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Leaders Gather for UN Climate Change Meeting


Heads of states from more than 80 countries are gathering in New York City for what will be the largest U.N.-organized event for world leaders on climate change. This is a preliminary meeting to work toward a new international agreement on the issue. But scientists say places like sub-Saharan Africa need more than just an agreement to really fix the problem. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West and Central Africa Bureau in Dakar.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he wants to build momentum to create a new climate-change agreement by 2009.

Sometimes called global warming, climate change is an increase in global temperatures believed to be largely caused by carbon-dioxide emissions.

The top U.N. climate-change official, Yvo De Boer, told VOA that Monday's meeting is a chance for Africa's leaders to appeal for help.

"It will be really important for African countries to come to that meeting and to and say, 'We are seeing the impact of climate change around us already," he said. "We have contributed nothing to causing this problem and we most of all need the help of the international community to come to grip [deal] with it."

But Benin climatologist Michel Boko, the lead author for the Africa section of the most recent report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says even if African leaders attend, little will change on the continent.

"Unfortunately, African governments are not yet aware of this emergency," said Boko. "Maybe they attend international meetings to say something, to gain money from negotiations, but how to tackle really the problems inside each country; I do not see any policy management, any policies in this way."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is composed of hundreds of scientists who provide the United Nations research and climate recommendations. Its most recent report says Africa is vulnerable because its low coastlands and tough crop conditions that make intense droughts and floods, two impacts of climate change, even more devastating.

They add Africa lacks technology to replace old polluting energy sources.

Scientists link climate change to Africa's more intense flooding this year, which has killed hundreds, displaced more than one-million people and wiped out crops and entire villages.

Monday's meeting will cover financing, mitigation, or reducing carbon emissions, adaptation, which is dealing with the inevitable changes from temperature, and technology.

Discussions to create a new climate agreement will continue at the scheduled U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali in December. If created, this new agreement will eventually replace the Kyoto Protocol, in which more than 160 countries agreed to reduce how much carbon dioxide they release.