SENSE OF URGENCY: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon addresses the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the high-level segment of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha on Tuesday. Picture: REUTERS

DOHA — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ended the official part of his first day, Tuesday, at this year’s Qatar-hosted UN climate change talks saying it was the world’s poor who suffered "first and most" from climate change’s negative effects.

The "high-level segment" of the talks kicked off officially on Tuesday, with Mr Ban urging the almost 200 nations gathered in Doha to pull out all the stops to insert vigour into the talks that have all but stagnated.

"The abnormal is the new normal," he told gathered ministers and heads of state.

"No one is immune to climate change, rich or poor. It is an existential challenge for the whole human race — our way of life, our plans for the future," Mr Ban said.

He reiterated this message at an evening event showcasing the Momentum for Change, a project launched at last year’s talks in Durban to highlight "transformational" mitigation and adaptation activities in the developing world.

"Climate change affects us all. We are all part of the problem and the solution, but the poor suffer (its ill effects) first and most," he said.

"I call on the governments here to make the difficult decisions at the (talks), and take the appropriate actions at home," he said.

The predominant sticking point has been the how and the how much of the long-term finance for developing countries’ adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, with pledges for $100bn a year from 2020, but no real cash coming in.

However, the UK started the ball rolling on Tuesday, becoming the first Group of Seven country to pledge money for the period up to 2020. It put £1.8bn on the table, spurring calls from civil society for more from other industrialised nations.

Mr Ban said Momentum for Change, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, put the spotlight on activities that deserved to be scaled up.

The nine projects for 2012, all aimed at helping the urban poor, range from energy-efficient brick production in Peru, through a Chinese bus rapid transport and bicycle system, to a project in Namibia that gives women locally produced, energy-efficient, wood-burning stoves.

Momentum for Change selection panel chairwoman Kelly Rigg said she had discovered that hope in the context of climate change was something that had to be actively sought.

"It is not a passive process, it is an active process," she said.

With Reuters

• Sue Blaine is attending the talks on a scholarship from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.