Investing in "cheap and dirty" power because of the global recession will lead to another financial crisis, the UN climate chief warned Sunday on the eve of tough international talks in Poland.
"My firm belief is that if as a result of that financial crisis, we make a next generation of bad investments, we will be setting ourselves up for the next economic crisis," said Yvo de Boer, head of the 192-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
"Over the next five to 10 years we will be replacing about 40 percent of power-generating capacity worldwide. If, in light of the financial crisis, that power-generating capacity is replaced using cheap and dirty technology, then that technology is going to be around for the next 30 to 50 years," he said.
"If we use the financial crisis as a reason for short-term thinking then I believe we will basically be setting ourselves up for capital stock destruction in 10, 15, 20 years time."
The comments came on the eve of 12 days of talks starting Monday in Poznan, Poland, involving representatives from almost every country on the planet.
Their aim is to clear the way for a new global climate-change pact to be signed in Copenhagen in December 2009.
Barack Obama, president-elect of the world's biggest polluter per capita, the United States, will not be present but his "eyes and ears" such as Senator John Kerry will be, de Boer said.
"President-elect Obama has asked a number of senators to be his eyes and ears at this conference" de Boer said.
"I have also been told by the current US representation that they will be sure to keep in very close contact with Senator Obama's team in order to ensure that positions taken by the US delegation during this meeting here do not go in a direction that would not be favoured by Senator Obama's team," de Boer said.
George W. Bush, US president for only another few weeks, mauled the UNFCCC's Kyoto Treaty on binding emissions cuts for rich countries when he abandoned it in 2001, but an Obama White House looks set to be a different prospect.
The president-elect has said he would set a goal of reducing US emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050, use a cap-and-trade system and a 10-year, 150-billion-dollar (118 billion euros) renewable energy programme.
Delegates in Poland will be examining an 82-page document containing a range of differing and complex proposals, de Boer said.
By the end of the talks on December 12, it is hoped that this will have been condensed into a workable blueprint for negotiations to culminate in the deal in the Danish capital in 12 months' time, he said.
"The first benchmark (of success at Poznan) for me is that at the end of the two weeks here, that document is taken to the next level... whittled down into something that could be agreed upon in Copenhagen," de Boer said.
"We have two very busy weeks ahead of us," he said.