Ex-UN boss launches forum for climate change fight

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GENEVA, Oct 17 (Reuters) Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan today launched a ''Global Humanitarian Forum'' which he said would focus on coordinating international efforts to counter the effects of climate change.

The forum, based in Geneva with financing and support from the Swiss authorities, includes in its governing board a range of other key U N figures past and present, ex-presidents, royalty, bankers and academics from rich and poorer countries.

''We need to get the world public to focus on the fact that climate change is not something down the line but is happening now, and that we have to work together to combat it,'' Annan told a news conference just before the ceremonial launch.

Annan, a Ghanaian who left the top U N job at the end of last year, said the forum aimed to convene top decision-makers from around the globe to its first annual meeting in Geneva in June 2008 to advance policy discussions on climate.

''We must all understand that this is a global issue, and that we all need to come together ... that one cannot be saved at the expense of another,'' he said. Climate change ''is going to be a constant in all human efforts,'' he added.

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U N's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which last week shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U S Vice President Al Gore, said the forum would help to foster collaboration on the issue.

''There are vulnerable communities across the world that will need help to adapt,'' said the Indian scientist, who is also on the board of Annan's forum.

Former U N humanitarian relief coordinator Jan Egeland of Norway, another board member, said five times as many people were dying around the globe from natural disasters linked to climate change than from wars and other conflicts.

Catherine Bertini, previously chief of the U N's World Food Programme, said the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region was largely rooted in drought and food shortages that came from changes in weather patterns.

REUTERS RSA RN2250

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