Is Ban Ki Moon Backing Off Climate?


There was a fair bit of optimism on climate last month at the conclusion of the United Nations talks in Cancun, bolstering hopes that a long-stalled global climate treaty might be back on track. But it appears that the UN’s secretary general that made global warming one of his top priorities is backing away from the issue.

The Guardian reports today that Ban Ki Moon is retreating from his close involvement with the climate negotiations, reflecting the realization that a global deal isn’t happening any time soon:

The officials said the change in focus reflected Ban’s realisation, after his deep involvement with the failed Copenhagen summit in 2009, that world leaders are not prepared to come together in a sweeping agreement on global warming – at least not for the next few years.

“It is very evident that there will not be a single grand deal at any point in the near future,” said Robert Orr, UN assistant secretary general for strategic planning and a key adviser to Ban.

The view from UN headquarters will likely dismay developing countries who fought hard at Copenhagen and last year’s summit at Cancún for countries to renew their commitments to the Kyoto protocol in just that type of grand deal.

UN officials say Ban will no longer be deeply involved in the negotiations leading up to the next big UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, meeting at Durban in December 2011.

Ban has called climate change “the greatest collective challenge we face as a human family.” His office says he’s still committed to the issue, but sees more value in working on finance for adaptation to climate rather than trying to get leaders to commit to deep emission cuts.

UPDATE: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Friday, Ban refuted the idea that he is backing away from his focus on climate change and emphasized its importance:

To any who might argue that time and effort spent on climate change is wasted, I would respectfully beg to differ. A climate agreement among all nations is both necessary and possible. It may not be easy, but things worth doing seldom are. I will continue to engage world leaders, just as I have here in Davos, to advance climate negotiations and to make concrete progress on the ground. This is integral to our overall sustainable development agenda. As I told President Zuma yesterday, I look forward to attending COP 17 in Durban this December and will do all I can to build upon recent success in Cancun. I also had a meeting with President Calderon of Mexico, and we will work in concert together to achieve progress in the climate change process.