22 September 2009
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Director of Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team


“We are well beyond the sweeping rhetoric of embedded positions and well into discussion of solutions,” János Pásztor, Director of the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, said at a Headquarters press conference today.


Mr. Pásztor said that 35 prime ministers, 54 presidents, and one prince had participated in preparations for the high-level event on climate change ‑‑ the largest summit ever to focus on climate change issues.  More than 150 countries were actively participating, and what was heard so far was “very encouraging”.


He said the substance and the tenor of the discussions had profoundly changed in two years:  “No one is trying to convince anyone that climate change must be taken seriously,” he said, adding that “now, that fact is a given”.


That point was made “loud and clear” this morning and reinforced by, among others, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and a 13-year-old representative from the group Tarumitra, or Friends of Trees, he said.


Drawing attention to some early Summit highlights, he said that, despite facing the cruellest impacts of climate change, the Maldives had pledged to become climate neutral by 2020; Japan pledged to reduce its emissions 25 per cent from 1990 levels; and China laid out its own “substantial plans for action”.  The Assembly had “pointedly” heard from Costa Rica’s delegate, who said “it wasn’t important to lay blame for climate change, only that we need collective action to solve it”.  Indeed, broad agreement had emerged that the problem required a global solution.


When asked whether he expected the day to yield any concrete recommendations, he pointed out that this was not a negotiation session; its aim was to provide political guidance to enable Heads of State and Government to go home, talk to their negotiators and tell them what they needed to do to reach a deal in Copenhagen.  The fact that so many leaders were “speaking with one voice” was, itself, the political impetus needed in the negotiations.


As for whether the contribution to the environment of standing forests in developing countries would be recognized, allowing for trade in carbon, Mr. Pásztor said that reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation was a very important part of mitigation efforts, and that negotiations were under way.


Concerning possible “reparation” or adaptation funds, he said he had heard “a number of numbers floating around”, but added that this was not the purpose of today’s meeting.  Countries providing such resources should come up with a well-developed package of both public and private resources that could be scaled up over time.


Replying to a question about whether any agreement reached in Copenhagen would be substantively different from the Kyoto Protocol, he said that the principles of Kyoto were still valid, but that the situation had changed.


To another question, he said that, even if the United States did not adopt and sign a “cap and trade” legislation by the time of the Denmark meeting, it was still possible for a binding legal instrument to emerge from Copenhagen.  The United States delegation should be empowered to negotiate and come to an agreement.  Entry into force of an agreement to be signed in Copenhagen would take some time, and it was for those procedures that the final domestic legislation process in the United States needed to be completed.  However, if that process was well under way, that would empower the United States negotiators to negotiate with the other countries.


The world had evolved a lot since the time of the Kyoto Protocol, he added.  A radical change had taken place, in that climate change was understood now as an economic and sustainable development issue, and not just as “a small thing for the environmentalists” to deal with.


As for pledges by several countries to reduce emissions and the reticence of several more not to commit to a binding schedule in that regard, he said that the Copenhagen agreement could not simply be reduced to a number in emission reduction targets or a figure for financial support.  Rather, it was a package that involved several items, requiring negotiators to express pledges in a way that people can accept.


He said, in response to a further question, that the current negotiations were partly designed to educate the legislators in different countries.  “When you look at the high-level events of the climate change Summit of two years ago and the Summit taking place today, the awareness level has risen enormously.”


He stressed that this “fantastic” development enabled legislators to address the issues back home and provide the guidance to negotiators and others in their Governments, since negotiations must be supported by domestic legislation in each country.  “That is what this game is all about,” he added.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record