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Annan optimistic about climate pact prospects

FORMER United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today he was optimistic that the world could agree on a climate change accord with the support of the US administration of Barack Obama.

In his opening remarks to the Global Humanitarian Forum, Annan said the clock was ticking for the world to avert extreme storms, floods and droughts that will intensify with global warming.

"Every year we delay, the greater the damage, the more extensive the human misery," he told an audience at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, also warning of "cost, pain and disruption of inevitable action later".

His group's two-day meeting has drawn together heads of UN agencies with government officials and experts for talks on practical ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions that scientists expect to stoke global warming and cause rising sea levels and loss of food production.

Annan, 71, said he hoped their discussions on "the greatest environmental and humanitarian concern of our age" would help set the stage for a deal in Copenhagen in December on a successor to the Kyoto accord.

"A new president and new administration in the United States have demonstrated their seriousness about combating climate change. Given that the US is the greatest source of emissions, this raises optimism for Copenhagen and beyond," Annan said.

More than 190 countries will meet in Copenhagen to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which regulates emissions of greenhouse gases.

Economic stimulus efforts in Washington, Brussels and around the world in response to the global economic downturn have also pumped investment into low-carbon energy and alternative technologies that could create jobs and boost sustainable projects, Annan said.

Climate experts have warned pledges by industrialized nations to cut emissions by 2020 fall far short of the deep cuts widely advocated to avert dangerous climate change.


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