CLIMATE CHANGE CONVENTION WILL HELP ENSURE SUSTAINABLE GLOBAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, CONVENTION OFFICIAL TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE

28 November 2001
GA/EF/2983

CLIMATE CHANGE CONVENTION WILL HELP ENSURE SUSTAINABLE GLOBAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, CONVENTION OFFICIAL TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE

28/11/2001
Press ReleaseGA/EF/2983

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

32nd Meeting (AM)

CLIMATE CHANGE CONVENTION WILL HELP ENSURE SUSTAINABLE GLOBAL ECONOMIC

DEVELOPMENT, CONVENTION OFFICIAL TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE

Among Remaining Goals: Reintegration

Of United States in Global Approach to Climate Change

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was not just a convention on the environment, but an instrument to ensure the sustainable development of the global economy, the Executive Secretary of the secretariat of the Convention told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this morning, as it discussed climate change. 

Continuing, Michael Zammit Cutajar hailed the recently concluded seventh session of the Conference of the Parties, held in Marrakesh, as a political success.  It resulted in an impressive package of 39 decisions, which taken together could be seen to conclude a four-year chapter of negotiations since the third session in Kyoto.  The bulk of the decisions adopted contained both the rules of implementation for the Protocol and new arrangements for technical and financial support. 

He added that issues for future negotiations included the reintegration of the United States in a global approach to climate change, and the progressively greater engagement of the developing countries in the objectives of the Convention.

Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the representative of Antigua and Barbuda said the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol was but a small step.  Much remained to be done to address the adverse effects of climate change and that would require a global effort.  No one State could or should unilaterally declare that it wished to remain on the sidelines, that it did not wish to join the international community in a collective effort to tackle the most important challenge facing present and future generations of mankind.

China’s representative pointed out that effective financial assistance and technology transfer were important conditions for strengthening the capacities of developing countries to address climate change.  Mechanisms under the Protocol would help developed countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases at low cost, and the clean-development mechanism would also be conducive to the sustainable development of developing countries.  She hoped that the rules of operation for those mechanisms would be set and the clean-development mechanism would be launched without delay.

Recognizing the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities, Kenya’s representative underscored the need to develop a meaningful global response to the threat posed by global warming.  In that respect, massive investment was required for the production and adaptation of new and renewable forms of energy.  Some investments were so substantial that they could not be met by national governments alone, especially those in developing countries.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Iran (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Russian Federation, Slovakia, Japan, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Bahrain, United States and Portugal. 

The observers for the Holy See and Switzerland also spoke, as did the representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. 

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. to hear the introduction of several draft resolutions.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to discuss the protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind.  It had before it the report of the Secretary-General on institutional linkage of the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to the United Nations (document A/56/385), which provides an update and overall review of that linkage. 

The report, which was introduced in the Committee on 22 October, states that the institutional linkage of the Convention secretariat to the United Nations, and the related administrative arrangements as they have developed, have provided and continue to provide a sound basis for the day-to-day functioning of the Convention secretariat.  They clearly define the accountability of the Executive Secretary to the Conference of the Parties and to the Secretary-General and, at the same time, delineate the responsibility of the United Nations for providing the necessary support services, as well as advice to the Executive Secretary when requested.

Overall, the report states, the institutional linkage of the Convention secretariat to the United Nations has proven to be a useful tool in managing the Convention secretariat and has allowed flexibility in adapting to changing circumstances.  Accordingly, the Secretary-General recommends that the General Assembly approve the continuation of the current institutional linkage and related administrative arrangements for a further five-year period, to be reviewed by both bodies not later than 31 December 2006.

Also before the Committee is a note by the Secretary-General submitting the report of the Convention’s Executive Secretary on the outcomes of the fourth, fifth and sixth sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (document A/56/509).  The fourth session, held from 2 to 14 November 1998 in Buenos Aires, adopted the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, consisting of elements to strengthen the implementation of the Convention and complete modalities for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. 

According to the report, the fifth session, held in Bonn from 25 October to 5 November 1999, advanced the implementation of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.  Among other things, the Conference launched country-driven assessments of capacity-building needs for developing countries and countries with economies in transition, to make the delivery of financial and technical support from existing resources more responsive to the evolving needs of those countries. 

The first part of the sixth session was held in The Hague from 13 to 25 November 2000.  Its outcome was inconclusive.  The session was suspended, and the Conference President was requested to seek advice on the desirability of resuming the session to complete the work on texts and adopt a comprehensive and balanced package of decisions on all issues covered by the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.  The second part of the session was held in Bonn from 16 to 27 July 2001, at which the core elements of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action were agreed on by ministers.

Draft decisions, continues the report, on elements to strengthen the implementation of the Convention and the Protocol were agreed and forwarded for adoption by the Conference at its seventh session (held in Marrakesh from  29 October to 9 November).  The need for more funding to assist developing countries in addressing climate change was recognized, and two new funds were to be established under the Convention and managed by the Global Environment Facility.  Also, the draft decisions for the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms on land-use, land-use change and forestry and the compliance mechanism were not yet completed and were forwarded to the seventh session.

Statements

MICHAEL ZAMMIT CUTAJAR, Executive Secretary of the secretariat for the Convention on Climate Change, in his last appearance before the Committee in that capacity, briefed delegations on the work of the recent meeting of the Conference of the Parties, held in Marrakesh.  The seventh session of the Conference of the Parties, he said, was a political success.  It resulted in an impressive package of decisions -- 39 in total -- which taken together could be seen to conclude a four-year chapter of negotiations since the Third Conference of the Parties in Kyoto.

The first decision was the Marrakesh Ministerial Declaration, which could serve as an input to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg next year, he said.  The Declaration conveyed the Marrakesh Accords and signalled the prospect of the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol.  The bulk of the decisions adopted contained both the rules of implementation for the Protocol and new arrangements for technical and financial support.  The Accords gave effect to the political consensus achieved in Bonn in July.  It also included a number of items of work programme development, in areas such as the problems of least developed countries (LDCs) in addressing climate change, and a process for the review of the guidelines for reporting by developing-country States parties.

Among the decisions taken was one addressing the problems of Turkey, which had been unable to consider ratification and was now able to do so, he said.  Another decision was taken on the consideration of the situation of those countries not in annex I to the Convention, but which did not consider themselves developing countries.  In addition, the Conference took a decision on improving the participation of women in the various bodies established under the Convention and the Protocol.

He said that among the prospects resulting from the Marrakesh meeting was that of the entry into force of the Protocol before the end of the World Summit.  For that to happen, the last instruments of ratification would have to be deposited in New York 90 days in advance of the end of the Conference.  Secondly, the Protocol was a promise and did not guarantee that during the first period of implementation industrialized countries would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  For that promise to be kept, it was necessary for industrialized countries to be politically committed to reduction domestically.  The promise would not come about through the market alone.  Thirdly, while the Accords established a number of instruments in the technical and financial areas, those needed to be given shape and resources.

Beyond the entry into force of the Protocol and Johannesburg, the work would move into a phase of technical implementation of the various mechanisms of the Protocol, he said.  Issues for future negotiations included the reintegration of the United States in a global approach to climate change and the progressively greater engagement of the developing countries in the objectives of the Convention.  The Assembly, at its current session, might wish to register the various developments since the last resolution on the topic, link those developments to the preparations for the World Summit and continue the administrative linkage of the Convention secretariat to the United Nations.  The Convention, he emphasized, was not just a convention on the environment but a convention on the sustainable development of the global economy.

BAGHER ASADI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that with the historic achievements and agreements reached first in Bonn and then completed in Marrakesh, the international community rose to the challenge of making the embattled Kyoto Protocol ratifiable before the World Summit.  What was expected now was the expeditious ratification of the Protocol by Annex I Parties so that it could enter into force.  It could be said now that the climate change process had new blood in its veins, and that the Convention stood a real chance of effective implementation.

The process ending with the Marrakesh Accords, he said, carried a very important lesson –- that multilateralism and international cooperation worked.  Negotiations on the Protocol had renewed hope and optimism in the value of dialogue, understanding, engagement and cooperation in addressing such global issues and problems as climate change and resolving seemingly intractable difficulties.  It was generally acknowledged that the Bonn and Marrakesh agreements could not have been reached without the positive constructive approach and contribution of the Group of 77 and China.  Developing countries, which were the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, would continue their active engagement in the ongoing process.

JOHN ASHE (Antigua and Barbuda), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol was but a small step.  Much remained to be done to address the adverse effects of climate change and that would require a global effort.  There was a clear need for a global coalition of States to address that problem and mitigate and/or adapt to climate change.  No one State could or should unilaterally declare that it wished to remain on the sidelines, that it did not wish to join the international community in a collective effort to tackle the most important challenge facing present and future generations of mankind.

There were those who had argued that the Protocol was fundamentally flawed, he said.  However, what could not be argued was that the basic science on climate change had gradually withstood the test of time and was now beginning to be remarkably robust.  It should also be recalled that no less a scientific authority than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had repeatedly asserted that emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activity were accumulating in the atmosphere and causing global temperatures to rise, which in turn would impact on sea level.

Low-lying countries were understandably concerned because they were the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, he said.  His region was hopeful that with that body of scientific information, all Governments would be prodded to honour their commitment to respond to the serious nature of the climate change phenomenon.

RENATO R. MARTINO, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said that the history of humanity had been punctuated by various revolutions.  The first revolution occurred thousands of years ago, at the end of the last ice age, when mankind used “knowledge” to sow seeds and found a more stable and predictable source of food.  The second revolution began almost 300 years ago with the industrial revolution, when “knowledge” was used to obtain energy from coal and steam.  That engineering feat unleashed the build-up of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

Nature, he continued, had required one million years to produce the amount of fossil fuel that humanity burned in one year.  The activities of 25 per cent of the world’s population were responsible for almost 75 per cent of the global emission of greenhouse gases.  Global warming recognized no boundaries, no nationalities and no cultural divides.  It was the great equalizer, with unpleasant consequences.  Responses to such a phenomenon should reflect the international community’s interdependence and common responsibility for the present and future of the planet. 

DMITRY MAKSIMYCHEV (Russian Federation) said the topic of climate change had come to the forefront of the international community’s agenda.  The international community had found a way to agree on mutually acceptable measures to address climate change, and those measures should be put into force.  In that regard, his country would host in 2003 a global conference on climate change that was a part of the Kyoto process.  All interested parties would be invited.  The conference should make an important contribution to that process, and bring greater awareness to the problems involved in climate change.

IGOR VENCEL (Slovakia) said it was clear that meeting the commitments of the Kyoto Protocol would not be a simple task for any of the signatories, and for many it would require an enormous effort.  Nevertheless, acceptance of the Protocol was a moral duty to future generations.  It was not necessary to consider all consequences of the Protocol’s implementation in order not to cause negative impacts on economic development.  That was why he supported Kyoto mechanisms, especially emission trading, which could contribute to more flexible ways of reaching emissions targets for all countries involved.

There was a lot to be done in the area of energy consumption, which was inordinately high in the industrial sector, he said.  While his country had little experience in the demand-side management of energy, it was sure to make progress in its energy-saving efforts.  His country also had a relatively high potential for renewable energy resources, particularly biomass and geothermal.  He expected stronger penetration of biomass energy resources on the coal energy market.

KAZUHIKO KOKUBU (Japan) said that for Agenda 21 to be further implemented, the international community must seriously address climate change.  Following the finalization of a document stipulating the details of the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol in Marrakesh, his Government had decided to begin full-scale preparations for the ratification of the Protocol in 2002. 

To ensure the effectiveness of measures for preventing global warming, it was vital that all countries endeavour to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, he said.  With the goal that all countries would act under one single rule, Japan would continue to make the maximum effort in the hope that the United States would join the rest of the international community on that important issue.

For the same reason, he continued, Japan attached great importance to formulating international rules with developing countries in the near future.  “Common but differentiated responsibility” was the concept established in the forum of the Convention on Climate Change.  He expected that ways to take further steps towards that objective would be discussed in a constructive and practical manner at the next session of the Conference of the Parties.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said his country was extremely vulnerable to climate change and was therefore particularly concerned about that issue.  Among the problems that could result from climate change were higher temperatures, sea-level rise, and cyclones, which were likely to grow more potent because they could lead to tidal waves.  It was clear that vulnerability was very high in the South Asian region.  The impact of greenhouse gases and consequent global warming would have serious effects.

His country had undertaken a number of studies on climate change, along with efforts to implement the international instruments on the issue, he said.  But, to do that, it also needed adequate and timely resources and technical support from developed countries.  Despite difficulties, it had pledged to implement those commitments on every level.  More needed to be done by the developed world for the transfer of financial resources and of technology.  There was a gap between promise and performance, and more work needed to done on that problem.

WANG LING (China) said that effective financial assistance and technology transfer were important conditions for strengthening the capacities of developing countries to address climate change.  The Bonn Agreement provided for the establishment of the Special Climate Change Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Experts Group on Technology Transfer.  It also made provisions for the mitigation of adverse effects of climate change on developing countries.  That reflected the important progress achieved in implementation of the Framework Convention on Climate Change.  However, implementation of the above provisions required the guarantee of concrete measures.

Mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol would help the developed countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases at low cost, and the clean-development mechanism would also be conducive to the sustainable development of developing countries, she said.  She hoped the rules of operation for those mechanisms would be set and the clean-development mechanism would be launched without delay.

She added that a strict procedure of compliance was the guarantee of the implementation of the Protocol.  The reporting of relevant information and its review, as provided in the Protocol, were the basis for the operation of the compliance procedure, without which it would be difficult to exert the force of the Protocol.

MONIKA RÜHL BURZI, observer for Switzerland, said that global warming would continue for hundreds of years, even if emissions were reduced.  What could be expected was an increase in the level of the oceans, endangering human settlements, as well as an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme climate conditions such as floods and droughts.  The response to the threat of climate change required the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.  The seventh session of the Conference of the Parties, held from

29 October to 9 November in Marrakesh, was an important stage in protecting the world’s climate system.

The Marrakesh Agreement allowed for immediate ratification of the Protocol and its entry into force, she continued.  It marked a success for the international community in addressing climate change.  States parties had adopted substantial agreements on technology transfer to developing countries, and the means to strengthen efforts in addressing climate change had been put in place.  In the framework of financial assistance, Switzerland would contribute an annual package of $410 million.  Given the urgency of the problem, she hoped that the Parties would reiterate their political will to fight climate change by ratifying the Protocol.  Switzerland, at the meeting, had announced its intention to begin preparations for ratification.

MICHAEL KOECH (Kenya) said that in many developing countries, including his own, traditional adjustments to climate variability were proving inadequate in the face of poverty and possible future climate changes.  Adaptation measures and environmentally friendly and sustainable technology transfer should be carefully planned to strengthen the sound capacity to adapt.

With that in mind, it was clear that the world was witnessing unwarranted climatic change, he added.  Traditionally at the current time, New York would be windy and wet and to some extent covered in snow.  However, that was not the case today.  There were also many other developments, including flooding in many parts of the world and natural disasters.  The seasonal patterns were no longer predictable.  That situation was becoming increasingly alarming.

He said that, recognizing the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities, his delegation underscored the need to develop a meaningful global response to the threat posed by global warming.  In that respect, massive investment was required for the production and adaptation of new and renewable forms of energy.  Some investments were so substantial that they could not be met by national governments alone, especially those in developing countries.

OLEKSII HOLUBOV (Ukraine) particularly commended the decision adopted at Marrakesh on the needs of the countries with economies in transition in the field of strengthening their capacity-building, consistent with national sustainable development strategies, as well as the importance of ensuring their access to new environmentally sound technologies.  For Ukraine, which was one of the few countries which had reduced greenhouse gas emissions by half in the past decade, the issue of access to new technologies was extremely important in light of the continuing growth of the national economy, including in the sphere of industrial production.

The attainment of sustainable development objectives remained one of the most serious challenges faced by the international community, he said.  The year 2002 would be marked by a major international event -– the World Summit on Sustainable Development.  Its outcome should reaffirm the commitment of the participating countries to sustainable development, based on economic growth, social development and environmental protection.  In that context, he considered that the Marrakesh Ministerial Declaration, and the Accords adopted, were an important contribution to the “Rio+10” process in the sphere of climate protection, as an integral part of the multi-faceted concept of sustainable development.

ALI JASSIM ALKHAL (Bahrain) was greatly concerned with the negative implications for the environment, which were outpacing programmes designed for prevention.  Those negative effects included depletion of the ozone layer, entrapment of temperature leading to the melting of ice at the poles, sea-level rise and the serious threat arising from chemical and nuclear waste.  They required concerted efforts by all to prevent them from becoming uncontrollable disasters.  But such fears had been allayed by the global trend of devising international strategies to protect the environment and global climate.  The efforts of the international community had culminated in the ongoing process to convene the World Summit for Sustainable Development and review progress made since Rio.

He said that the role of women should not be forgotten.  It was women who could instill in youth a respect for the environment and its protection.  Women could effectively participate in building up a healthy environment for present and future generations.  To enable them to play that role, they must be given environmental awareness on such issues as pollution, nutrition and sustainable development.

ENCHO GOSPODINOV, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that more extreme weather events meant more floods, more droughts, more landslides, more heat waves, more diseases and more uninhabitable land areas.  What was more dangerous, however, was that more people in numbers beyond comprehension would be affected by those disasters.  The ones who would be affected most seriously were those already in vulnerable positions:  the poor all over the world and especially those in the poorest countries.  The Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies had committed to help those people, work with them and improve their lives.

One member, the Netherlands Red Cross, had taken the initiative to develop a Centre on Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness.  That Centre would serve the whole ICRC Movement to become more aware of the impact of climate change on its new operations, and to develop programmes to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change.  That was just one contribution towards fulfilling the obligation to carry out instructions from the 27th ICRC Conference of 1999, together with respective governments.

ROBERT GERBER (United States) requested a clarification regarding financial arrangements for conferences related to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change.  He wanted to know if funds for servicing those conferences came out of the regular United Nations budget.  Such costs should be paid solely by parties to the Convention, and not by the United Nations regular budget.  He could not support payment from the United Nations regular budget for those conferences services.

In his reply to the United States representative, Mr. CUTAJAR said there was no administrative link between the United Nations Secretariat and the secretariat of the Convention.  He added that the Second Committee took decision 55/443 last year, which established rules on the issue. 

In response to the general comments on climate change, he said he was encouraged by a number of statements indicating national plans for ratification of the Protocol.  There were now 45 parties to the Protocol and that number was increasing regularly.  Regarding the statement by the representative of China on a clean development mechanism, he said the Executive Board on that Mechanism had started meeting recently.  On the Russian delegation’s interest in holding a

conference in 2003, he would like to discuss those plans to make sure they were coordinated with other conferences on the Convention.

JOÃO FINS-DO-LAGO (Portugal) said the position of the European Union on the current agenda item was delivered earlier in the Committee’s session.  It was combined with statements on other topics in the interest of saving time.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.