short-lived climate pollutants.

He said that many of the solutions needed already exist. Many others are being rapidly developed.

“But we need to deploy them at a scale that matches the challenge. And we need to do it now, because we may not get a second chance,” he warned, adding that “we are rapidly approaching dangerous thresholds. The longer we delay, the more we will pay”.

He said that governments have promised a new climate agreement next year in Paris. But the Abu Dhabi Ascent could help by proving that climate action now means opening a world of opportunity.

The benefits of addressing climate change include reduced pollution, improved public health, fewer disasters, less poverty, cleaner, more efficient and affordable energy, better managed forests, livable cities and increased food security, said the secretary-general.

Later at a press conference, the UN chief hailed the Abu Dhabi Ascent as an opportunity to demonstrate that people are ready to work together for a low carbon future.

“I am asking all participants — including you, the media — to leave here inspired to urge leaders to act,” he told reporters.

He again called for a “bold vision” and announcements of action that can make a difference, saying that was how political will would be mobilized for a meaningful global climate agreement in 2015.

“Our motto must be adopt and adapt. Adopt what works and adapt it for your nation, your business, your community,” the secretary-general said, warning that “time is against us”.

“Nature will not wait. The planet is sending us a message. We must listen,” Ban said.

UAE Contribution

Speaking earlier in the day, Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said: “We are very proud of our efforts and of what we have done in terms of investments in other countries,” said.

“At home, 24 per cent of our electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020-21 and we are committed to half a billion US dollars in grants and investments to support renewable energy projects in developing countries,” he added.

UAE may be the world’s seventh largest, proven oil reserve in the world, currently producing 2.7 million barrels of oil per day estimated to reach 3.5 million barrels by 2017, but it is also a major investor in renewable energy both at home and abroad.

Most recently, the country’s first major solar power plant, Shams 1 in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, is displacing 175,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of planting 1.5 million trees or getting rid of pollution caused by 15,000 cars.

Foreign efforts include a project in Afghanistan to supply eight isolated villages with 600 individual off grid solar photovoltaic systems or the Shaikh Zayed Solar Power Plant in Mauritania, 15 megawatt solar facility that accounts for 10 per cent of Mauritania’s energy capacity.

“My friends, we may be a small country, but we hope to make a huge impact in helping deal with global challenges,” concluded Shaikh Abdullah.

Alarming Vision

Former US Vice President Al Gore continued the warning that time for talking is over with some alarming facts.

“This May the levels of carbon dioxide emissions, which for years have been 400 parts per million, has exceeded the level for the entire month,” he pointed out.

“There are 90 million tonnes of pollution dumped in the air every 24 hours; 85 per cent of all world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels”.

“This morning there were 4.1 million people homeless in the Philippines because of the 2011 tsunami,” said Al Gore, giving an example of climate change effects.

He further explained that for each one degree Celsius rise in temperature, there is a seven per cent increase in water vapors, which, in turn, cause stronger storms. Water vapours also have the effect of “pulling” out heat from the land, causing draughts.

“Between 2006 and 2010 Syria lost 60 per cent of its arable land that has turned into desert because of drought,” revealed Gore.

Sea level rise, higher temperatures, pollution, famine are all adding up the cost of carbon footprint.

Yet, Gore said he is convinced there is still time to reverse climate change and we are already doing it; or rather the private sector is doing it and it proves to be a good business too. All that is left is for governments to follow suit.

“Always remember, politicians are a renewable resource too,” he concluded.–Agencies

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