‘ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE: THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE WORLD AT WORK’ THEME, AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY OPENS TWO-DAY DEBATE AT HEADQUARTERS

11 February 2008
GA/10687

‘ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE: THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE WORLD AT WORK’ THEME, AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY OPENS TWO-DAY DEBATE AT HEADQUARTERS

11 February 2008
General Assembly
GA/10687
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Thematic Debate on Climate Change

AM & PM Meetings

‘ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE:  THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE WORLD AT WORK’ THEME,

AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY OPENS TWO-DAY DEBATE AT HEADQUARTERS

 

Secretary-General, Assembly President, New York City Mayor Open Session;

Partnerships, Response of United Nations System Focus of Panel Discussions

United Nations leaders would work diligently to map out an agreement by the end of 2009 to limit global greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to the impact of climate change and provide the money and technology necessary to do so, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly today during its high-level debate entitled “Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work”.

“I have made it my personal priority to work with Member States in ensuring the United Nations system is up to the challenge,” he said during the opening of the Assembly’s two-day session.  “My overview report represents a first step, and reflects our commitment to strengthening and coordinating our work into a common approach.”

That report –- the result of discussions of the Organization’s Chief Executives Board for Coordination, and consultations among all relevant United Nations entities -- would help guide the international community’s formulation of policies and tasks after the Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012. 

Mr. Ban said the United Nations aimed to develop a coordination structure to help stimulate financial flows needed for adaptation, mitigation and climate-resilient development, as well as support developing countries’ need to manage the inevitable impact of climate change. 

The international community was armed with authoritative and compelling science, a far-reaching rising tide of public concern and powerful declarations of political will voiced at last December’s Bali Climate Change Conference, he said.  Now was the time to forge a comprehensive agreement with the United Nations to ensure that existing and future mandates were implemented.

“A deal in Copenhagen, on time, and in full, is my priority and that of all the Funds, Programmes and Agencies of the United Nations family,” he said, referring to the United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled for December 2009 in Denmark.  “It is also our collective obligation.”

“Developed countries need to take a clear lead, but success is possible only if all countries act,” the Secretary-General said, adding that ambitious commitments by developed countries would set the bar higher for action by developing countries, and vice versa.  “This is the cycle we must embark upon.” 

Climate change, Mr. Ban said, was an opportunity to advance sustainable development and encourage new kinds of cleaner technologies, industries and jobs, as well as to integrate climate change risks into national policies and practices.  All partners –- from Governments and intergovernmental organizations to the private sector, civil society and individuals –- must join forces to ensure success.

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, said that, between now and the Copenhagen meeting, both developed and developing nations must resolve to change their policies, and the world’s cities must be an important part of those changes.

For effective results, Mr. Bloomberg said there must be ambitious, but achievable, targets for reducing carbon emissions, and the United States must take a lead by imposing a carbon tax.  New York City had shown the way through its “Plan NYC”, which envisioned reducing carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.  The United States could do the same with zero cost, because of the efficiencies and opportunities involved.  And China and India must follow a similar path, which would improve the economic and social well-being of its people. 

Such efforts as congestion pricing would both clean the air and make the economy more productive, he said, while greener buildings and tree planting would also have economic and lifestyle benefits.  “Serious carbon targets will not hamper growth and would make us all better off.”

Cities saw their problems grow every day, and their leaders were now moving aggressively to respond, he said, noting that the “C-40” group and more than 700 cities in the United States were actively trying to reduce urban pollution and meet climate change’s challenges.  He urged all Member States to involve their cities in changes needed for a sustainable future.

Similarly, Srgjan Kerim (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), President of the General Assembly, urged all participants to support the negotiating process launched in Bali and to focus on immediate practical action through effective partnerships, bearing in mind the ongoing commitment to support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  “The United Nations cannot face climate change alone.  No one can,” he said.  The issue was too large and complex.  He also called for a global strategy to respond to climate change’s implications for the environment, health, security, migration, energy, good governance, economic development and a broad range of other policy issues. 

Mr. Kerim said the General Assembly had an important contribution to make towards a global strategy for action.  Climate change was not just an environmental issue; it was a sustainable development issue.  The Assembly must respond in the context of achieving the millennium targets through policies, instruments and technologies that could create low-carbon economies which promoted sustainable economic growth and provided incentives for individuals to change behaviour.  All individuals and Member States must do their part to check climate change and deal with its effects.  The Assembly, he said, had done its small part by making the thematic debate “climate neutral”.  Carbon emissions from air travel and Headquarters utilities had been offset by support to an eco-friendly power plant in Andra Pradesh, India, which was using agricultural waste for fuel. 

During the debate, participants held a panel discussion entitled “Rising to the Challenge:  Partnerships on Climate Change”.  Moderated by Timothy Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, the panel included:  Chen Ying, China Enterprise Confederation; Fiona Harvey, Financial Times; Letizia Moratti, Mayor of Milan, Italy; Hans-Gert Poettering, President of the European Parliament; Youba Sokona, Sahara and Sahel Observatory; and Martin Khor, Third World Network.

Panellists shed light on Europe’s integrated approach to climate change policy, including the European Union’s ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable energy, as well as efforts to implement measures on carbon capture and revise the Emissions Trading Scheme.  They discussed the concept of voluntary sectoral agreements among businesses, such as the steel and cement industries, in which an industry’s biggest players in rich and poor nations alike would commit together to cutting emissions by a certain amount.  They stressed that partnerships must be based on solidarity, good faith and sincerity, involving Governments, the private sector and civil society, to keep the core issues of the Kyoto Protocol -- adaptation, mitigation, finance and technology -- at the forefront of discussions over new environmentally-friendly development paths for the future.  They also discussed Africa’s difficulty in mitigating climate change and coping with the problem of water and land degradation in arid areas.

A second panel discussion entitled “Responding to a Multifaceted Challenge:  The United Nations at Work” was moderated by Ricardo Lagos, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Climate Change.  Its panellists included:  Sha Zukang, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Kemal Dervis, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP); and Monique Barbut, Chief Executive of the Global Environment Facility.

During that talk, panellists discussed the need for best-practice strategies and for the United Nations to promote new technologies, including pro-poor technologies to assist development, as well as more comprehensive systems such as the Sahel Early Warning system to protect local food sources from natural disasters.  They noted that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had joined forces on strategic issues and adaptation projects, particularly to shape the cap-and-trade mechanisms to allow smaller countries and projects to benefit from the clean development initiative.  Better coordination of funding of adaptation programmes, as well as of international initiatives, and a global governance system were necessary, they said, to act on climate change in a way that would help positively shape the future of both developing and developed societies.

In closing remarks, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the countries participating in the debate today now had the responsibility to turn the outcomes of Bali into a success through a truly comprehensive climate change strategy.

Achieving the goals of the negotiations would mean integrating development needs while addressing climate change.  It would also mean uniting the developed and developing worlds in the effort.  Delineating finance and technology mechanisms was an essential component of the negotiations ahead, he said, stressing that all efforts must be directed to getting a climate change deal off the ground before 2009.  In the debate tomorrow, Member States had the opportunity to show the way to getting there.

The General Assembly will continue its two-day debate at 10 a.m., on Tuesday, 12 February.

Background

The General Assembly met today to begin its thematic debate entitled “Addressing Climate Change:  The United Nations and the World at Work”.

Opening Statements

President of the General Assembly SRGJAN KERIM, of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, opened the special thematic debate, urging all participants to support the negotiating process launched in Bali and to focus on immediate practical action.  The first challenge to face, he maintained, was to create more effective partnerships.  “The United Nations cannot face climate change alone.  No one can,” he said.  The issue was too large and complex.  While the Organization should be at the forefront, a global alliance for action was needed, including individuals, the media, lawmakers, business leaders, Government, regional organizations and the full international community.

Secondly, he urged the delineation of a global strategy to respond to the many different challenges climate change posed, cognizant of the implications for the environment, health, security, migration, energy, good governance, economic development and a broad range of other policy issues.  The United Nations must focus its resources in a streamlined way to have the greatest effect, with a global strategy around which all parts of the system can rally.  In addition, the ongoing commitment to support the process of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) must be born in mind. 

The General Assembly, he said, had an important contribution to make towards a global strategy for action and the promotion of more effective partnerships for facing the challenges of climate change.  Climate change was not just an environmental issue, it was a sustainable development issue, and the Assembly must respond in the context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  The challenge was to find policies, instruments and technologies that could create low-carbon economies which promoted sustainable economic growth and provided incentives for individuals to change behaviour.  All individuals and Member States, in addition, must answer demanding questions of themselves regarding their own efforts to check climate change and deal with its effects.

The Assembly, he said, had done its small part by making the thematic debate climate neutral.  Carbon emissions from air travel and Headquarters utilities had been offset by support to an eco-friendly power plant in Andra Pradesh, India, which was using agricultural waste for fuel.  In closing, he thanked the debate sponsors -– the United Nations Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Citigroup Foundation.

BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, opened his speech with a prayer for the full and speedy recovery of Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta, who suffered a brutal attack on Sunday.  “We stand in solidarity with the Government and people of Timor-Leste, in the hope that peace and stability will prevail, and thank Australia for its swift contribution to this end,” he said.

Turning to the high-level debate, the Secretary-General said, if 2007 was the year when climate change rose to the top of the global agenda, then 2008 was the time for concerted action.  Thanks to last year’s remarkable efforts, the international community was armed with authoritative and compelling science, a far-reaching rising tide of public concern and powerful declarations of political will voiced at the Bali Climate Change Conference.  It was compelled to come together and forge a comprehensive agreement, with the United Nations ensuring that existing and future mandates were implemented.  The Secretary-General’s overview of United Nations activities in relation to climate change illustrated that every part of the United Nations system was committed to supporting Member States as an effective, inclusive and credible partner in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

The two-day debate was timely and would help sustain the unprecedented momentum that propelled the climate change agenda forward so dramatically last year, he said.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it clear that climate change was already happening and accelerating.  It spelled out that the costs of inaction would far exceed the costs of action, while setting out the economic rationale and opportunities for action.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report highlighted the devastating effects climate change was already having on the poorest and most vulnerable, making achievement of the Millennium Development Goals more challenging. 

The Bali Conference delivered what it set out to do, he said, pointing to important progress on adaptation, technology and deforestation, and agreement by all countries to launch negotiations on a new international climate change agreement by the end of 2009.  “The challenge is huge.  We have less than two years to craft an agreement on action that measures up to what the science tells us.  It will have to map out emission limitation commitments; agree on essential action to adapt to the impacts of climate change; and mobilize the necessary financing and technological innovations,” he said. 

“Developed countries need to take a clear lead, but success is possible only if all countries act,” he said, adding that the more ambitious the commitments by developed countries, the more actions could be expected from developing countries.  The more developed countries engaged, the more ambitiously the developed countries would commit.  “This is the cycle we must embark upon.” 

“I have made it my personal priority to work with Member States in ensuring the United Nations system is up to the challenge.  My overview report represents a first step, and reflects our commitment to strengthening and coordinating our work into a common approach,” he said.  The report’s substance stemmed from discussions in the Chief Executives Board for Coordination and was the outcome of consultations among all relevant United Nations system entities.  It would help guide the international community as it prepared to take on additional mandates and tasks expected to result from the negotiations for a post-2012 framework. 

The United Nations aim was to develop a coordination structure with key clusters of activity and specific lead agencies, he said.  It would work to help stimulate financial flows needed for adaptation, mitigation and climate-resilient development, as well as support developing countries’ need to adapt to the inevitable impact of climate change.  Climate change was an opportunity to advance sustainable development and encourage new kinds of cleaner technologies, industries and jobs, as well as to integrate climate change risks into national policies and practices.  That would require all partners -– Governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, civil society and individuals -– to join forces.  “We have moved climate change up to the top of the agenda, where it belongs; we cannot now let those who depend on us down.”

“A deal in Copenhagen, on time, and in full, is my priority and that of all the Funds, Programmes and Agencies of the United Nations family,” he said.  “It is also our collective obligation.”

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, Mayor of New York City, said that the United Nations would always be important to the city and the world.  He expressed his pleasure at having addressed the Climate Change Convention in Bali and said that, between now and the Copenhagen meeting, both developed and developing nations must resolve to change their policies and the world’s cities must be an important part of those changes.

For effective results, he said targets for reducing carbon emissions must be imposed and the United States must take a leadership role in that area by imposing a carbon tax.  The targets must be ambitious, but also achievable.  New York City had shown the way through its “Plan NYC”, which envisioned reducing carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.  The United States could do the same with zero cost, because of the efficiencies and opportunities involved.  China and India were now great nations and must follow a similar path, which would improve the economic and social well-being of its people. 

Such efforts as congestion pricing would have the benefit of cleaning air and making the economy more productive, he continued.  Greener buildings and tree planting would also have economic and lifestyle benefits.  “Serious carbon targets will not hamper growth and would make us all better off.”

The world could not wait for those measures, he said.  Cities see the problems grow each day and their leaders were now moving aggressively to respond.  The “C-40” group and more than 700 cities in the United States were actively trying to meet the challenges of reducing urban pollution and challenging climate change.  They were enlisting private-sector companies in the cause as well.

Turning to tropical deforestation, he said that tropical hardwoods were ideal for a myriad of uses in public spaces in cities, but New York City would now immediately reduce the use of such woods by 20 per cent and undertake serious long-term studies for sustainable alternatives.  New Yorkers don’t live in the rainforest, but in a world that was shared by everyone.  “We do small things, but the small things all add up,” he said.

He urged all Member States to make their cities become prominent in meeting the challenges of climate change.  Cities had always been at the forefront of progress.  Now they must be leaders in making the changes needed for a sustainable future.

Panel:  “Rising to the Challenge: Partnerships on Climate Change”

Following Mr. Bloomberg’s statement, participants began a panel discussion entitled “Rising to the Challenge:  Partnerships on Climate Change”.  Moderated by Timothy Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, the panel included:  Chen Ying, China Enterprise Confederation; Fiona Harvey, Financial Times; Letizia Moratti, Mayor of Milan, Italy; Hans-Gert Poettering, President of the European Parliament; Youba Sokona, Sahara and Sahel Observatory; and Martin Khor, Third World Network.

Mr. WIRTH opened by saying the United Nations was the indispensable framework for solving the problem of climate change, but could not do the job alone.  The United Nations could set the table, but the rest of the world had to act in four ways.  That included forging a broad set of partnerships; transformation to more rapid treatment; recognizing the relationship between climate and development; and seizing the opportunity to reorganize, reenergize and reinvent.

HANS-GERT POETTERING, the President of the European Parliament, highlighted the benefits of local, regional, national and international partnerships in rising to the challenges of climate change.  Over the course of the previous year, the European Union had committed itself to achieving ambitious targets in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting renewable energy, as well as implementing measures on carbon capture and revising the Emissions Trading Scheme.  The European Parliament had played a leading role in driving forward action on climate change and had established a Temporary Committee on Climate Change, which provided expertise and played a critical role in coordinating and shaping an integrated European approach to climate change policy. 

The Committee had organized hearings on various aspects of climate change policy and was building a bridge between diverging concerns, with the view to enabling a post-2012 climate change framework, he continued.  The European Parliament had also worked closely with national parliaments, which were key to fighting climate change due to their responsibility for the adoption of concrete legislation and for the implementation of European and international commitments to fight global warming.  He concluded by saying that climate change was a sustainable development challenge and addressing it required thinking beyond traditional territorial frameworks and mainstream economic thinking.

LETIZIA MORATTI, Mayor of Milan, Italy, said half of the world’s population lived in cities worldwide and 80 per cent of all greenhouse gases were produced in those cities.  Cities could effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by promoting sustainable mobility, energy efficiency and renewable energy.  They could plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide and could improve urban planning and management.  Milan was among 700 cities that belonged to the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives and was a partner in the “Cities for Climate Protection” programme.  Through the “ Slim City” network, Milan and other cities were fostering green procurement, such as buying hybrid vehicles for public transport at reduced prices and many had signed the World Mayors and Local Government Protection Agreement to cut carbon emissions and thus contribute to reducing global emissions by 60 per cent to 80 per cent worldwide by 2050.  Milan was introducing comprehensive policies to become one of Europe’s most environmentally friendly cities, introducing, for example, an “Ecopass” or pollution charge for circulating vehicles’ emissions. 

She stressed the importance of taking social responsibility to address and reach targets on mitigating climate change.  “People can’t just say they don’t care anymore,” she said.  Urban development could be offset with joint implementation projects under the Kyoto Protocol.  A true global partnership among rich and poor cities was needed.  Milan had bid to host the 2015 Universal Expo on climate change, with an urban development project closely linked to sustainable development.  It was important to look at the scientific, technological, training and human capital needs of cities in order to be able to deliver on all of them.  Time was running out.   Milan was ready to bring a contribution to the table and work with all countries. 

YOUBA SOKONA, Executive Secretary of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory, said that there were only two or three possible solutions to resolving climate change.  It was necessary, through joint discussion and effort, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, at the same time, help countries plan how they would adapt to changes already taking place.  Currently, the immediacy of the climate change problem was forcing countries, such as those in the arid regions of Africa, into “reactive adaptation”, instead of “planned adaptation”.  There was now a unique opportunity for the international community to question the modes of development currently in practice and to choose a new mode of development for the future.  Water and land degradation were the two main problems facing countries in the arid zones of Africa and in-depth action was necessary to ensure those problems would be resolved. 

Distinctions needed to be drawn as to what could be done at local, national and international levels and new partnerships should go hand in hand with the notion of solidarity, he continued.  Partnerships should be built on the central concerns of various regions and countries.  It was important to recognize that many countries suffered from environmental problems that had been created elsewhere, not by their actions alone.  National institutions in those countries were not capable of solving climate change problems on their own and international conferences should continue to provide input and assistance to help national institutions adapt to global climate change.

CHEN YING, China Enterprise Confederation, said “good faith collaboration” was important to make the Global Compact more effective.  The international community must learn from scientists and be sincere in its efforts.  Otherwise, it was a waste of time to talk about collaboration.  The Kyoto Protocol, which had been signed by 183 countries, was a classic case of global collaboration.  Developed countries had taken the lead.  By 2050, the condition of the ozone layer would be restored to pre-1980 levels.  The world could learn from that success and from what “good faith cooperation” could achieve. 

Successful collaboration required a new spirit of entrepreneurship, she said.  More than 5,000 companies had signed the “caring for climate” declaration.  More than 100 enterprises in China had signed a statement of responsibility to save energy and reduce emissions.  Next year, China’s Parliament would promulgate four laws aimed at reducing emissions and saving energy.  Some Chinese firms had already completely eliminated emissions.  A Chinese organization was also engaged in a project in which it helped a large enterprise assist three smaller ones in saving energy and reducing emissions.

MARTIN KHOR, Director of the Third World Network, agreed that partnerships had to be based on solidarity, good faith and sincerity, but added that knowledge and activism were necessary as well.  In that regard, the non-governmental organization community had a critical role to play in analyzing the problems caused by climate change and ensuring that those issues remained a top priority among Governments.  Non-governmental organizations should push Governments in northern countries to keep the promises they had made in the past, while, in southern countries, those organizations should focus on helping nations adapt to current climate changes.  Citizens also had a role to play in ensuring that, in both the north and the south, Governments kept climate change issues on the top of their agendas. 

The international community had come to a critical juncture and it was time now to agree on the partnerships that would be necessary moving forward.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was “here to stay”, as was the Kyoto Protocol, which should not be seen as expiring in 2012, since the architecture and frameworks developed in Kyoto would be in play beyond that date.  He expressed disappointment that international funds, plans and agencies were not ready to implement responsive, proactive adaptations immediately.  In the future, the international community would have to do much more in terms of finance, capacity-building and technology transfer in order to build the confidence of developing countries.  In conclusion, he stressed the need to keep the core issues of the Kyoto Protocol -- adaptation, mitigation, finance and technology -– at the forefront of discussions and debate over new environmentally-friendly development paths for the future.

FIONA HARVEY, Financial Times, said recently businesses had become much more active in climate change issues.  In the past, it had been difficult to persuade her editors to run stories about climate change, because they feared it was not of interest to businesses.  It was also difficult to get companies to talk about it.  But, that had changed in the last four years.  Businesses were clamouring for information and were willing to discuss climate change issues.  Still, there was still much “green wash”, in which businesses claimed to be doing better than they were on climate change.  Much more must be done.  The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change said that regulation would be important in encouraging businesses to cut emissions, she said, pointing to Mr. Bloomberg’s support for congestion pricing in New York and for carbon taxes.  She said emissions trading could also be an effective instrument and did not have to be mutually exclusive with taxes.  Pressure from shareholders could also help reduce emissions.  The United Nations had been active in encouraging coalitions of shareholders to look at climate change. 

During the Bali Conference, participants discussed the concept of voluntary sectoral agreements among businesses, such as the steel and cement industries, in which an industry’s biggest players would commit together to cutting emissions by a certain amount, she said.  That provided a way out of the impasse of how far developing countries should step forward on climate change and how far developed countries should take the lead.  There was no single technical or organizational silver bullet.  Everyone had to take on the whole range of possibilities.

In the discussion that followed, Robert Orr, from the Office of the Secretary-General, stressed the need for partnerships at all levels.  He said the United Nations system would take the lead in engaging in systematic partnerships with Governments, business and civil society, and would play a unique role in organizing partnerships across various constituencies that had not traditionally worked together. 

Brice Lalonde, France’s Special Ambassador for Climate Change, added that, even if the final road map on climate change was not ready, it was important for the international community to begin to move forward with immediate actions.  The private sector must help tackle the problem of climate change and investing in the necessary infrastructure for the developing world was imperative. 

Slovenia’s Minister of the Environment, Janez Podobnik, repeated that call for immediate action and said, for its part, the European Union had already promised to meet ambitious targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  He asked the panel what more needed to be done to mitigate climate change and, specifically, what the responsibilities of the media, local groups, national institutions and international agencies were in achieving that goal.  Similar questions were heard from the representative of Switzerland, who asked what provisions would be necessary in a global agreement that would most effectively encourage action on climate change, and what the most effective arrangements would be to achieve overall objectives.

The representative of Brazil expressed strong agreement with the comments made by the panellist from the Sahara and Sahel Observatory, who said that the notion of partnership went hand in hand with the notion of solidarity.  The representative gave examples of several successful public and private partnerships in Brazil and encouraged other countries to look to past successes when planning for the future.  He also strongly endorsed the comments made by Martin Khor, of the Third World Network, specifically in regards to the structural organization of the climate change regime and the non-expiration of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

The role of public-private partnerships in the fight against climate change was discussed in detail by Vincente Perez, of Alternergy.  He said private companies should pay attention not only to cash flow, but also to their impact on the environment.  Though many institutional investors were already measuring the carbon footprint of companies, they should be further encouraged along that path, even to the point of requiring companies to regularly publish their carbon emissions.  The international community should do more to promote programmes between private companies, non-governmental organizations and Governments to combat climate change and to help in providing electricity to the 1.6 billion people who still had no access. 

Mohan Munasinghe, of the Munasinghe Institute for Development, brought up the need to break the destructive cycle between climate and development.  Those two issues needed to be addressed simultaneously to provide a sustainable, durable and lasting solution.  Rich countries should do more to help poorer countries along the path to development, while developing countries should learn from the mistakes made in the past by industrial countries in their development.  He stressed, however, that it was necessary to balance environmental and economic issues with social issues and that the United Nations should take the lead in providing that balance and coordinating action on a global scale.

Grenada’s representative said it was important to recognize that climate change was an urgent issue requiring action in 2008, not 2012.  Partnerships were critical and a set of principles was needed to systematically implement them.  Confidence and success stories were necessary to build a track record of financing for adaptation.  There was great urgency for action in small island developing States, which were seeing great changes in terms of sea-level rise.  Grenada was working with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the United Nations foundation on financing for adaptation issues. 

Similarly, Ligia Castro de Doens, Panama’s Minster of Tourism and Environment, said whole seaside communities were disappearing in Panama and other Caribbean countries due to soil erosion resulting from sea-level rise.  Governments lacked the economic capacity to safeguard those communities.  Adaptation funds could allow for effective public-private responses to those problems.  She also stressed the need to address corruption to end the practice of businesses circumventing environmental rules by receiving favours from their countries’ Presidents.

Stephen Henitz, Rockefeller Foundation, expressed concern that the international community might rush to compromise to find solutions to climate change and adopt half measures to serious problems.  Global citizens must be engaged in order to push businesses and Governments and to hold them accountable.

The representatives of Nigeria and Zambia noted that Africa was least responsible, but most adversely affected by greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.  Biomass in Africa was an important source of energy and without viable alternative energy sources it would be difficult for African countries to restrain from cutting down forests and turning trees into charcoal.  The United Nations must consider that issue seriously.  Most African countries lacked the financing and technology to address climate change.  Why hadn’t the Third World Network been able to transfer a single environmental technology to developing countries?

Arturo Gonzalo Aizpiri, Spain’s Minister of Environment, expressed concern that, while mitigation efforts were widespread among the public and private sector, efforts towards adaptation were much slower.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change must play a crucial role in that regard.  Cooperation between Annex 1 and non-Annex countries must be strong and cooperation at the regional level was very possible.  For example, the private sector must be involved, particularly the tourism sector, to issue early warnings on natural disaster occurrences to the public at large.

Emilio Lebre La Rovere, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, asked the panellists to elaborate on the possibility of partnerships between southern and northern institutions to accelerate technological development to foster renewable energy reduction. 

Jan Dusik, the Czech Republic’s Deputy Minister of Environment, said the international community must look not only at Copenhagen commitments, but also businesses commitments.  The public must demand action from businesses.  And he asked:  should businesses take the lead and propose measures to address climate change or should Governments impose a regulatory environment for businesses to follow?

Pamela Flaherty, from the Citigroup Foundation, said her experiences had shown that businesses were very engaged in climate change as a financing and strategic issue.  There was, however, a great challenge in figuring out how to mobilize and educate citizens to both take action and demand action on climate change and that should be a priority moving forward. 

Similarly, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania underscored the need to reinforce the role of individuals and civil society, as well as political constituencies that supported climate change.  The United Nations should play a leading role in that regard.  Since discussion of system-wide coherence within the United Nations was already under way, the Organization should take the opportunity now to see how climate change issues could be incorporated throughout the entire system to ensure that the United Nations would indeed be a leader in the field.

The representative of Iran acknowledged the importance of partnerships between various public and private sector groups, but, at the same time, stressed the need to ensure that those partnerships did not replace international cooperation or absolve developed countries of their responsibilities.  He asked the Assembly to examine closely the various paths to development and how best to move forward on climate change without adversely affecting national development plans and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The Minister of the Environment from Haiti, Jean-Marie Claude Germain, said Caribbean States and other small island developing States were already showing the grave effects of climate change.  Those effects, combined with the financial and migration issues they were already experiencing, meant they were in dire need of help and thus had great expectations for what would come out of the partnerships discussed currently. 

The representative of Nicaragua expressed his concern over the lack of financing for the adaptation fund and the fact that much money flowing from developed countries for climate change often flowed to other developed countries, and not countries such as his own.  He also expressed his support for the comments made by the representative of Nigeria in regards to intellectual property rights and the transfer of technologies.

In response to the various questions and comments made by the Assembly in regards to technology, Mr. Khor of the Third World Network said that the issue was indeed complex, but there were various possibilities out there to resolve the problem.  One option would be to consider special exemptions for developing countries in regards to climate change technology.  He added that, if technologies were made available to developing countries at just one-quarter the current price, it would help quadruple the effectiveness of countries in combating climate change.

Mr. Sokona, of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory, stressed once more the need for planned adaptation measures that would address spontaneous, reactive and long-term issues.  Those measures were currently lacking and addressing that deficiency was immediately necessary.

Mr. Poettering, President of the European Parliament, agreed with the comments made during the discussion period about the need to build awareness on climate change, but added that a lack of awareness was not an excuse for inaction.  Voluntary measures were not enough anymore; regulation was necessary within Governments and Parliaments.

The United Nations should continue to play a leading role in raising that awareness and mobilizing citizens, added Ms. MORATTI, the Mayor of Milan, in summation.  She agreed with the comments made by Member States that it was time to move beyond rhetoric towards concrete partnerships and action.  There was no doubt as to the link between climate change and sustainable development and all partnerships should address the two issues simultaneously to produce the necessary results.

On financing, Ms. YING of the China Enterprise Confederation underscored the financial assistance that developing countries would continue to need moving forward and said bilateral and multilateral financing options should be seriously considered. 

Speaking finally on behalf of the panel in response to the Assembly’s discussion, Ms. HARVEY of the Financial Times said that the media’s role was to hold Governments to account and to provide a forum for debate on climate change.  In reference to comments made on financing adaptation strategies, she said it was necessary to be “brutally frank” and admit that not enough people in rich companies cared about what was happening to people in poor countries.  It was necessary to make richer countries more aware of the effects of climate change and the legacy of wars, failed States and the problems it caused to ensure increased financing in the future.

Afternoon Panel

In the afternoon, the panel “Responding to a Multifaceted Challenge:  The United Nations at Work” was moderated by Ricardo Lagos, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Climate Change.

Panellists included:  Sha Zukang, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Kemal Dervis, Administrator of UNDP; Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP); and Monique Barbut, Chief Executive of the Global Environment Facility.

Mr. LAGOS, opening the discussion, said that climate change was a crosscutting issue that demanded action on every front.  For that reason, in this area, it was even more crucial than elsewhere that the United Nations system act as one.  He asked how the United Nations, in that view, could assist with the national adaptation plan of action for each country.  The time had come to develop best-practices strategies through the Organization.

Other matters to be dealt with, he said, included the kind of involvement between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions in the area of climate change.  The panellists this afternoon all had long experience with the full United Nations system and how it could best be used to counteract the effects of climate change.

Mr. ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General of Economic and Social Affairs, said that the overall task of the United Nations in climate change was to shape the world discussion on action to meet the challenges of climate change in all key areas.  The scale and scope of activity was impressive, but it must be asked if they were directed strategically.  Effectiveness of all efforts would no doubt increase if the climate change agenda was integrated with the development agenda.  There was the matter of equity, but it had to be realized that the issue was both a threat and an opportunity to all. 

He said the United Nations system must help in the area of technologies, focusing on “pro-poor” technologies to assist development, and using its expertise in forming partnerships to its best effect.  The Department of Economic and Social Affairs was committed to working with the rest of the United Nations system and also with its extensive partnerships in civil society.

ACHIM STEINER, Executive Director of UNEP, said the climate change agenda had evolved in a direction that perfectly suited the United Nations family.  The issue was all-pervasive and touched all sectors of the global community and the United Nations was well positioned to respond on all those fronts.  Climate change was at the heart of the entire development agenda and affected both developed and developing countries equally.  A new approach to development was necessary and should be addressed from a transformative point of view, with a high priority given to the natural capital of economies. 

He added that the challenge of climate change was a great opportunity for the international community to address the issue through an integrated approach.  It was also an opportunity to improve the efficiency of the United Nations and revisit the effectiveness of the Organization at pioneering and developing the tools needed to tackle the problem.  One of the successful vehicles created by the United Nations in that regard was the Environment Management Group, which had already helped improve efficiency and cooperation.  In the future, UNEP would help to further strengthen the link between the environment and national development processes.  It would also work to focus greater awareness on climate change, since public awareness was the greatest capital that UNEP could bring to the international negotiations process.  He concluded by underlining once more the opportunity that lay before the United Nations to lead the fight against climate change through an integrated, synergistic response.

Mr. DERVIS, of UNDP, said that it was important to stress that there should not be two separate agendas:  the climate change agenda and the poverty agenda.  They must be completely linked.  In fact, it was some of the poorest communities that would suffer the first, and possibly the worst, overall.  Focusing on their needs would require work in both areas equally.  While leadership would have to come from the developed countries, much of the mitigation action would, of course, require efforts from the developing countries.  Those countries, particularly the middle-income countries, needed resources, such as energy for growth, so it was crucial that their growth paths be supported to be consistent with the climate change agenda.

UNDP had joined forces with others, particularly with UNEP, and was focusing on the strategic issues and adaptation projects, particularly to shape the cap-and-trade mechanisms to allow smaller countries and projects to benefit from the clean development initiative, he continued.  All UNDP’s work would be done in conjunction with civil society, but the private sector was of the utmost importance, as well.  Public organizations had the task of providing strategies and frameworks and helping motivate the political dynamic towards the long term.  Civil society was also important in promoting the long view of the future and the policy changes that were required to prevent climate change from being an obstacle to development.

Ms. SHEERAN, of WFP, described her organization as being on “the front lines of vulnerability”, and hence on the front lines of hunger due to climate change.  She said that the proportion of hungry in the world had dropped, but the actual number of them had grown steadily.  A perfect storm was coming together, in fact, for those most vulnerable to hunger.  Food prices were rising sharply and yields might be dropping, due to increasing drought and other factors.  Now was the time to act to prevent disaster. 

Measurement of human vulnerability had to become more comprehensive to manage that challenge, she said.  Effect systems such as the Sahel Early Warning System were needed everywhere.  Climate change and macroeconomic analysis, in addition, had to be perfected in predicting effects at the household level.  Action to protect local food sources also had to start happening now and, where natural disasters had occurred, it was important to build back better to take climatic change into account.  Shortening supply chains helped to build up local capacity, in addition to reducing carbon footprints and other benefits.  To get ahead of the hunger curve, innovative tools must be developed.  No matter what kind of prevention was accomplished, however, it was important to realize that there would be emergency needs, for which preparations must be made.

MONIQUE BARBUT, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, said the sad irony was that the world’s poorest countries bore almost no responsibility for climate change, yet suffered the most.  To break that vicious cycle would require immediate action.  The Global Environment Facility was entrusted with being the Secretariat for the Adaptation Fund, which was a unique financing tool which allowed industrialized countries to trade emission rights with less polluting ones.  Unfortunately, the forecast amount of resources that the Fund would receive over the next two years was not particularly significant and it was necessary for donors to step up to supplement the Fund in the interim for the Fund to be able to cover its needs.

On a more general level, she noted the increase in promises of financing for climate change from a wide range of stakeholders.  With those funds, the international community could now focus on its mission to act on climate change in a way that would help positively shape the future of both developing and developed societies.  There was currently a variety of funding sources, but with different procedures and governance structures, which resulted in multiple and often contradictory rules.  Thus, there was a need for better coordination of international initiatives and a global governance system to manage such precious public goods.  The Global Environment Facility was a unique bridge between the United Nations system, the development banks and bilateral donors and it would continue to work in collaboration with major agencies to ensure measurable progress.

In the discussion following the formal panel, the representative of Mexico, also speaking on behalf of Switzerland, highlighted the need for the international community to better organize itself to face the challenges of climate change.  International environmental governance was a work in progress, with a history dating back almost four decades.  The proliferation of international bodies dealing with the environment reflected the rapid evolution of the environmental agenda itself.  The complex system that had evolved had been successful in mobilizing the scientific community, politicians, civil society and business towards change, but lacked coherence and coordination.  It had resulted in, among other things, a fragmented legal framework on climate change, insufficient funding mechanisms, and insufficient capacity-building and technical assistance.  In January 2006, the President of the General Assembly named two co-chairs for the Informal Consultative Process on the Institutional Framework for the United Nations environmental activities.  Mexico and Switzerland, as co-chairs, intended to facilitate a draft resolution in the near future based on the consultations they had undertaken and asked for the support of Member States in that endeavour.

The representative of Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the varied aspects of climate change could not be dealt with in isolation, and that the issue must be linked with development and poverty reduction.  Sustainable development and mitigation was the best adaptation, he said.  He asked the panel how the United Nations planned to galvanize international action on climate change and other specific plans.  He also asked how climate change action could be merged with environmental governance, and how the effects of environmental degradation could be countered under both agendas. 

Michel Jarraud, Director of the World Meteorological Organization, emphasized that the challenges of climate change were that much more complex, because they existed at all levels.  The United Nations was needed to coordinate action at all levels and that required a myriad of expertise.  Scientific knowledge had to be continually refined, because of the many uncertainties that still persisted, and that knowledge must be provided to policymakers.  A conference in Geneva next year would deal with methods of integrating all such knowledge with decision-making.  The United Nations was also best placed to make sure that action on climate change was conducted in recognition of security issues.

Congo’s representative stressed that radical changes of lifestyle were required in many parts of Africa, requiring assistance in flexible forms from the international system, while India’s representative said that the crisis was an existential one for small island developing States and adaptative action must be accelerated at the local level.  Adaptation and mitigation technologies must be made available to them and other developing countries.  Such technologies must be made affordable, possibly using the model of the public health exception programmes.  The Clean Development Mechanism should also be modified to benefit smaller projects and countries.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the international community needed to better integrate the mechanisms to combat climate change and should seek longer-term solutions to increasing the financing for the Adaptation Fund over the next 5 to 10 years.  The World Bank and other development banks should work more closely with the United Nations on climate change.  To that end, he asked the panellists for more specifics on what they believed the best division of labour would be between the various stakeholders in order to take the work on climate change forward most effectively.

Kanden Yukella, representing the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), highlighted some of the efforts made by UNIDO to support the work on energy.  Such work included, among others, the re-organization of United Nations work on energy into specific clusters to help address issues such as energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Integrating the Millennium Development Goals agenda with the climate change agenda was a top priority.  Moving forward, the United Nations should examine closely the many challenges facing developing countries and how climate change policy affected their development.  He reminded the Assembly that they needed to revisit the definition of poverty alleviation and to keep that top development goal in mind when addressing climate change.

The representative of Bangladesh said the mainstreaming of climate change could be done most effectively by the United Nations, while individual States provided sustainable development support, as well.  Those comments were echoed by the representative of Egypt, who added that the role of the United Nations was to network and institutionalize lessons learned in the past and to synchronize the diverse efforts of the various groups working to tackle climate change.

The representative of Morocco expressed concern for countries that were struggling to achieve development goals, while simultaneously having to adapt and react to the negative effects of climate change as well.  Climate change was a challenge that threatened the future of the entire world and he asked panellists to further detail how the international community as a whole could help developing countries deal with and limit the effects of climate change, such as drought and flooding.

Mats Karlsson, of the High-Level Committee on Programmes and the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, asked why all the actions of the international community in various areas had not added up to a greater whole.  He speculated that perhaps climate change, because of its importance and complexity, would be the issue that galvanized reform in that direction.  There must be much better management, which required the attention of the top leadership of the United Nations system.  A matrix of the specific sectors that had an impact must be worked on in a unified way, through cluster leadership.  It could be done if there was adequate accountability.  The ability was there, but it required strong support at the intergovernmental level.

The representative of Denmark said that more funding was needed for mitigation.  Private funds were needed, with public funds as a catalyst and a flexible policy tool.  A strong United Nations, delivering as one, was needed to direct those endeavours.

The representative of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, on behalf of the Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization coalition, described the declaration on global warming adopted by his group.  Seventy non-governmental organizations had produced a related report with specific recommendations on preservation, he said.  A representative of the CONGO group of non-governmental organizations then said that climate change brought with it the threat of exacerbated inequality.  In that light, he introduced the environmental projects of the Rotary Clubs, which prioritized water conservation projects.

Vincent Perez, of Alternergy of Singapore and former Energy Minister of the Philippines, stressed the importance of new technology transfer in rural electrification programmes from United Nations agencies.  He proposed a new public-private partnership for such sustainable electrification initiatives.

MARIA NEIRA of the World Health Organization said health should be at the centre of the current debate, since the human health consequences of climate change were too large to be ignored.  Climate change was already negatively affecting food, water, and air quality worldwide.  The WHO was working towards mobilizing resources and awareness to respond to those negative effects.  She stressed the need for health development to be included in questions of climate change and sustainable development and she emphasized the strong and motivating force health organizations could bring to the table by providing the human face of the impacts of climate change.

GEOFFREY LIPMAN, World Tourism Organization, highlighted his organization’s success in partnering with other international agencies to improve development and environmental sustainability simultaneously.  Tourism had played and could continue to play an important role in providing environmentally sustainable development solutions.  2008 had been named the Tourism Responding to Climate Change year and, throughout the year and beyond, his organization would continue to support the growth of clean carbon tourism for the world’s poorest countries, in collaboration with the United Nations family.

In summarizing the afternoon’s discussion, Mr. ZUKANG, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that, despite the healthy debate, there were still more questions than answers.  However, one thing that had become very clear was that better governance, coherence and cooperation on climate change was imperative.  The current road map, though not yet fully developed, would hopefully lead to better coherence over time.  In the meantime, though, the international community should continue to address development and environmental sustainability simultaneously and should provide vital tools, such as financing and technology, to ensure progress would be made.

Mr. DERVIS, United Nations Development Programme, echoed Mr. Zukang’s statements in regard to the importance of a coherence agenda and cooperation agenda that would be in the interest of developing countries, in particular.  In reference to questions raised about the relationship between the United Nations and international financing institutions, he said the United Nations should be the link between the various sectors and agencies, which was a very important supportive role alongside the World Bank.

Continuing along those same lines, Mr. STEINER, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), added that it was important to address not only who would provide financing for environmentally sustainable development, but also the paradigms under which that money would be spent.  Had countries such as Brazil or China listened to past international economists and their theories on how to spend development money, they might not have achieved the successes they had described today.  Without changing the economic orthodoxies under which investments were made, the international community would not be able to fully adapt to the challenges of climate change.

Ms. SHEERAN of the WFP, responding to questions about specific architecture of programmes to develop climate change, urged that no parallel structures be set up separated from development structures.  All strategies and responses, in addition, needed to be led by countries themselves, but all humanity must pull together to deal with climate change and development.  There was no alternative to acting together.  Ms. BARBUT of the Global Environment Facility, agreeing with much that had been already said, pled for careful analysis of previous programmes before new programmes were set up.

Closing Remarks

YVO DE BOER, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), describing the breakthroughs made in Bali in December, said that the countries in the room now had the responsibility to make the outcomes of Bali into a success.  Achieving the goals of the negotiations would mean integrating development needs, while addressing climate change.  It would also mean uniting the developed and developing worlds in the effort.

Delineating finance and technology mechanisms was an essential component of the negotiations ahead, he said.  A variety of tools were needed for both areas, as were targeted inputs, and the Secretariat of the UNFCCC would support the development of those components.  He stressed that a truly effective climate change strategy must be comprehensive and that there was no time to lose.  All efforts, he said, must be directed to getting a climate change deal off the ground before 2009, which would turn out to be a very close deadline.  In the debate tomorrow, Member States had the opportunity to show the way to get there.

Mr. KERIM, President of the General Assembly, thanked all the participants and said that there was an unusually strong focus and sense of urgency displayed by speakers today.  Because of that focus, there was also a confidence that effective measures could be taken to address climate change and its effects.  He looked forward to the proposals and comments that would be put forward tomorrow.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.