United Nations climate change conference opens in Cancun

Mexican President Felipe Calderon opened the United Nations climate change conference here on Monday with a fervent plea to all nations to set aside differences and find a mechanism to fight climate change and poverty.

Nearly 200 countries and hundreds of delegates are taking part in the conference.

Mr. Calderon said it was possible to reduce greenhouse gases and still grow productively. Giving the example of Simona Gomez Lopez from a Mexican indigenous tribe, who spoke before him, the President said it was possible to adopt a sustainable growth path and live in harmony with nature.

Ms. Lopez led a community of women potters from the mountains in adopting sustainable practices such as afforestation, reduced use of wood and being economical by using wood stoves with reduced emissions and efficient kilns with government help. Ms. Lopez spoke of the hard life she and other women led. They had to walk three hours to find wood for cooking.

After years of drought, Mexico was battered by a spate of hurricanes. It was a rude awakening to the vagaries of climate change. But the power of humanity could stop the harsh effects of climate change in its path. Cancun offered an opportunity to evolve a substantive programme and a balanced package of decisions to deal with poverty and sustainable growth.

Mr. Calderon said the key was to close the gap between destruction and nature and the rich and the poor. Issues related to forests, mitigation and adaptation and how these could be financed would be important aspects of the discussions here. The difficulty in choosing between economic growth and environment conservation was leading to a situation where no far reaching agreement could be reached on curbing climate change impact. This forced dilemma could be easily addressed sustainably and with a plan that could ensure growth and end poverty, he pointed out.

A balanced outcome was the need of the hour, speakers before him said.