|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
Informal Thematic Debate
AM & PM Meetings
SECRETARY-GENERAL CHALLENGES WORLD COMMUNITY TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE HEAD-ON; HOW
IT ADDRESSES THREAT ‘WILL DEFINE US, OUR ERA AND, ULTIMATELY, OUR GLOBAL LEGACY’
General Assembly President, In ‘Carbon Neutral’ Debate, Stresses
Urgency of Acting Now -– ‘The longer We Wait, The More Expensive This Will Be’
With human activity driving global warming, extreme weather events and climate fluctuations of the sort never before experienced in recorded history, United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon today challenged the world’s nations to take decisive action this year to tackle the climate change threat head-on.
“I am convinced that this challenge, and what we do about it, will define us, our era and, ultimately, our global legacy. It is time for new thinking,” Secretary-General Ban said, opening the General Assembly’s first-ever thematic plenary debate devoted exclusively to climate change. “We cannot continue with business as usual. The time has come for decisive action on a global scale,” he said, urging Member States to work together to translate the growing scientific consensus on the problem into a broad political consensus for action.
Recalling the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which unequivocally affirmed the warming of the world’s climate system and linked it directly to human activity, the Secretary-General painted a dire picture of an escalating global emergency -- from the Arctic, where melting icecaps were threatening that region’s people and ecosystems, to the African continent, where changing weather patterns threatened to exacerbate drought, food insecurity and desertification.
“I am determined to minimize the UN system’s own carbon footprint and to make this a climate neutral Organization,” he said, highlighting his “Greening the United Nations” initiative, which aimed to make the world body and its premises a model for combating climate change. The strategy would involve all heads of United Nations agencies in the development of a comprehensive plan to make the Organization’s facilities and worldwide operations environmentally friendly.
It was also time for a comprehensive agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process that tackled climate change on all fronts, including adaptation, mitigation, clean technologies, deforestation and resource mobilization, the Secretary-General said.
Laying out his timeline for further action this year, he said that the intergovernmental process, which begins with the Assembly’s informal debate and the convening of a high-level summit in New York this September, would lead to the start of negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, in December. “All countries must do what they can to reach agreement by 2009, and to have it in force by the expiry of the current Kyoto Protocol commitment period in 2012.”
In her opening remarks, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said the debate was a testimony to the moral importance of addressing climate change. “The mutual concern of people across continents reflects the growing consensus that climate change needs to be addressed. It is urgent that we act now. The longer we wait, the more expensive this will be.”
Announcing that this was the Assembly’s first-ever “carbon neutral” debate, she said that emissions from air travel to bring participating experts to New York and the entire carbon dioxide emissions of United Nations Headquarters were being offset by investment in a biomass fuel project in Kenya. That fuel switch project supported the use of agricultural waste instead of traditional fossil fuels to power a crude palm oil refinery, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating new economic opportunities for local farmers.
“I hope that this modest example will inspire similar initiatives in the future,” she said, adding that: “We can begin by making simple changes in the way we affect the environment; by increasing our energy efficiency, recycling more, off-setting our carbon emissions and supporting more sustainable lifestyles.”
Although global warming had many aspects, it was fundamentally a development issue, she said. Climate change should, therefore, be addressed in the context of the broader international development agenda. “What is at stake is the fate and well-being of our planet. We must not lose sight of this point in our efforts to address this major concern,” she said, calling for political action to protect the environment, secure the planet and safeguard the future.
Wrapping up the debate, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals and Director of Colombia University’s Earth Institute, said that there was “good news and some tough news” about the climate change issue. The good news was that the costs of addressing the challenges were within reach of most countries. “If we can stop the panic”, targets could be reached well within 1 per cent of world income, he said.
The bad news was that the international community had the capacity to fight tenaciously –- and endlessly –- over percentages of income, he went on. The fight for “who’s going to get off the dime” might be less important than everyone once believed. “It’s not as much money as you think.” Clearly, rich countries must pay for adaptation programmes and must make research and development available for developing countries. Rich countries should also establish a funding mechanism for clean energy adoption for low-income countries.
He said he believed that the intergovernmental negotiations in September and December were going to succeed because Governments were finally going to use the one tool that could provide a breakthrough: the spreadsheet. Once negotiators started doing the arithmetic, and looking at what needed to be done in specific sectors like deforestation and to address specific industrial concerns such as power plants and automobile factories, they would find out that financing climate change was “utterly affordable and a tiny fraction of the cost of inaction”.
Both rich and poor countries must be committed to finding solutions, he said. Assuming the continued use of fossil fuels and that science proved that the
world could curb that use, clean it up, and adopt new and cleaner technologies, “we may find that we can have our climate and development too”.
The day-long plenary session included two interactive panel discussions with climate change experts and senior United Nations officials. Tomorrow, the Assembly will hold a plenary debate with statements on national strategies and international commitments by Member States.
The morning panel discussion covered “Climate Change: the Science, the Impact and the Adaptation Imperative”. The panellists -- including John Holdren, Harvard University; Nicholas Stern, London School of Economics; Hervé Le Treut, Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, CNRS; Kenrick R. Leslie, Caribbean Community Climate Change Center; and Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment, India -- divided the discussion into two rounds: first the science and the impact, followed by the adaptation. The panel was moderated by Kemal Derviş, Administrator, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The afternoon panel on “Mitigation Strategies in the Context of Sustainable Development” was moderated by Mohamed El-Ashry, United Nations Foundation, and included Robert Socolow, Princeton University; Anthony Olusegun Adegbulugbe, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria; Hasan M. Qabazard, Director of Research Division, OPEC; Michael Liebreich, CEO, New Energy Finance; Björn Stigson, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development; and Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Assembly will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its informal thematic debate on climate change.
With United Nations officials, Government delegations and prominent scientists gathered at Headquarters to discuss the ecological, social and economic challenges posed by global warming, the General Assembly today began a two-day informal thematic debate on climate change, focusing squarely on the latest eye-opening scientific assessments of the phenomenon, as well as the two components of the response -- adaptation and mitigation -- the role of the private sector and possible next steps in the multilateral process.
The Assembly President and the Secretary-General will open the event, which will feature two interactive panel discussions: “Climate Change: the Science, the Impact and the Adaptation Imperative” this morning, and “Mitigation Strategies in the context of Sustainable Development”, in the afternoon. Tomorrow, the Assembly’s discussions will be open to all Member States, with a focus on national strategies and international commitments to address climate change.
Participants will also consider the series of landmark reports issued this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warns, among other things, that planet Earth is getting warmer faster –- with “unequivocal” evidence pointing to human activity and ozone-gobbling greenhouse gases. With the effects of climate change clearly visible in prolonged droughts, violent storms and deadly earthquakes –- especially across the developing world, where billions will be affected by fluctuating temperatures and weather patterns -- the Panel warns that, unless the world radically alters its behaviour, the planet’s temperature could rise by as much as 3°C by century’s end.
A concept paper issued by the Assembly President ahead of the debate agrees that some of the worst scenarios outlined by the Panel can still be avoided by taking immediate action. This requires concerted efforts by all States, especially industrialized countries and major emerging economies, to significantly reduce the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. It will be necessary to develop methods that will allow people and communities to adapt to the realities imposed by climate change. Developing countries will be the most affected and are those with the most limited resources –- a combination that will require collective efforts to address, the paper adds.
The paper also says that it is critical that adaptation be put forward on policy agendas. Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have already highlighted the major challenges and the most important elements that might be part of an enhanced multilateral response to climate change when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Sustained funding for the implementation of large-scale adaptation initiatives is crucial. Without adequate and targeted funding, adaptation runs the risk of not being effectively addressed. Short-term emergency relief, or “reactive” funding, is costly and unsupportive of sustainable development approaches over the long term.
However, adaptation does not obviate the need for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, the paper says. Both adaptation and mitigation strategies are necessary and complementary. According to the Climate Change Panel, there is significant potential for mitigation, including increasing the use of clean technologies and improving end-use efficiency. The wide deployment of climate-friendly technologies is key to meeting the mitigation challenge. Existing clean technologies need to be picked up by the private sector rapidly and deployed widely, including through technological cooperation between industrialized and developing countries. Among other things, the paper says that addressing climate change will, however, require continuous improvement through innovation and the development of new technologies.
On the role of business, the paper says that the business community can offer new choices, innovate, apply knowledge and technology to problems and turn them into opportunities. Key to establishing such a role has been the growing number of corporations that have understood the vital importance of corporate social responsibility, risk mitigation and performance dimensions associated with sustainable production and use of energy. Actions to address climate change can also provide a platform for new economic growth, new jobs, new manufacturing and service industries, and new roles for sectors such as agriculture and forestry.
There is a wide range of activities that businesses can undertake to reduce their contribution to climate change. They can implement green power programmes and cogeneration projects; develop energy-saving processes and products, clean fuels, biomass energy, clean-burning vehicle engines; and much more. With assistance from Governments, they can play an important role in the climate effort through partnerships. Both research partnerships and partnerships in the development of climate policy can help ensure a factual basis about what can be achieved, how to achieve it and when.
The Assembly’s debate, which will aim to translate the growing scientific consensus on climate change into a broad political consensus for action, sets the stage for the Secretary-General’s high-level event in September and for the climate change conference that will take place in Bali this December.
SHEIKHA HAYA RASHED AL KHALIFA ( Bahrain), President of the General Assembly, said today’s debate was a testimony to the political and moral importance of addressing climate change. Although the warming of the global climate had many aspects, it was fundamentally a development issue. Climate change, therefore, should be addressed in the context of the Organization’s broader international development agenda. “How we protect our environment, manage climate change, secure our planet and safeguard our future, for our children and generations to come, is one of the greatest international challenges of our time,” she said.
That message was central to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 15 years ago, she said. More recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had concluded that warming of the climate system was an established fact and a growing concern. Climate change needed to be addressed. “The longer we wait, the more expensive this will be.” The cruel irony of climate change was that the countries least responsible for it would be worst affected -- economic growth and poverty reduction would be undermined.
She said greater investment in climate-friendly energy production and energy efficiency must be made, and technology transfers must be actively pursued to help ensure that all the Millennium Development Goals were met. However, measures designed to address climate change should not be at the cost of economic growth, but geared to achieve it.
She announced that the current debate was “carbon neutral”. The entire carbon emissions of United Nations Headquarters over the next two days and the emissions from the air travel to bring experts to the debate had been offset. Carbon emissions were also being offset by investing in a biomass fuel project in Kenya. Globally, however, one must move towards a post-Kyoto framework. A global carbon cap was required with a target for reducing emissions. Within a global framework, carbon trading had a fundamental role to play as a cost-effective mechanism to deliver emission reductions.
“In an interdependent world, we must recognize and champion a multilateral solution to the problems we face,” she continued. The Assembly had an important role to play in addressing climate change. “I believe it is not just more urgent than ever before, but also more possible than before to build a global consensus for tackling environmental change.” The technological capability and scientific know-how was there, but a global consensus could only be secured if all countries could share in the benefits from action to address it.
In conclusion, she thanked the sponsors of the thematic debate for their support, namely the Government of Japan, the European Commission, the United Nations Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.
BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, said that the Assembly was meeting at a time when climate change –- long on the international agenda -- was finally receiving the very highest attention that it merited. The world had already heard much about the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel, which had unequivocally confirmed the warming of our climate system and linked it directly to human activity. The effects of those changes were already grave, and they were growing.
Indeed, the Arctic was warming twice as fast as the global average, and the resultant melting threatened the region’s people and ecosystems. It also imperilled low-lying islands and coastal cities half a world away, while glaciers retreated and water supplies were put at risk. For one third of the world’s population living in dry lands, especially in Africa, changing weather patterns threatened to exacerbate desertification, drought and food insecurity, he said, warning: “We cannot go this way for long. We cannot continue with business as usual. The time has come for decisive action on a global scale.”
“I am convinced that this challenge, and what we do about it, will define us, our era and, ultimately, our global legacy,” he said, adding that it was time for new thinking and that everyone needed to shoulder the responsibility. “Will succeeding generations have to ask why we failed to do the right thing, and left them to suffer the consequences?” he asked, stressing that his personal priority was to work with Member States to ensure that the United Nations played its role to the fullest.
For now, he said, the international community must reach agreement under the Framework Convention process that tackled climate change on all fronts, including adaptation, mitigation, clean technologies, deforestation and resource mobilization. All countries must do what they could to reach agreement by 2009, and to have it in force by the expiry of the current Kyoto Protocol commitment period in 2012.
To build on existing momentum, the Secretary-General said that he was convening a high-level meeting on climate change in New York at the start of the sixty-second General Assembly. This week’s debate would lay the groundwork for that event, and for the upcoming negotiations under the Climate Change Convention in December in Bali. He would spare no effort to galvanize political will to catalyze joint action on the issue.
Highlighting some of his relevant initiatives, he said he had consulted with various political leaders throughout the year in an effort to build momentum ahead of the Bali conference and the broader Convention process. He had also reached out to a wide range of local government representatives, including cities and regions around the world, civil society organizations and the private sector. For instance, this month’s Global Compact Leaders’ Summit had focused on climate change, and the annual United Nations non-governmental organization conference later this year would also focus on the subject.
Within the United Nations system, he said, he was determined that all parts of the Organization should contribute to that monumental effort and support action by Member States, especially those that were most vulnerable. A case in point was the Organization’s increased support for action on adaptation, including the development of national adaptation programmes in developing countries and their integration into national strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
He said he was also determined to minimize the United Nations own “carbon footprint” and to make the Organization climate neutral. Towards that goal, he had launched a “greening the United Nations” initiative and invited all heads of agencies and other United Nations bodies to work with him on a comprehensive plan covering the world body’s premises and operations. The Organization also looked to the Member States for direction and guidance on an issue of such consequence, and he looked forward to hearing the views of Government delegations later in the week. “Together we can -- and must -- take decisive measures this year to address the climate change threat head-on.”
Panel Discussion on Climate Change: Science, Impact and Adaptation Imperative
The panellists -- including John Holdren, Harvard University; Nicholas Stern, London School of Economics; HervéLe Treut, Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, CNRS; Kenrick R. Leslie, Caribbean Community Climate Change Center; and Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment, India -- divided the discussion in two rounds: first the science and the impact, followed by the adaptation. The panel was moderated by Kemal Derviş, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The panellists pointed out that the most important cause of the current climate change was due to human activities, with the central contributor being carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and the cutting down of tropical forests. Global climate disruptions were causing serious harm, including increased floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires and severe tropical storms, according to one panellist. There were already an estimated 150,000 premature deaths attributable to climate change. Continuing with business as usual was going to lead to much greater disruption and harm; not decades from now, but soon.
One panellist pointed out that a lot of the economic and development consequences involved water, including melting glaciers, rising sea levels, droughts and heat waves. Under the business as usual scenario, there would be a 15 per cent chance of 5°C increase during the current century. That would lead to a loss of output of at least 5 per cent of world national income. Timely action could drastically reduce that risk, at a cost of 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The cost of timely action, therefore, was much less than the cost of inaction. Measures could be combined with economic growth and development. Inaction, however, would choke off growth and development.
Delay was dangerous, panellists agreed. Everyone was vulnerable to impacts of climate change, but those contributing least to climate change were hit hardest and soonest. However, adaptation and development must not be seen as separate agendas. “Good development helps adaptation,” one panellist said. He pointed out, however, that the extra costs to development because of climate change ran into tens of billions of dollars. Those costs were separate from the costs of investing in mitigation schemes.
Locally, the impact of climate change differed among regions, one panellist noted. For the Caribbean region, for instance, a 1°C increase would cause a decrease in the fish stocks, and a 2°C increase would threaten the agricultural sector. There were severe environmental impacts, such as on coral reefs, floods, droughts and loss of topsoil.
Speakers pointed out that most effects of climate change in the short term were inevitable. Decisive and quick actions were necessary now in order to address matters in the very long term. Addressing the issues, however, would require “political sagacity and leadership of a kind never seen until now”, as one speaker said. Despite the Kyoto Protocol, no country had yet built a low-carbon economy. Climate change was also about sharing growth between nations and peoples. It was about cooperation, built on fairness and justice.
Opening the Assembly’s response to the panel’s presentations, NERONI SLADE ( Samoa) said the observed effects of climate change had long been a concern of small island developing States, which were especially vulnerable to sea level rise and other phenomena. Deterioration of costal areas and eroding beaches was affecting not only their uniquely vulnerable ecosystems, but life support systems, livelihoods and industries, such as tourism and aqua-culture -– the most climate sensitive of sectors -- which were critical for the economic development of most small islands.
Small island nations were not alone in their vulnerability, he said, stressing that climate change and related disasters were pressuring developing countries and peoples, especially those living in arid regions, river deltas, mountain ranges and the far reaches of the Arctic, struggling to achieve agreed development goals worldwide. He called on all States, particularly, those that bore the greatest responsibility for carbon emissions, to join with those suffering the most, to address climate change and global warming head-on.
Senior United Nations officials, Government delegations and climate change experts then took the floor, calling attention to some of the key questions facing the international community, chief among them: who would bear the cost of building a more climate-friendly world. One speaker said that critical time had been lost while the industrialized world “woke up” to the science of climate change. At the same time, developing countries’ response had lagged because so many of them were struggling with other vital issues, such as ensuring socio-economic development or battling the AIDS pandemic.
Now that there was unequivocal evidence that global warming was real and that human activity was causing it, all States must work together on a fair, equitable solution, or everyone would suffer the negative effects of climate change. Would the developed world step up to its responsibility in the matter, or place conditionalities on its response? Could poor countries make real progress towards ensuring that their growth was carbon neutral or as “green” as possible? Could they afford to go that route? Would the rich countries help with shared technologies and development cooperation? Those were some of the critical questions that needed to be asked, he said.
A speaker from an island nation still recovering from the effects of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and dealing with the fallout from sea-level rise and coastal deterioration, said that, since the science of climate change was no longer in doubt, the politics needed to be addressed. Changing political attitudes was critical to translating “the fine words and deeds spoken within these walls” into concrete action in the wider world. Such concrete political action was absolutely necessary to drive international action on climate change; because, although climate change might begin with the small island developing States, it did not end there. “It does, and will, affect us all,” he said.
“We need to secure a safe climate and we have very little time left,” said a representative of the World Wildlife Federation, who implored Member States to reach agreement on a new climate accord as soon as possible. Towards that goal, the upcoming Bali conference should be more inclusive and the negotiators needed to be more flexible, particularly since it was now clear that, even if industrialized countries were to somehow cut all their emissions, global warming would continue. Thus, all nations must acknowledge their joint responsibility to address the issue.
Picking up that thread, another speaker said that the “million-dollar question” was how to make “climate and development part of the same package”. Both rich and poor countries must acknowledge their responsibility for saving the planet. A representative of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization drew attention to the gender dimension of climate change, saying that existing gender inequalities were exacerbated in disaster situations like the 2004 tsunami, where 70 to 80 per cent of the overall deaths had been women. She said that today’s debate and other United Nations initiatives were critical to efforts to identify avenues that would achieve more equitable approaches to adaptation.
Turning to the issues of adaptation and mitigation, panellists agreed that sharing the costs and the benefits was at the centre of the debate, and that the costs of mitigation were a lot less than the costs of business as usual. Business as usual would have dangerous, and indeed “catastrophic”, consequences. As one panellist put it: “It is imperative that politics catch up with science.” One must accept that responsibility for climate change belonged to the rich and developed world. The time for preaching was over. Climate change was an extraordinary crisis that demanded an extraordinary response.
Human society had no choice but to follow the path of mitigation, adaptation and suffering the adverse impacts that were not avoided by mitigation or adaptation, a panellist said. Adaptation and mitigation were both essential. To minimize suffering, mitigation was needed to avoid the unmanageable, and adaptation to manage the unavoidable. Serious mitigation efforts must be started at once in industrial nations and soon in developing ones. Immediate and large increases in adaptation efforts were required in the North and South alike, and increased international cooperation, including an expanded role for the United Nations, was also crucial.
One panellist pointed out that the targets set out by the Group of Eight industrialized nations (G-8) this year -- cutting emissions by 50 per cent by 2050 -- must be met. Rich countries should take on a bigger target, such as 75 per cent by 2050. Intermediate targets for 2020 were also necessary. In the building of global markets for carbon dioxide emissions, the supply side must be greatly simplified. Strong investments were needed in energy technology, and technologies must be shared with developing countries.
Panellists stressed that, regarding adaptation, much better information was needed, and investing in climate research was of fundamental importance. The climate changes observed now were in conformity with the predications of past models. Through interaction between science and decision-taking, the targets for future efforts could be defined. Adaptation was not only for developing countries, but for everybody. Addressing climate change and addressing development should not become a horse race. One panellist pointed out that leadership was needed not at the level of environment ministers, but at the level of Heads of State.
Although the Heads of State of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had designed a road map for adaptation, including the establishment of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, the international community must contribute to helping the Community invest in indigenous alternative energies such as hydro, thermal and ocean energy, another panellist said.
Panel Discussion on Mitigation Strategies in the Context of Sustainable Development
The second expert panel was moderated by Mohamed El-Ashry, United Nations Foundation, and included Robert Socolow, Princeton University; Anthony Olusegun Adegbulugbe, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria; Hasan M. Qabazard, Director of Research Division, OPEC; Michael Liebreich, CEO, New Energy Finance; Björn Stigson, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development; and Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
At the outset of the discussion, Mr. EL-ASHRY said that climate change, its causes and its adverse impacts were closely linked to economic development, poverty alleviation and energy security. Without urgent concerted action, climate change would seriously affect the way of life in both developed and developing countries, damage fragile ecosystems and threaten global security through migratory pressures and conflicts over resources.
He said that a comprehensive agreement, negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations, was needed to “stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases at the level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system”, as required by the Climate Change Convention. Such agreement should include all countries and sectors, all carbon sinks and sources, and adaptation as well as mitigation. While developed countries should take the lead, meaningful engagement of developing countries, especially rapidly industrializing economies, was essential.
A panellist picked up that thread, outlining ways nations could dramatically cut their use of fossil fuels and thus reduce carbon emissions, starting with the adoption of a comprehensive globally agreed policy and technology framework that addressed “ways of life” rather than “countries alone”. By example, he said that, of the 7 billion tons of carbon entering the atmosphere each year, roughly half was from countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the other half from non-OECD countries.
So, looking ahead, then, neither the North nor the South should get a “free pass” when it came to cutting carbon emissions. New strategies should be worked out to assess contributions and commitments of rapidly industrializing and middle-income developing countries. At the same time, there were so many poor people in the world; their situation and their Governments’ ability to effectively contribute to a solution should also to be taken into account. Therefore, it was time to look at common and differentiated responsibility in a new way, he added.
An African expert highlighted the complex relationship between sustainable development and climate change mitigation. He said that development paths were determined largely by a variety of factors, such as economic advancement and activity in sectors such as energy, transportation, agriculture and forestry, among others. Activities in those areas also determined emission patterns. Given that nexus, it was obvious that pursuing sustainable development in all its dimensions –- economic, social and environmental -– would have an effect on greenhouse gas emissions. Further, “greener” development paths actually created conditions in which developing countries could more effectively pursue mitigation.
A climate change expert from the business community said that global companies were interested in having a global framework for climate change, largely because it would level the economic playing field. The business community also sought strengthened financial incentives for developing countries to pursue clean development, wider deployment, development and use of clean energy technologies, and, among other things, enhanced cooperation between Governments and big business on issues such as carbon capture and storage.
Noting that business was usually given a “side event to participate in” and little else when it came to global climate change negotiations, he stressed that the private sector must be allowed to act as equal partners with Governments in elaborating a post-Kyoto framework that was beneficial to all the peoples of the world. Another expert from the business community called for greater cooperation between developed countries and the corporate sector in developing and deploying new carbon capture and storage technology by promoting large scale demonstration projects.
Offering suggestions on the way ahead, the final panellist, Mr. DE BOER of the Climate Change Convention, said it was clear that the Kyoto Protocol was not enough to deliver what scientists were saying was needed to significantly tackle the climate change issue. The landmark accord had been rejected by the United States and Australia as inequitable and unbalanced in its requirements, and a few developing countries had rejected what they saw as the Protocol’s strenuous and costly obligations.
Heading into the Bali conference, all countries should recognize that climate change was a sustainable development issue that needed to be tackled through a global approach built around long-term comprehensive policies that addressed both mitigation and adaptation, he said. Above all, it was clear that Governments must agree on a global cut in emissions by mid-century. The decisions taken now would have a lasting impact, and he called on world leaders to take decisive action at the United Nations in September, as well as in Bali, because the “costs of delay are high”. A post-Kyoto agreement was needed by 2009, so the work must begin right away.
Further, addressing climate change required a long-term global response in line with the latest scientific findings and compatible with long-term investment planning strategies, he said. Industrialized countries must continue to take the lead and reduce their emissions substantially, given their historic responsibility and economic capabilities. The problem could not be solved, however, without the further engagement of developing countries.
That required incentives for such countries to limit their emissions, and assistance to adapt to the impacts of climate change, while safeguarding socio-economic growth and poverty eradication. For that, he called for flexibility in the carbon market to ensure the most cost-effective implementation, and to mobilize the resources needed to provide the incentives to developing countries.
Following brief interventions by Masayuki Sasanouchi in the Department of Environmental Affairs of Japanese automaker Toyota, and Paul Bledsoe, Director of the National Commission on Energy Policy, a United States-based non-governmental organization, the floor was opened for statements by Government delegations, civil society representatives and United Nations officials.
One speaker from a middle-income developing country said that there was mounting evidence that it was now technologically feasible for all countries –- in the South as well as the North –- to pursue cost-effective strategies to reduce unsustainable consumption patterns and promote broad-based and lasting development.
A civil society representative challenged the panellists to talk about why Governments and businesses were reluctant to explore such strategies even as they extolled the virtues of “green growth” and “sustainable consumption”. The real story was that global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, improve consumption patterns, replant forests and clean up polluted freshwater sources were failing. Political leaders must ask themselves –- and explain to their constituents -- why that was the case, particularly heading into Bali, where they would be expected to craft long-term policies to address global warming and environmental degradation.
Another speaker said that Governments headed to Bali in December should recognize that only a systematic approach under United Nations auspices would have the sort of international legitimacy that would ensure effective implementation. If the General Assembly was the “Executive Board” of the United Nations, it must ensure that all the Organization’s programmes, agencies and funds worked in a coherent and coordinated manner to promote and monitor implementation of a post-Kyoto climate change regime.
A representative of a United Nations agency agreed that the world body’s participation was central to setting post-Kyoto guidelines and added that developed countries must get more serious about their commitment to addressing climate change. At the same time, developing countries should come forward with their own commitments and requirements. All countries should look seriously at the cost of using environment-friendly technologies and consider more innovative ways to ensure technology transfer and training.
One speaker from a small island developing State reminded the Assembly that the Secretary-General had earlier called for urgent action. “Are we to just sit around and have more luncheons on funding and public-private partnerships?” he asked. For people living in the developing world, climate change was real, and quantifiable targets and timelines must be set at Bali. He feared that Governments were prepared to just sit and wait for the Climate Change Convention process to run its course and then scramble to find a way to correct past mistakes and inequities.
Responding to questions from the floor, one expert said that, in order to “green” our future, a delicate balance was required to address development and environmental targets. Another said that the reason Governments and institutions were moving slowly on climate change was because there was the feeling –- in the wider world, as well as in the conference room -- that “climate change mitigation was about pain”. If that was where people placed the problem, Governments and institutions would move slowly. Climate change was about opportunity, and all countries should work together to exploit that opportunity. “We are all citizens of a world in danger,” he warned.
Wrapping up the debate, Jeffery D. Sachs, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals and Director of Colombia University’s Earth Institute, said that here was “good news and some tough news” about the climate change issue. The good news was that the costs of addressing climate change challenges were within the realm of reach for most countries. “If we can stop the panic”, targets could be reached well within 1 per cent of world income.
The bad news was that the international community had the capacity to fight tenaciously –- and endlessly –- over percentages of income, he said. The fight for “who’s going to get off the dime” might be less important than everyone once believed. He called for concerted action in power and transport sectors, and to address deforestation; where simple, large-scale efforts that were easy to implement and good for the poor were necessary.
On power he said the key was wide-scale demonstration projects on carbon capture and sequestration. The technology looked good and, if the projects were eventually implemented, rapidly industrialized countries could use the coal they needed to spur development much more cleanly and handle pollution much more effectively.
Turning to the critical issue of environmental protection, he said it was clearly no accident that Sudan’s western Darfur region had fallen into conflict: the country had lost a third of its water supply. Sudan had perhaps the harshest ecology in the world, and that had been degraded further by the effects of man-made climate change. “More than peacekeepers, they need water. They need development,” he said. With that in mind, the international community needed to create an adaptation fund and, at the same time, develop ways to deliver large-scale research and development to poor countries. Those efforts should be followed by market incentives.
Finally, on the “arithmetic of climate change” he said “it’s not as much money as you think”. Clearly, rich countries must pay for adaptation programmes and must make research and development available for developing countries. Rich countries should establish a funding mechanism for clean energy adoption for low income countries.
He said he believed that intergovernmental negotiations in September and December were going to succeed because Governments were finally going to use the one tool that could provide a breakthrough: the spreadsheet. Once negotiators started doing the arithmetic and looking at what needed to be done in specific sectors like deforestation and began to address specific industrial concerns such as power plants and automobile factories, they would find out that financing climate change was “utterly affordable and a tiny fraction of the cost of inaction”.
Both rich and poor countries would have to be committed to finding solutions. Assuming the continued use of use of fossil fuels and assuming that the science proved that it was possible to curb that use, clean it up and adopt new and cleaner technologies, “we may find that we can have our climate and development too”, he concluded.
* *** *For information media • not an official record