(Adds Ban statement)
By Daniel Wallis
NAIROBI, Feb 5 (Reuters) - The world’s poor, who are the least responsible for global warming, will suffer the most from the effects of climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told global environment ministers on Monday.
"The degradation of the global environment continues unabated ... and the effects of climate change are being felt across the globe," Ban said in a statement after last week’s toughest warning yet mankind is to blame for global warming.
In comments read on his behalf at the start of a week-long Nairobi gathering, Ban said all countries would feel the adverse effect of climate change.
"But it is the poor, in Africa and small island states, who will suffer the most, even though they are the least responsible for global warming."
Experts say Africa is the lowest emitter of the greenhouse gases that cause warming, but due to its poverty, under-development and geography, has the most to lose under predictions of wrenching change in weather patterns.
Desertification round the Sahara and the shrinking of Mount Kilimanjaro’s snow-cap have become potent symbols in Africa of the global environment crisis.
U.N. environment agencies have been lobbying Ban to play a leading role in the hunt for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gases, which expires in 2012.
Ringing in the ears of delegates at Monday’s start of talks attended by nearly 100 nations was last week’s warning by a U.N. panel that there was a more than 90 percent chance humans were behind most of the warming in the past 50 years.
Governments are under pressure to act on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which forecast more droughts, heatwaves and rising seas.
U.N. officials hope the report will spur governments — particularly the United States, the top emitter — and companies to do more to cut greenhouse gases, released mainly by power plants, factories and cars fuelling modern lifestyles.
Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) hosting the talks, said globalisation was running down world resources while not delivering the benefits expected of it.
But there were many examples of sustainable management from the certification of resources like timber and fish to avoid illegal exploitation, to "creative" financial mechanisms such as the rapidly-expanding carbon market, Steiner added.
"We need to harness the power of the consumer, match calls for international regulation from the private sector and set realistic standards and norms for the globalised markets," he said in a statement before the meeting.
As well as globalisation, this week’s UNEP Governing Council talks in Nairobi will focus on the growing threat from mercury pollution, rising demand for biofuels and U.N. reforms.
And for the first time, they draw top officials from other agencies, including World Trade Organisation boss Pascal Lamy.
"I believe (his) presence shows there is no longer one-way traffic in respect to trade and the environment," Steiner said.