Press Conference on Outcome of Secretary-General’s Climate Change Summit

23 September 2009

Press Conference on Outcome of Secretary-General’s Climate Change Summit

23 September 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Outcome of Secretary-General’s Climate Change Summit

Yesterday’s Climate Summit at United Nations Headquarters had achieved the Secretary-General’s goal of mobilizing political will at the highest level and focusing the attention of Heads of State and Government on the urgent need for action, Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, said today.

Speaking at a press conference on the outcome of the Summit, in which a record 163 countries participated at the senior level, including 101 Heads of State and Government, Mr. Orr said a subtext of the day was that “leader after leader” had acknowledged that climate change was a “leaders’ issue” and that leaders had to make decisions, which was a shift in overall recognition of whose issue it was.

The event had also seen a serious and sustained dialogue between the major world economies and the most vulnerable ones, another goal of the Secretary-General, he said.  One of the most striking outcomes was that many had recognized the overall goal of negotiations to limit the global average temperature rise to a maximum of 2˚ Celsius.  Nobody had cited a higher figure, while some of the most vulnerable countries had argued for a maximum rise of 1.5˚ C.

He said that among important announcements had been Japan’s confirmation that it would pursue a 25 per cent reduction against 1990 emission levels by 2020, and that it would seek to create a national carbon market linked to an international one.  The European Union had announced support for a “fast-track adaptation funding facility”, for which it would provide €5 billion to €7 billion between 2010 and 2012.  China had announced what it would be prepared to do in the context of an international agreement, in addition to the “robust” work it was already doing, while the President of the Maldives had announced his intention to make the island nation carbon-neutral by 2020 and to take on binding emission targets under certain conditions.

One of the biggest outcomes was that financing ‑‑ the sine qua non for achieving a final deal ‑‑ had finally taken centre stage, he continued, noting that many leaders had rallied around a proposal for supporting $100 billion per annum over the next decade.  The Secretary-General had held a dinner with 23 leaders, bringing together those from the most vulnerable countries with those of the largest economies.  To a striking extent they had agreed that they must and could reach agreement at the December Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

Janos Pasztor, Director of the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, added that leaders at the dinner had expressed a very strong willingness to break the deadlock of trust which until now had blocked agreement on core issues.  They had also discussed their willingness to do much more than they had been willing to agree upon in the context of the negotiations.  That was an “optimistic sign” that agreement in Copenhagen would be possible.  Leaders at the dinner had also expressed strong interest in meeting again before Copenhagen, as needed, and the Secretary-General was prepared to convene such a meeting, if desired.  The next stop would be Bangkok, where a 10-day round of United Nations-sponsored negotiations of the Framework Convention on Climate Change would continue on Monday in preparation for Copenhagen.

Asked whether the divide over whether 2˚ C or 1.5˚ C should be the limit on the global average temperature rise would be a stumbling block, Mr. Orr said that, on the contrary, the range had now become clear for the first time, and the difference would have to be sorted out in negotiations.

In answer to another question, he said it was premature to talk about the binding or non-binding character of a deal in Copenhagen.  It had become clear yesterday that everyone wanted a deal, and the nature of such a deal must be determined.

Asked about the domestic legislative processes of a deal, the Assistant Secretary-General said most measures on treaties of an international nature had to go through such processes, but it was important that the leaders had recognized that it was a political issue rather than a technical one.  Many leaders had recognized that they must come to an international agreement in order to deliver at home.  Although there might be some pain domestically, there was also some gain to be made.  While the legislative processes might take time, leaders had now recognized that it was important to begin work now on what must be done.

Mr. Pasztor added that, while it was a political project requiring recourse to domestic legislation, it also called for considerable domestic political work.  Very often it was a question of the leaders making the political commitment to carry out that work.

Responding to another question, Mr. Orr said yesterday’s event marked the first time that financing had been recognized as a central issue.  Now that some numbers had “hit the table”, discussion had become more concrete.  A significant development was that nearly all speakers had stressed that financing should consist of both public and private funds, and that it should be in addition to official development assistance (ODA).

He cautioned that there was no clear outcome on whether China or other developing countries would participate in such a financial framework, or if developing countries would pay into the framework.  However, some interesting ideas had been tabled, including the notion that only the least developed countries would not be expected to contribute, or that all developing countries would see a net positive outcome from the scheme.

Mr. Pasztor added that whether contributions should be determined in accordance with percentage of gross domestic product or national carbon footprint would have to be sorted out at the level of finance ministers.  However, the principle was that they had to involve a mixture of public and private financing.

Asked about technical support for developing countries, he said that matter was partly linked to money and partly to intellectual property regimes.  There were indications that some technologies could be made available without going through the open-market system.

Responding to a question about corporate accountability, specifically whether a company participating in the United Nations Leadership Forum on Climate Change could claim an endorsement by the Organization, Mr. Orr said participation by any company did not entail such an endorsement.

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