The conference was opened on 2 June by Mrs Marianna Vardinoyannis, UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador and President of the Foundation for the Child and the Family, Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Director-General of the TERI, and Mr Matsuura. Mr Karamanlis, Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Sioufas, President of the Hellenic Parliament, Foreign Minister Bakoyiannis, Minister of Development Hatzidakis, Minister of Education Spiliotopoulos, Minister of Employment and Social Protection Palli-Petralia,; Minister of Health Avramopoulos, and Mr Kouvelis, Member of Parliament (PASOK), also addressed the inaugural session of the Conference.
In his opening remarks, the Director-General highlighted the short and long-term action needed to address the challenge of climate change. “The most urgent concern is to reach a new global agreement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to replace the Kyoto protocol when it expires in 2012. This is the purpose of the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December”. Referring to the effects of global warming that will be with us for decades and centuries to come, Mr Matsuura emphasized the need to “lay the groundwork for future generations to effectively confront this issue. We also know that we cannot achieve a durable solution to climate change without a profound transformation in attitudes and behaviour. This, too, is a long-term process”.
Mr Matsuura then outlined areas where UNESCO can make a special contribution – both in the short and long-term – starting from UNESCO’s work in climate science and in addressing the social and human dimensions of climate change to UNESCO’s contribution to building a global knowledge base on climate change, particularly in the areas of oceanography, hydrology and the ecological and earth sciences. “A multisectoral organization like UNESCO – with expertise not just in the natural sciences, but also in education, the social sciences, culture and communication – has a unique contribution to make in this regard”, stated the Director-General.
“Climate change is a global problem, but it manifests itself distinctly in different parts of the world and has differing implications for different groups of people”, explained the Director-General. “An effective response to climate change must take into account the need for globally coordinated mitigation and adaptation efforts, while at the same time paying attention to the particular needs of different populations and regions”, argued the Director-General, referring to some examples of UNESCO’s regional activities in South-East Europe.
Characterizing climate change as “the defining issue of our time”, Mr Matsuura argued that sustainable development and economic growth cannot be achieved without a stable climate. “The food crises, the energy crises, the economic crises: the only way we will find lasting solutions to any of these challenges is through bold action to tackle the causes and consequences of global warming”. The Director-General concluded by calling for the final Declaration of the Athens Conference to send out a strong message on the need for both immediate action and long-term strategies to address climate change.
The two-day conference focussed on different aspects of climate change and the challenges it poses for future generations. It featured a number of high-level panellists, including Mr Dimas, European Commissioner for Environment, Mr Lagos, former President of Chile and Special Envoy on Climate Change for the UN Secretary-General, Mr Fust, Director-General of the Global Humanitarian Forum (Switzerland), and Mr Yumkella, Director-General of UNIDO.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 105-2009 - Publication Date: 04-06-2009