Press Conference by Director of Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team

26 October 2009

Press Conference by Director of Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team

26 October 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Director of Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team

“We are now at a […] critical juncture on the way towards achieving a legally binding agreement that would guide global action on climate change,” said Janos Pasztor, Director of the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, updating correspondents on the climate change negotiations, at Headquarters this afternoon.

With the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen just over a month away, the last weeks had seen many developments from both Governments and civil society, he said at a press conference.  The level and intensity of discussions had increased at the highest levels of Government.  Civil society had also been energized.  Many groups worldwide had advocated intensely for keeping active greenhouse gas concentrations to 350 parts per million.  On the less positive side, a new poll in the United States had indicated that support for action on climate change in that country might be declining.

The Secretary-General saw United States engagement in climate change as vital to success, said Mr. Pasztor, recalling the Secretary-General’s comment that “we cannot afford another period where the United States stands on the sidelines”.  The Secretary-General was encouraged by the spirit of compromise shown in the bipartisan initiative announced last week by United States Senators John Kerry and Lindsey Graham, said Mr. Pasztor.

He also reported that, based on the results of negotiations so far, the Danish Government was now conducting consultations with other Governments on the substance and form of the agreement, which might emerge at Copenhagen.  The Secretary-General maintained that Governments must seal the deal on a legally binding agreement that would effectively and fairly address the science and limit the Earth’s average temperature increase to less than 2° C.  The aim in Copenhagen must be for an ambitious, politically binding agreement that would chart the way for future post-Copenhagen negotiations, leading to a legally binding global agreement.

It was important to push the ambition level as high as possible on the content of a Copenhagen agreement, Mr. Pasztor said in response to questions.  The most recent evidence had indicated that, not only was the broad framework of the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change correct, but the situation was actually closer to the extreme end of their ranges than had been believed.  That must be explained to the public through a political project.

Next week, negotiators would be meeting in Barcelona for the final five days of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations before Copenhagen.  Building on progress made in Bangkok, the Secretary-General believed that further progress could and should be made urgently.

In the remaining six weeks, further attention must be paid by Heads of State and Government to the key political issues, including targets and financing, Mr. Pasztor said.  Copenhagen could deliver agreement on a range of fast-track implementation measures, for which Governments would need to provide credible resources.  The Secretary-General would continue to serve as a neutral broker for all 192 Member States and to advocate for an ambitious multilateral agreement that would keep global temperature rises at safe levels.  Towards that goal, the Secretary-General would be attending a meeting of representatives of the world’s faith communities at Windsor Castle on 3 November.

In response to further questions, Mr. Pasztor said that it was difficult to say how far the Conference would go, but that there must be a push for the most ambitious mitigation and financial commitments.  Those areas were related, he said, as developing countries maintained that their mitigation efforts were dependent on the amount of financing they received.  At the same time, developed countries said they needed to know what mitigation efforts were planned, because how much they could contribute was linked to carbon markets.  Political leadership was necessary to make the first step.  British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had made such a move by suggesting $100 billion as a figure to start discussions.

United States negotiators must be empowered in Copenhagen, Mr. Pasztor said, responding to another question.  That could happen only if there was movement on a domestic bill.  Even if that had not yet been completed, United States negotiators needed to know what was likely to come before the President.

It had always been known that climate change was not going to be fully resolved within the next few weeks, he said, adding that it was “a long-term problem that would be with us for many years, if not decades, to come”.   Copenhagen, however, must be a milestone.  The political support seen from 101 Heads of State and Government at the Climate Change Summit in New York showed that Governments wanted something ambitious out of Copenhagen.

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