UN Ghana climate talks begin, but time is running out
As around 160 nations convened in Accra today to resume talks on climate change, Ghana warned that time was running short to work out a climate change deal, that even now will require billions of dollars a year.
The biggest issue on the table is that the poor people of Africa cannot adapt to climate change, and need some guidance on how to do that.
"The clock is ticking," Ghanaian President John Kufuor told the opening session of the August 21-27 talks in Accra, meant to work on details of a new U.N. deal to combat global warming that will be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.
"We need more than rhetoric to make progress in the next 12 to 18 months," he told about 1,000 delegates in a conference hall in Accra. The talks are the third this year of a series of eight U.N. sessions due to end with a treaty in Copenhagen.
Kufuor said there were damaging signs of climate change in Ghana -- rainfall had decreased by 20 percent in the past 30 years, while up to 1,000 square km (386.1 sq mile) of land was at risk in the Volta Delta due to sea level rises and floods.
"Climate change makes development harder and more expensive," he said.
Adapting to climate change, through the use of things such as flood prevention, drought-resistant crops, or sea erosion, is estimated to cost around tens of billions of dollars.
Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, also urged delegates to speed up talks after scant progress in previous meetings in Bangkok and Bonn this year against a backdrop of slowing economic growth and high food and fuel prices.
"Time is short ... negotiations need to speed up," he said. He said Africa had been the "forgotten continent" in the climate debate and among the most vulnerable, with up to 250 million people threatened by water shortages by 2020.
The Accra talks will be continuing where the Kyoto Protocol left off. In that Protocol, 37 developed nations have agreed to cut emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.