Dismissing Reports That Copenhagen Climate Talks Will Come up Short, Secretary-General Says Stage Will Be Set for Binding Treaty ‘As Soon as Possible in 2010’

19 November 2009
GA/10890

Dismissing Reports That Copenhagen Climate Talks Will Come up Short, Secretary-General Says Stage Will Be Set for Binding Treaty ‘As Soon as Possible in 2010’

19 November 2009
General Assembly
GA/10890
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Informal Meeting of the Plenary

 on Climate Change (PM)

Dismissing Reports That Copenhagen Climate Talks Will Come up Short, Secretary-General

Says Stage Will Be Set for Binding Treaty ‘As Soon as Possible in 2010’

Addressing Informal General Assembly Meeting, Top United Nations Climate

Official Calls for Political Will to Resolve Key Mitigation, Finance Issues

Only 17 days ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon today refuted reports that the talks on reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions would fall short of expectations, and called on Member States to forge the political determination needed to broker a comprehensive deal that would create the climate security all nations desired.

“Reading the latest news reports, however, you might think that Copenhagen is destined to be a disappointment.  That is wrong,” the Secretary-General declared during an informal meeting of the General Assembly this afternoon.  Countering reports that might lead to lowered expectations, he said Copenhagen would produce a deal to set the stage for a binding treaty as early as possible in 2010.  Negotiators at the 7 to 18 December Conference had been tasked with crafting a new climate accord to replace the first commitment phase of Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas reduction, which expires in 2012.

He noted that United States President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao had recently pledged to work together to agree on a pact in Copenhagen that covered all issues and would have immediate operational effect.  Announcements by other nations to curb carbon emissions, blamed for causing global warming and other weather anomalies, including by Indonesia, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Japan and Norway, had also provided much hope for the conference’s outcome.  Taken together, “we have ample reason to be positive”, Mr. Ban added.

He put short-term financing from industrialized nations to the developing countries at $10 billion in fast-track funding annually over the next three years to jump-start low-emission growth, limit deforestation and finance immediate adaptation measures, while medium-term needs were estimated at some $100 billion annually through 2020.  He also called for a transparent and equitable governance structure to manage and deploy those resources.  It must give all countries a voice and provide for stronger monitoring, reporting and verification of both mitigation and financing.  An agreement in Copenhagen that clearly addressed those elements would be “a success”.

In closing remarks, Mr. Ban added:  “We are not lowering our expectations […] we are not compromising our principles.”  The meeting, hosted by Denmark and formally known as the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-15), would be an important occasion towards setting a legally binding agreement.  In the meantime, the deal reached could include measures that would become effective immediately and unlock the resources needed for green growth.  It could also include decisions on technology transfer and capacity-building that could be implemented quickly.  Nevertheless, the end goal was a legally binding treaty, he said.

Yvo De Boer, Executive Secretary of the Climate Change Convention, said the signs emerging as the Copenhagen event neared were promising and momentum had never been higher.  “The attention needed to be focused on resolving the high-order political issues of mitigation and finance, without which reaching agreement will be impossible,” Mr. De Boer said.  “To this end, I call on your continued political support.”

Decisions on start-up financing were urgently needed and the deal should also create mechanisms for generating new, predictable and sustainable financial resources.  That would help unleash mitigation and adaptation actions in developing countries over the long run.  Even with those gaps, “I sense a huge desire for the talks to succeed”, he said.

Opening the meeting, General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki said Copenhagen’s significance had resonated loud and clear at the climate change Summit convened by the Secretary-General on 22 September 2009.  The international community could not absolve itself of its responsibility to prepare the ground for an agreed outcome that met the urgency of the challenge.  “[We] cannot afford to lose the momentum.  Progress on this issue is not optional; it is imperative to our very survival.  To face this greatest challenge to our shared planet, we need to act immediately, resolutely and collectively,” he said.

Speaking for the host country of the Conference, Carsten Staur of Denmark said an agreement would be binding, even if delegates did not hammer out a pact to the last detail.  “We’re not talking about the usual political declaration”, he said, but an accord that included precise language on developed country reductions and developing country actions.  While some might wish for a different form or legal structure, what mattered, at the end of the day, was the agreement’s ability to reinforce global commitments to real action.

Trudie Styler, co-founder of the Rainforest Foundation, spoke of the first time she and her husband, musician Sting, had visited Brazil and had seen the “sickening destruction” unfolding in the Amazon rainforest.  Based in the United Kingdom, United States and Norway, the Foundation worked with more than 100 local organizations in all major rainforest areas.  The shrinking of the rainforest from 14 per cent of the earth’s surface to 6 per cent ensured that, at some point, the earth would not be able to sustain life.  She called on people in the room to act.  “The very fact that you are in this room today means that you are powerful.”

Representatives from 20 Member States also addressed the informal meeting.  Many stressed that media reports should not lead to lower expectations among negotiators in Copenhagen and block the conclusion of a legally binding agreement.  All nations needed to generate the political will to achieve a substantive and legally binding pact that would work to reduce carbon emissions across the planet, they said.

Speakers also expressed a distinct need for financing mechanisms to help developing nations adapt to the changing world and purchase the proper technology.  One delegate suggested a high-level forum to provide an overview of international sources of financing in developing countries.

For her part, the representative Grenada, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said she was extremely concerned about attempts to water down the Conference’s outcome.  Her delegation would head to Copenhagen to unveil its renewable energy proposal.  It would also press for an internationally legally binding outcome that would preserve the negotiating tracks agreed upon in Bali in 2007, as well as propose a plan to develop a comprehensive insurance facility for both quick and slow devastation and economic damages.  Calling for all Member States to continue their efforts towards the Conference’s success, she declared that the survival of many small islands and coastal communities was also the survival of all communities.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the Sudan (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Japan, Egypt, Colombia, China, Cuba, Marshall Islands, Libya, Morocco, Mexico, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Bolivia, Bangladesh, United States, Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands, Turkey, Indonesia, Zambia (on behalf of the African Group) and Pakistan.

Statements

Opening the informal plenary, General Assembly President ALI ABDUSSALAM TREKI said that with the United Nations Conference on Climate Change just 17 days away, there had been much discussion and curiosity in public and private circles regarding the prospects in Copenhagen.  The significance of the Copenhagen Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP-15) had resonated loud and clear at the Summit convened by the Secretary-General ahead of the Assembly’s general debate in September. 

The international community could not absolve itself of the responsibility to prepare the ground to reach an agreed outcome that corresponded to the seriousness and urgency of the challenge.  “We cannot afford to lose the momentum. Progress on this issue is not optional; it is imperative to our very survival.  To face this greatest challenge to our shared planet, we need to act immediately, resolutely and collectively,” he said.

Action had to be firmly anchored in the legitimacy of the Assembly, which had begun the sixty-fourth session with that climate Summit and a vision to mobilize a global response.  The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) then picked up the mantle with deliberations on the matter.  Negotiations began in that Committee this week on a comprehensive resolution on climate change, and he was confident it would be adopted shortly by consensus, since it would provide a significant input to the Copenhagen Conference.  The Assembly had made its desire for progress clear and he thanked the Second Committee for maintaining political momentum.

The world needed a new international agreement on climate change and Member States needed to come together with a solution that was fair, effective, and ambitious, and reflected the shared goals and common, but differentiated, responsibilities, Mr. Treki said.  “Challenges abound on the road ahead, but with genuine political will and steadfast leadership, we could aspire to overcome them.  However, the clock is ticking.  We need to act now,” he said.

Next, United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON, noted that he just yesterday returned from the Rome Food Summit.  While there, he had emphasized a fundamental fact:  there could be no food security without climate security.  He was grateful for the opportunity to meet with the General Assembly ahead of the Conference in Copenhagen. 

Reading the latest reports might lead one to believe that Copenhagen was destined to be a disappointment. “That is wrong”, he insisted.  On the contrary, he believed a deal would be reached that set the stage for a binding treaty as soon as possible in 2010, notably since United States President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao had pledged to work together to reach an agreement that covered all issues and which took immediate operational effect.

Further, Indonesia had announced it would reduce emissions by 26 per cent, while Russia, at this week’s European Union summit, indicated it was ready to cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 25 per cent by 2020, if others did the same, he said.  Just yesterday, the Republic of Korea had announced it would reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2020, while Brazil had pledged to curb emissions between 38 and 42 per cent by 2020.  Japan had unveiled a 25 per cent target and Norway, a 40 per cent cut.  Taken together “we have ample reason to be positive”, he said.

The outlines of agreement were also shaping up on difficult issues of adaptation, technology and capacity building, he said, and there was convergence, as well, on reducing emissions from deforestation. His message: stay positive, stay engaged and come to Copenhagen to seal a deal.

Five areas required strong commitments, he explained, the first of which was on ambitious mid-term mitigation targets from industrialized countries.  Ambitious mitigation initiatives were needed from developing countries that went beyond “business as usual”.  Financing and technology were also needed, as was an ambitious adaptation package to assist the most vulnerable.

Everything, however, depended on adequate financing.  In the short-term, he said the developed world should provide $10 billion in fast track funding annually over the next three years, to jump-start low-emission growth in developing countries, among other things.  In the medium-term, needs had been estimated at $100 billion annually through 2020.

Finally, he underscored the need to create a transparent and equitable governance structure to deploy such resources, as well as provide stronger monitoring, reporting and verification of both mitigation and financing.  For its part, the United Nations would convene further negotiations and help navigate the maze of funding and investment options.  It would support capacity development and technology assistance for low carbon growth, and promote innovative partnerships. Climate change affected everything, and he appealed to delegates to take a giant step towards a better future, beginning in Copenhagen.

YVO DE BOER, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the signs for Copenhagen were promising and the momentum had never been higher.  The Summit convened by Secretary-General Ban in September had ended with a loud call by world leaders for a comprehensive deal in Copenhagen.

The decisions to be reached at Copenhagen should include ambitious targets for industrialized countries on an individual basis; short-term financing; a cost-sharing formula for industrialized countries on long-term finance; as well as the nature of nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries.  The decisions also needed to include a deadline for talks towards a legally binding instrument in 2010.  A strong international deal to combat climate change needed to be sealed at Copenhagen.  While the talks had made good progress on some issues, further efforts were needed on the high-order political issues, he said.

To provide real assistance to developing countries, issues such as comprehensive action on adaptation and tangible technology cooperation, had to move from substantive convergence during the negotiations to prompt implementation beyond Copenhagen.  Urgent progress was needed on mitigation and finance.  Yet insufficient clarity remained on nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries.  Many developing countries were already implementing mitigation actions with little or no financial support.  It was important that the international community recognized this fact.

Start-up financing was urgently needed in Copenhagen and the deal also had to put in place mechanisms for generating new, predictable and sustainable financial resources to unleash both mitigation and adaptation actions in developing countries over the long run, he said.  Even with those gaps, he sensed a huge desire for the talks to succeed.  “The attention needed to be focused on resolving the high-order political issues of mitigation and finance, without which reaching agreement will be impossible,” he said.  “To this end, I call on your continued political support.”

CARSTEN STAUR ( Denmark) said his country’s Prime Minister had met with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders in Singapore last week and had presented a vision for an ambitious binding agreement in Copenhagen, within all areas of the 2007 “Bali Roadmap,” and reinforcing a track for further work on a legal framework.  It had been dubbed “One agreement two purposes”.  Some reports had focused on how an agreement would not conclude all legal aspects of a new regime.

Still, the Copenhagen agreement should capture the focus already achieved in negotiations and provide a basis for agreement next year.  It should help States move towards progress in agreed areas, with developed countries taking the lead by delivering substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.  Further, the Copenhagen agreement should mandate continued negotiations on an outcome and set a deadline for conclusion “sooner rather than later”.  It should cover all of the Bali building blocks -- adaptation, mitigation, technology and financing -- and provide a strong impetus for further negotiations on a legal framework.

He said the agreement would be ambitious and aim to limit global warming by a maximum of 2° C.  It would also build on agreed legal principles, notably that for common but differentiated responsibilities.  It would be binding, even if delegates might not hammer out, to the last detail, a legally binding agreement. “We’re not talking about the usual political declaration”, he said, but an accord that included precise language on developed country reductions and developing country actions.  There would be annexes outlining specific country commitments, which would be negotiated and subject to verification.  While some might wish for a different form or legal structure, what mattered, at the end of the day, was the agreement’s ability to reinforce global commitments to real action.

Speaking next was TRUDIE STYLER, co-founder of the Rainforest Foundation, which supported indigenous and traditional people of the world’s rainforests in their efforts to protect their environment and fulfil their rights.  She spoke of the first time she and her husband, Sting had first visited Brazil and had seen the “sickening destruction” that was unfolding in the Amazon rainforest. 

During that visit, she recalled, she met Ranoi, a Kayapo tribesman who had requested she deliver a message to the world.  “There is a lot of smoke.  My people are very sick.  But whatever happens in my forest today will affect all of you, in your lands, tomorrow,” he had told her.   “Tomorrow,” she ruefully noted, had arrived. 

The Rainforest Foundation, co-founded with Sting and based in the United Kingdom, United States and Norway, worked in partnership with more than 100 local organizations in all major rainforest areas.  She noted that through their efforts, over 115,000 square kilometres of forest -- about the size of Switzerland -- had been protected.  Plans were also under way to save almost 1 million square kilometres of rainforest, which was the size of the United Kingdom, Ireland and France combined.  But more so, she said, the Foundation worked with thousands of forest people in their efforts to protect their own rights to their land, livelihoods and culture.

In an area of the Ecuadorean rainforest where Chevron had admittedly dumped 18 1/2 billion gallons of toxic waste directly into the rivers and onto the grounds, the Foundation in partnership with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Ecuador and the local Amazon Defence Fund, had worked to provide rainwater collection and filtration tanks so that affected families would not have to drink toxic poisonous water.  She observed that that situation was not an isolated incident but representative of a repeated event that was occurring in the Amazon. 

Further, she said, the industries involved in exploiting this region for oil, gold, cattle-ranching and other commodities were not being held accountable.  “Not once have there been meaningful governmental consultations with indigenous forest people about the development of their ancestral lands.”  Nor was the United Nations’ declaration of their rights being honoured.  The decrease of the rainforest from 14 per cent of the Earth’s surface to 6 per cent had ensured that, at some point, the Earth would not be able to sustain life.  She called to those present to act now.  “The very fact that you are in this room today means that you are powerful.”  In light of things not looking good for the Copenhagen Conference, she urged those assembled not to settle for “warm words and fine-sounding declarations,” but to “live up to your responsibilities” as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters sharing one world.

Wrapping up the meeting after interventions by Member States, Secretary-General BAN thanked delegations for their constructive comments and suggestions. He had heard the deep concerns of the Group of 77 and Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) about a “major setback” if Copenhagen fell short of delivering a legally binding climate agreement.  Yet the Secretary-General suggested that Copenhagen should not be seen as a failure; it would be an important occasion towards just such a binding agreement.

“We’re not compromising our principles”, he declared.  The agreement could include measures that would have immediate operational effect and unlock the resources needed for green growth.  It could include decisions, also with immediate effect, for technology transfer and capacity-building.  At the same time, the end goal must remain a legally binding treaty, and the more ambitious an agreement reached in Copenhagen, the earlier it could be codified into a Treaty in 2010.  He also shared the concerns of Small Island Developing States.  He had engaged in a weekly video conference with world leaders.  That would continue.  He would participate in a meeting in Trinidad and Tobago and would urge the 54 participating Heads of State and Government to come to Copenhagen with a dedicated commitment to “seal the deal.”

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