UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged environment ministers Wednesday to reject attempts by skeptics to undermine efforts to forge a climate change deal, stressing that global warming poses "a clear and present danger."
In a message read by a UN official, Ban referred to a still-burning controversy over several mistakes made in a 2007 report issued by the UN-affiliated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which drew widespread criticisms and sparked calls for the resignation of its chairman, Rajendra Pachauri.
The report's conclusion that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 turned out to be incorrect and has bolstered arguments from climate skeptics that fears of global warming were overblown.
Despite the failure to forge a binding deal on curbing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions at a UN conference in Copenhagen last December, Ban said the meeting made an important step forward by setting a target to keep global temperature from rising and establishing a program of climate aid to poorer nations.
"To maintain the momentum, I urge you to reject last-ditch attempts by climate skeptics to derail your negotiations by exaggerating shortcomings in the ... report," Ban said in the statement read at the start of an annual UN meeting of environmental officials from 130 countries on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.
"Tell the world that you unanimously agree that climate change is a clear and present danger," Ban said.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said time was running out, but expressed confidence that a binding climate change deal could be forged at the next climate change summit later this year in Cancun, Mexico.
"I'm convinced that we're still not too late," he said at the Bali conference.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Indonesia will hold an informal meeting of all environmental ministers and officials from 130 countries Friday in Bali to discuss ways of ensuring that a binding treaty on greenhouse gas cutbacks could be forged in Cancun.
"No sealed deal happened in Copenhagen, so it's now more urgent than ever for us to work diligently between now and Mexico," Natalegawa told The Associated Press in an interview. "It should have been urgent last year, but we didn't live up to that urgency," he said.
A new UN study issued Tuesday said countries will have to significantly increase their pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions if there is any hope of preventing the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Sixty nations - including China, the United States and the 27-member European Union - met a Jan. 31 deadline to submit pledges to the UN for reducing greenhouse gases as part of a voluntary plan to roll back emissions.
Together the countries produce 78 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels. The deadline was set at the Copenhagen conference.
"Countries will have to be far more ambitious in cutting greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to effectively curb a rise in global temperature," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.
"We know today that inaction on climate change in the long run will be leading to catastrophic scenarios."
Countries set a target in Copenhagen of keeping the Earth's average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the levels that existed before nations began industrializing in the late 18th century.
Scientists believe global emissions must be cut in half by mid-century in order to avoid the melting of glaciers and icecaps, the flooding of low-lying coastal cities and islands, and worsening droughts in Africa and elsewhere.
Pachauri will meet with the environmental ministers later in the week to discuss a number of issues, including the controversy over several mistakes made in the 2007 climate change report, Steiner said.
Some Republican lawmakers in the United States have called for Pachauri to resign.
Despite the mistakes, Steiner argued that the science behind global warming is robust and that the report itself was helping countries combat it.