Statement by Mr. José Antonio Ocampo

Today, we join many others around the globe in celebrating the long-awaited entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. We appreciate this timely initiative by the UN Foundation to focus our attention on a critical matter of global concern.

This welcome development provides the international community with a renewed sense of optimism for the relevance and effectiveness of the international agreements reached in the United Nations. At the same time, we also must remind ourselves that this is only the first step in the struggle to reverse the adverse effects of anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

Climate change has been extensively discussed and debated during the past decade.  It has moved from a purely scientific issue to a global environmental, economic and political issue of concern to governments, politicians, the business community, civil society and the media. 

We are already seeing early manifestations of climate change: the melting of Arctic ice and glaciers, the loss of Antarctic ice shelves, sea-level rise, the displacement of ecological and agricultural zones, more intense and more frequent weather phenomena, and acidification of the oceans.

With its seriousness better understood by more people throughout the world as a problem common to us all, we hope that the threat of climate change will remind us of our global interdependence and will bring all nations together to craft a collective response to this major threat to humanity.

Although the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol is a great breakthrough that consolidates major greenhouse gas reduction commitments, on the basis of innovative market-based mechanisms, there are new questions and concerns related to the effectiveness and adequacy of the Protocol, now and into the post-2012 period.


We know, first of all, that the efficacy of its mechanisms will be limited by the non-participation of some industrialized nations that are major emitters of greenhouse gases. And we know that, although developing countries have not contributed to the same extent as developed countries to the current problem of climate change, they are now responsible for about half of new greenhouse gas emissions. And we know that the effort that has to be made is of long-term character, which takes us well beyond 2012.

            The Kyoto Protocol calls for a 5 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2012 for industrialized countries. But even if this were achieved with the participation of all industrialized countries, global emissions would have to be cut by 50 per cent by 2050 if we are to keep global warming below two Celsius degrees, which is the temperature rise beyond which interference with the climate system is frequently recognized as dangerous.

So, while making every effort to implement the Protocol, we must now think beyond Kyoto and envision a more effective, longer term solution to the problem. All options and approaches available for mitigating climate change must be explored to ensure a comprehensive long-term and inclusive strategy which can bring all nations to participate in this global endeavor.

In this regard, we welcome the strong leadership of the European Union in the implementation of the climate change agenda. We applaud the pro-active role envisioned by the Prime Minister of the UK in his decision to make poverty in Africa and climate change his two agenda priorities during the British presidency of the G-8 and the European Union. We also welcome the efforts made by some major developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through lowering energy intensity and enhancing energy efficiency. And we are heartened by the considerable measures being undertaken by a number of states in the US to curb emissions.

While all such efforts deserve our appreciation and encouragement, they should be integrated into a more inclusive international framework beyond 2012: a framework with broader participation of all major emitters, developed and developing countries, to ensure a concerted globally defined action to mitigate global warming, taking into account the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

While very important, the role of governments needs to be supplemented by efforts by industry and the private sector. Certain industries played a key role in the admittedly simpler case of reducing stratospheric ozone-depleting substances, as achieved under the Montreal Protocol. In a similar way, the automobile, manufacturing and power generation industries could take the lead in helping us move beyond Kyoto.And even private citizens can contribute by purchasing environmentally friendly products and pressuring their governments to lower emissions.

Carbon trading, for its part, can be a tool to foster efficient investment in greenhouse gas emission reductions and clean energy technologies. A key challenge will be to ensure that the carbon reduction credits generated by Clean Development Mechanism projects remain an effective and competitive option for greenhouse gas emission reductions in the emissions trading market. This is particularly important for developing countries since, at this time, they are only able to participate through the Clean Development Mechanism.

We must also explore technological options such as renewable energy, cleaner fossil fuel technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, hydrogen fuel, and all efforts to increase energy efficiency. We need to think in more ambitious terms about the links between the protection of our forests and climate change, and more generally of the role of "sinks" in the climate change agenda. Also, with global warming already occurring and its adverse effects being felt in some regions, particularly the more vulnerable nations, adaptation measures must also be advanced. 

I want to applaud the initiatives supported by the UN Foundation in this area, including the partnership between the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Scientific Research Society Sigma Xi, in establishing the Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development to explore the options and strategies for urgently and effectively mitigating and adapting to global warming.The results of the Group's evaluation of these options and strategies will be a valuable contribution to the discussions during the fourteenth and fifteenth sessions of the Commission on Sustainable Development on energy, climate change, atmosphere/air pollution and industrial development.

Humanity has the means to meet the challenges posed by climate change. However, we must do so with care to avoid creating new problems. We must do so quickly to minimize the ultimate degree of warming. We must do so effectively to ensure that it never needs to be done again.And we must do it together for the benefit of all humanity.

Just as we view the Kyoto Protocol as a first step, I hope that the universal celebration for the entry into force of the Protocol will one day be remembered as the first step beyond Kyoto.

Thank you for joining us here today.