January 30, 2007

Eiffel Tower to Go Dark Ahead of Warming Report

PARIS - The Eiffel Tower's 20,000 flashing lights will go dark for five minutes Thursday evening, hours before scientists and officials unveil a long-awaited report on global warming.

The darkening of the landmark in the City of Light comes at the urging of environmental activists and is timed to coincide with Friday's release of the major report warning that Earth will keep getting warmer and presenting new evidence of humanity's role in climate change.

Ahead of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pressure is building on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convene an emergency summit of world leaders aimed at breaking a deadlock over cutting greenhouse gases.

U.N. Environment Program Executive Director Achim Steiner recommended the summit take place later this year, an official close to the talks said Tuesday in Nairobi, Kenya, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions were not made public.

Earlier this month, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, had said he would ask Ban to organize a conference.

Ban has not decided if he will push for a summit, said his spokeswoman, Michele Montas, in New York. The secretary-general was sympathetic to the idea, according to the official in Kenya.

"Climate change is one of the most important and urgent agendas that the international community has to address before 2012," Ban said in Nairobi.

Momentum for such a gathering is building after President Bush's acknowledgment in his Jan. 24 State of the Union speech that climate change needs to be dealt with, and the EU's Jan. 10 proposals for a new European energy policy that stresses the need to slash carbon emissions blamed for global warming, U.N. Environment Program spokesman Nick Nuttall said.

"We have a window of opportunity," Nuttall said, adding that a summit could be held between July and December.

The second day of the Paris talks wound down Tuesday evening more or less on schedule, according to officials at UNESCO, the conference's host.

There was little sign of the late-night wrangling among countries that marked previous reports. The report must be unanimously approved by bureaucrats from more than 100 governments who can challenge the scientists' wording.

"The government people determine how things are said, but we (the scientists) determine what is said," said Kevin Trenberth, a lead author of the report and director of climate analysis at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.

The end result is a cautious document, many scientists say.

One Russian participant said the discussions he observed were more procedural than political.

Another observer who has taken part in several such conferences, Stephanie Tunmore of Greenpeace, said, "So far we're running on timetable. But who knows, we've got two more days. If there's any panic, it will be Wednesday night when they realize they've only got a few hours left."

An early draft of the report being released in Paris suggests it will contain stronger evidence of the human role in climate change and more specific predictions of rising temperatures and sea levels this century.

The report "won't change our scientific basis, but it will make our jobs easier," said Steve Sawyer of Greenpeace. "It is an important and powerful new tool in public debate and policy debate."

Environmental groups have long urged governments and consumers to rely more on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power instead of greenhouse gas-emitting ones like coal and oil. Greenhouse gases are considered a key culprit of rising global temperatures.


Associated Press Writers Jenny Barchfield in Paris, Seth Borenstien in Washington, and Tom Maliti in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.