|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE on climate change conference
“It was striking how much the conversation has changed, even since the last time the conference of parties met a year ago,” Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning told correspondents at a press conference this afternoon, attempting to give them “a little taste of what Bali was like”.
Describing the outcome of the Climate Change Conference, which had taken place in Bali on 3-14 December, he said that the Secretary-General had set three benchmarks for success in Bali, and all three of them had been achieved: the launch of negotiations “for a successor to Kyoto and post-2012”; a robust agenda for those negotiations; and a timetable to complete those negotiations by 2009. Significant progress had also been achieved on the agenda relating to technology, financing and adaptation, he continued. The latter was “a full global agenda now”, with a number of commitments made in that area. Some new attitudes had been on display at the Conference. Unlike the Kyoto negotiations, many developing countries’ delegations had said that they wanted to be held to the same standards as all developed countries. For their part, developed countries had come “with a new posture on a lot of issues”, in particular technology and financing ones.
Perhaps the biggest new issue on the table was the question of deforestation and land use, he continued. There had not been sufficient agreement on the issue during the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, but the meeting in Bali had agreed that deforestation would be a part of future negotiations. In fact, some concrete commitments had already been made. For instance, the Government of Norway had committed $550 million annually for the next five years to that issue. It was clear that “a lot of action” would be taken over the next two years, even before agreement on the matter was reached.
Regarding the Secretary-General’s role, he said that Ban Ki-moon had been a facilitator, and not a negotiator, in Bali. But, in fact, his role regarding the climate change conference had been recognized. The Secretary-General held about 20 bilaterals in order to facilitate the discussions and met with business leaders and non-governmental organization representatives. The high-level meeting on climate change that had been convened on his initiative in September in New York had been referred to repeatedly throughout the Conference, having set the tone for Bali.
The most dramatic part of the Conference had come at its final moments on Saturday, he said. When the Secretary-General flew back from Dili to appeal to the participants to make the deal, he came to a very uncertain environment: it was not clear if a deal was going to be reached and, if so, what kind of deal that would be. He was met with a standing ovation, and there was another standing ovation after his intervention. That showed that there was a desire for leadership among the many parties to the Convention.
With the Conference having launched negotiations, he said that the pace would pick up significantly over the next two years. The participants had already tentatively agreed to meet four times next year. The United Nations system had come together for the event and would seek “to deliver as one” on climate change. Among significant upcoming meetings to address those issues, he mentioned the General Assembly thematic debate on climate change in February, the Economic and Social Council ministerial meeting focusing on sustainable development, and the Millennium Development Goals summit to be convened next fall, as well as the financing for development meeting in Doha next December.
Asked about “the American political calendar”, he said that, when a major player went through a political transition, that did impact the negotiations. Not only the United States, but many other players had had, and would have, political developments throughout the negotiating process. As an example, he noted the announcement of the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Australia, the Government of which had previously stood aside from Kyoto.
As for the United States, everyone knew that they were negotiating with the Bush Administration until 20 January 2009. While the Administration was the negotiator, the world was already engaging with the United States business community, State and regional politicians and the Democratic Party. Everyone wanted to know where the United States would be and, until there was an election, that would not be clear.
Asked if he sensed a change in outlook on the part of the Bush Administration, he said that there had been real scrutiny of the United States. In the end, one just had to look at the bottom line -- the United States had joined consensus on the launch of the negotiations. That was a significant sign.
Asked to respond to comments by some funds and non-governmental organizations that the Conference had been a failure, Mr. Orr said: “Anyone who would characterize Bali as a failure was not at the same meeting I was at.” The fact was that the international community had been unable to reach the current point for years, and it had been achieved in a very short period of time. Even six months ago, there had been serious doubt that it would be possible to launch negotiations any time soon. And it was a fact that the Conference had launched very meaningful negotiations. Agreement had also been reached on the modalities that would allow to launch an adaptation fund.
About [former Vice-President of the United States] Al Gore’s comment that the maximum considered possible at the Conference was not enough to solve the problem, he said that Mr. Gore had been calling for maximum action, and he had received recognition from the Nobel Committee for that work. His comments had certainly resonated at the Conference. However, the bottom line was that the United Nations had set the bar of success for the meeting as the launching of negotiations and having a robust agenda and timeline. All those goals had been achieved.
Regarding the targets, he said that, if it had been possible to reach agreement on all substantive issues in Bali and forego two years of negotiations, everybody would have been very happy. However, going in, it was not the Organization’s expectation “to even try on that”. There had been significant debate on the target of 25 to 40 per cent reductions that had been cited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for developed countries. That had been a mostly North-North negotiation and it showed the complexity of the negotiations to come. Those would not be “unidirectional” on any issue, but would cut North-South, North-North and South-South. In the end, the targets might turn out to be among the easiest issues to tackle.
To a question about technology transfer, he replied that it had been one of the toughest issues discussed at the meeting. Many developing countries had agreed with developed countries that technology was important, saying “Okay, we heard your argument, we buy it -- now let’s talk. How are we going to get those technologies?” Apart from market mechanisms, many countries had made the case that such mechanisms needed to be supplemented by Government decisions about how to get technology disseminated as quickly as possible to all the places where it was needed, and a technology leveraging mechanism and a technology fund had been among the proposals discussed.
* *** *For information media • not an official record