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UN Calls for Urgent Action on Climate Change

The United Nations is calling for urgent action to halt climate change on the 20th anniversary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The U.N. Secretary General and other eminent personalities were present at the official ceremony, which celebrated this event in Geneva from where Lisa Schlein reports for VOA

For much of the past 20 years, studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been greeted with skepticism and even vilified in some quarters. But, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, says any lingering doubts that the globe is warming were laid to rest in the Panel's Fourth Assessment Report.

He says the report established that climate change is real, that it is happening, and that human activity is the primary driver of this phenomenon. "It has developed into a full-scale crisis that makes it increasingly difficult for us to reach and maintain development aspirations such as the Millennium Development Goals. But, the crisis needs a commensurate response. After 20 years of the work of the IPCC, we have the science. We know what needs to be done," he said.

Last year, the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, together with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. The Nobel Committee praised them for their efforts in spreading greater knowledge about man-made climate change and for presenting the measures needed to counteract such changes.

IPCC Chairman R.K. Pachauri is pleased with the award, but he says this is no time for the IPCC to rest on its laurels. In an interview with VOA, he says the threats from climate change are huge. He says the clock is running out on the amount of time left to reverse this process. "I would say about six or seven years. We need to think about change rather quickly because unless we do that, then the impacts of climate change are going to get more and more serious," he said.

Pachauri says the United States, which is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, must take a leadership role in combating climate change. He says he believes there will be a positive change in attitude from the new Administration. "I expect in the next few months you will definitely see a change out of the U.S. and that is largely because there is a great deal of public opinion which is demanding that the U.S. should take more of a leadership position in climate change negotiations and the agreement that we hope will come into existence," he said.

The IPCC's 29th plenary meeting is taking place this year. This is part of ongoing negotiations aimed at reaching a comprehensive climate change agreement in Copenhagen by December 2009. That agreement will succeed the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.