UN treaty official sees ‘very encouraging signals’ on climate change

Yvo de Boer

24 May 2007 – Following three definitive reports on climate change and a recent technical symposium, States and the private sector are showing more willingness to move ahead rapidly to stem greenhouse gas emissions, the lead official of United Nations-administered pacts on the issue said today.

“I get very encouraging signals of the desire of countries to move things forward,” Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) told reporters at a UN Headquarters press conference following a meeting of parties to the Convention in Bonn, Germany that concluded last week.

The 191 Parties to the Convention and 173 Parties to its Kyoto Protocol, which contains legally binding targets for reducing emissions through 2012, attended the Bonn meeting, which was convened in preparation for a major world conference on the issue in December in Bali, Indonesia.

The meeting, Mr. de Boer said, was also the first opportunity for delegates to react to all three reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which documented the human cause of climate change and its dire impacts with much greater certainty, but also showed that technology already exists to deal with the problem in a cost-effective manner.

Encouraging signs included the fact that important countries such as Brazil have expressed the need to move beyond mere discussions into negotiations on a long-term climate change treaty applicable in 2012 and beyond, he said.

He added that developing countries such as South Africa have spoken of the need for commitments from both the developed and the developing world, instead of laying responsibility at the feet of the industrialized countries alone.

China and India, the largest developing countries, were actually taking steps to create national strategies to reduce greenhouse emissions, and the business community was taking the lead in calling for a clear policy direction so that it could shape its investment decisions over the longer term.

At the same time, he cautioned that serious negotiations on a post-2012 regime would only be launched at the Bali conference, and not concluded there, given experience with the Kyoto Protocol, which took two years to negotiate and another two to ratify and bring into force.

“So basically, the window of opportunity to put something in place that can seamlessly follow on beyond 2012 is closing,” Mr. de Boer said, noting that the next few years were also critical because many energy production facilities around the world were due for replacement, and because climate change was accelerating.

“We really need to move quickly, and my sense is that that sense of urgency is increasingly shared by Governments,” he said.

At another gathering at the UN’s headquarters in New York today, Mr. de Boer urged representatives of small island States and other poor countries to become pro-active in shaping the post-2012 climate change regime.

“As the countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, LDCs and small islands need to raise their concerns on what should be the focus ahead of negotiations for a new regime,” he told a meeting of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

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