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Speech by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment (UNEP), at the 8th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

I am delighted to be participating in this eighth COP hosted by the Government of India in this extraordinary country with such a rich and outstanding history, with a vibrant and dynamic present with such a promising and exciting future.

India has become a world leader in many fields of culture and industry with its film and computer software industries recognized globally as among the best, to name but two.

Its commitment in terms of climate change is also a leading light for the Rio Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities.

So I give the COP8 President, H.E Baalu, Indian Union Minister for the Environment and Forests, my congratulations for his personal commitment and leadership in organizing this important conference.

And I thank the Government and people of India for their hospitality.

Yesterday we had a press conference, where we learnt at first hand from the insurance industry - an industry in many ways on the front line in terms of the impacts of climate change - just what it is costing.

For the year 2002, from January to September, the cost of natural disasters is already 56 billion U.S. dollars.

During the last decades or so, the cost of natural disasters has been rising. These, alongside lots of other indicators, gives us the clear message that climate-change, linked with human-made emissions, is already underway.

So the world is facing a rise in extreme weather events of the kind witnessed in 2002 that will impact on every facet of life including agriculture, health, water supplies and biodiversity.

It will be the poorer parts of the world, the poorer people, who will suffer most because they have neither the financial, technical nor other resources to cope.

The facts and figures surrounding the likely impacts are well known, reflected in the brilliant work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientists in which UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization are partners.

Industrialized nations must do all they can to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, the first step of which is to ratify the Kyoto Protocol so it can come into force. We are very close to this. However we must go further and, at the same time, take action to help the poorer parts of the world adapt, to help them cope with the more unstable and more extreme environments likely in the coming decades.

Technical and financial resources need to be made available to help, to build cooperation and solidarity. Developing countries need sustainable development, they need jobs.

Adaptation is a key theme for COP8. But this should not be a substitute for mitigation, for cutting back emissions.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development, only some weeks before COP8, gave the world a clear Plan of Implementation for fighting poverty, for delivering sustainable development.

UNEP has a little motto which we drew up before the WSSD: Environment for Development.

For without a healthy environment one can never have development that lasts and with a damaged, degraded, environment one can never lift the poor out of the cycle of misery and despair which is at least partially responsible for some of the tensions we see today in the world.

So let us without wavering or looking back, support emission reductions and adaptation, so that the promises made in Rio, the pledges made and signed in Kyoto, and the commitments to fight poverty made in Johannesburg, can become reality.

I wish the Indian Government a very successful COP8 which will contribute to implementation of the climate change agreements.