U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (undated photo)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (undated photo)

The U.N. Secretary-General says he is "optimistic" a climate-change agreement can be reached in Copenhagen that will include specific recommendations on key elements that will take effect immediately.  Ban Ki-moon told reporters this conference must be the turning point in global efforts to prevent runaway global warming and usher in a new era of environmentally sustainable growth.

While the United Nations has backed away from its hope of having a legally-binding treaty come out of Copenhagen, it still believes a serious agreement can be reached that will lead the way to a legally-binding one next year.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told reporters he would go to the Danish capital next week to open the high-level segment that he expects will draw more than 100 heads of state and government.

"I am encouraged and I am optimistic.  I expect a robust agreement at Copenhagen summit meeting that will be effective immediately and include specific recommendations on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology. This agreement will have an immediate operational effect," he said.

His remarks come as scientists released new data showing the first decade of this century will likely turn out to be the warmest ever.  The findings from the World Meteorological Association also predict 2009 will be the 5th warmest year since global record-keeping began in 1850.

Scientists warn that without an agreement to reduce so-called green house gas emissions, global temperatures will continue to rise, with the catastrophic consequences of extreme weather events, the spread of drought and disease, and the extinction of plant and animal species.

But climate change skeptics have seized on the recent theft of thousands of private e-mail messages from computer servers at a British climate research center to cast doubt on whether global warming is as serious as it has been made out to be.  Mr. Ban dismissed the scandal, saying he did not think it would affect the negotiations in Copenhagen.

"Nothing that has come out in the public as a result of the recent e-mail hackings has cast doubt on the basic scientific message on climate change, and that message is quite clear - that climate change is happening much, much faster than we realize and we human beings are the primary cause," he said.

Mr. Ban said he is encouraged that negotiations are proceeding well in Copenhagen, and he hopes the summit can achieve, among other things, ambitious mitigation targets for developed countries and their commitments of financial support to assist developing countries adapt to the impact of global warming.