SEATTLE (AP) — The United States has to take a strong role if the world hopes to deal with global warming, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says.
"All the world is now looking to the leadership of the United States and President Obama," Ban said in an interview Sunday with The Seattle Times.
Ban is making a two-day visit to Seattle as part of a trip to call attention to global issues such as climate change and to promote the U.N. to the American public. He was to receive an honorary degree from the University of Washington on Monday, after meeting earlier in the day with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda.
Ban has been pressing nations to commit to firm emission limits when they meet in December in Copenhagen, Denmark, to work out a new treaty to slow global warming, replacing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on carbon dioxide emissions. The meeting has been billed as a last chance to avoid the impact of global warming.
This week, the Senate environment committee will take up its version of a global warming bill. The legislation would cut greenhouse gases by about 80 percent by 2050 and require more domestic energy to come from renewable sources.
But with work still to be done on health care and deep divisions in Congress over how to deal with climate change, chances the Senate will pass a climate bill by the end of the year are slim. That means U.S. negotiators are likely to not have firm targets set before the Copenhagen meeting.
Ban told The Times that climate change complicates many other problems the U.N. is working to solve, such as poverty and famine and the ensuing political instability.
"Have you ever seen in our history when the ... international community has been hit all at once by all these crises: climate change, economic crisis, food security, energy crisis, pandemic?" he asked.
The Gates Foundation and the U.N. have collaborated on a number of development and food programs. Ban said he was meeting with Gates and his wife to discuss ways to reduce maternal death rates around the world.
A woman dies every minute from preventable complications of pregnancy or childbirth, Ban said.
"This is what we have to stop," he said. "Government support is crucial, but so, too, is private funding. That is why I'm going to discuss this matter with Bill Gates."
Ban also said he hopes his trip will improve the perception the American public has of the U.N.
"Having a strong partnership between the U.S. and the U.N., as well as getting ... the appreciation of the American public for the work the U.N. is doing, is very important," he said.
Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com