Press Conference - High-Level Event on Climate Change with the Secretary-General, The President of Indonesia, and the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
New York, 24 September 2007The Secretary-General: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the media. Thank you very much for covering this meeting and climate change, a defining issue of our era.
This has been a ground-breaking, historical event. The leaders of the world have shown that combating climate change needs political leadership at the highest level. This has been the largest-ever meeting of Heads of State and Government on climate change. Over 80 Heads of State and Government came here to discuss the urgency of combating climate change, the biggest challenge to humanity in the 21st century. By assembling here at the Headquarters of the United Nations, they have sent a clear signal to the citizens of the world that climate change is getting the attention it deserves.
The High-level Event represents a sea-change in the response to climate change. What I heard today is a major political commitment for a breakthrough on climate change in Bali. Science has spoken clearly - now we need the political answers. We are fast running out of time if we want to avert the most catastrophic consequences the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)has projected.
In all discussions today, leaders have indicated that we need to step up the pace. We must urgently begin an inclusive process on a new international climate change deal at Bali. This process needs to cover all aspects of the solution to climate change: adaptation, emission reductions, climate-friendly technologies and the necessary financial architecture.
Leaders have spoken about how climate change has the potential to seriously limit economic and social development and, in some cases, the very survival of their countries. There is an overall realization that not acting now will prove the costliest action in the long term. I found a strong sense that we need to move from a discussion of our differences to focusing on the common ground that will yield progress. This will enable us to move forward at a faster pace and with greater trust.
Many of the challenges can be met with economically sound answers. Leaders have spoken about the need to climate-proof investments.
If today's meeting indicates a new resolve, it also confirmed that there is still much to do. I want to assure you that the UN System is prepared to continue to do all that is possible to ensure that the international community can properly address the challenges of global warming and to ensure that there is no gap between the end of the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period in 2012 and the new climate change deal.
Climate change is the responsibility of all of us. We cannot treat industrialized and developing nations equally, but we all have to share this responsibility toward our future generations.
Climate change is a global problem, requiring a global solution. This solution should be inclusive, benefiting and encompassing all. To have an inclusive solution, all of us should be more flexible, and all of us should be more innovative, and all of us should do more of what we have already begun to do.
I have here with me Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat, who also stands ready to answer your questions.
I will invite the President of Indonesia, His Excellency Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to share his thoughts as Chair of the conference.
President Yudhoyono: Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, I am pleased to tell you that we have just concluded a successful high-level event on climate change today. Thus one more important step has been taken towards the holding of the Bali Conference in December this year. A great many people are looking forward to that Conference and are anticipating its results. There is today a great deal of public awareness of the reality of climate change and the devastation that it can bring if nothing is done about it. There is an urgent and widespread public demand for vigorous and concerted actions to achieve long-term climate stability. We expect that the Bali Conference will provide the road map for such actions.
The high-level event has served to rally political will and determination among world leaders to carry out measures to address climate change and intensify preparations for the Bali Conference. Indonesia is truly honoured to serve as host to the Bali Conference, which consists of the thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the third session of the meeting of parties to the Kyoto Protocol. This promises to be one of the most important global gatherings of our time. It will bring together representatives of more than 180 countries, with observers from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations as well as the mass media. I look forward to welcoming all of them, and you, to Indonesia.
We are aiming for ambitious but realizable goals with regard to such issues as mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing. I particularly expect a successful outcome on the issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in developing countries. There must be some incentive for developing countries to undertake such difficult and costly measures as reforestation, afforestation and avoidance of deforestation.
The developed countries, on the other hand, must strive to significantly reduce the carbon emissions that they bring about through unsustainable economic activities. They must also provide resources, environmentally sound technology and necessary financial support for all measures towards climate stability.
I therefore wish to thank the Secretary-General for convening this important event, and to convey my gratitude to world leaders and your representatives who actively participated in the deliberations today. All of them have planted the seeds of a successful Bali Conference. Today we are looking forward to Bali; in Bali we will look forward to a future with greater hope.
Question: Mr. De Boer, on behalf of all my colleagues here present, I would like to thank you very much for the briefing at this late hour.
I would like to get your reaction to the former United States Vice-President, Al Gore, who today at the luncheon proposed that you call for an emergency session next year to discuss the results of the Bali negotiations, and that heads of State must meet every three months afterwards until the time they reach a conclusion, or at least get a new protocol. I would like your reaction, please.
The Secretary-General: I was also at the lunch when former Vice-President Al Gore made those proposals. Those are very good proposals, which we will consider. However, at this early stage, it is too early for me to make any firm commitment on this matter.
First of all, we need to see how the delegations will do with the negotiations in Bali. The President of the General Assembly, as he has said in the General Assembly Hall, also intends to call a sort of thematic debate next year. There will be many such important forums where we will be able to discuss climate change issues. I will seriously consider, with the Member States, what actions need to be taken after we see the results of the Bali negotiation meeting.
Question: My question is addressed to the President of Indonesia. You mentioned in your remarks today that developing nations should pursue a better price for each ton of carbon saved under the Clean Development Mechanism. Could you elaborate on that - how much more are you looking at, and what other incentives should developing nations have that are not available yet under the current carbon market?
Mr. Yudhoyono: Developing nations have twin objectives. One is continuing their development, their socio-economic development, and the other is preserving the environment, protecting the environment.
Developing nations, in my view, have to do more in protecting their environment. They have to mobilize the resources we have to concrete actions. But in realizing that and conducting and achieving objectives, we need capacity. We need the necessary resources to do that, within a global cooperation. Then things will be fair, if developing nations will also have or receive technology assistance, carbon credits and other forms of resources that are given by developed nations. The essence of our partnership and cooperation is that all nations can fulfill their own obligations, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, you said in closing the conference that you believe that we have a major political commitment to success at Bali, but did you hear anything today [that] is new and promising indicating that the United States is ready to join in a more committed way to the UNFCC process? If not, do you hope to hear that this evening from President Bush?
The Secretary-General: I have high expectations of all countries, including [the United States]. The United States Government has also said on many occasions that all these negotiations and initiatives and measures should be incorporated into the United Nations negotiating forum, namely the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Of course, I will have the opportunity to exchange views on this matter with President Bush. On several occasions, I have had the opportunity to discuss this matter with the U.S. Government, including President Bush and Secretary Rice, who, as I remember, also has made it clear. The meeting which the United States Government is going to host a few days after this - they made it quite clear that this is not going to be a competing forum and this is going to be complementary to the United Nations negotiating forum.
Therefore, I am confident that all countries have recognized the necessity and importance of the United Nations taking the lead. The very simple fact that so many countries are represented - over 80 countries are represented by their heads of Government and State - is a very important and unprecedented in the history of the United Nations when we are discussing any climate changes issues like this.
Question: Even though the United Nations climate change conference will take place in December, I believe the work has been done, and I wonder if the next protocol to replace the Kyoto Protocol will have greater power to make sure that every country will ratify and do as the protocol says.
Mr. Yudhoyono: The objective of the Bali Conference, after listening to what leaders and all delegates to this high-level meeting on climate change have said, is to draft a road map between now and 2012 and also a kind of road map for beyond 2012. After the Bali Conference, there will be another conference, to be held in Poland and later in Denmark. So what we will achieve in the Bali Conference will be further developed in the next two conferences before 2009.
In my view, the most important goal that could be achieved in the next conference in Bali is to reach a global consensus, to address the differences between the parties. I am optimistic that we may enter a zone of possible agreement.
I met President Bush and the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, in Sydney two weeks ago, and we discussed a lot on this subject. I have the impression that we are willing to talk. We are willing to discuss the possible new framework of global cooperation in combating global warming. With that development, once again, we will discuss further in Bali not only the road map towards 2012 and beyond, but we will also discuss mitigation, adaptation, technology, financing and concrete cooperation between developed and developing nations.
Question: I have a similar question for the Secretary-General. What do you think that the large GHG-emitting countries should talk about at the US-led meeting, especially? I want a detailed message from you.
The Secretary-General: This is an issue that does not know borders. This is transcending all borders and global warming does not care where you are coming from: industrialized or developing countries, largest emitters or most vulnerable countries. We must take common and concerted action. Of course, while we share the same responsibilities, there should be common but differentiated responsibilities.
Now, in four areas like mitigation, adaptation, technologies and financing, all these issues should be addressed in a holistic way. This was the main purpose of the High-level Meeting today, and the leaders and the international community have agreed that time is of the essence and that it is a very urgent matter. The whole international community must take joint and concerted action. We will discuss in a detailed way [what] should be done more by industrialized countries and [what] should be done by developing countries.
Question: If the Bush Administration remains opposed to mandatory cuts in carbon emissions, how does that, in your opinion, affect the prospects for achieving the breakthrough in Bali that you have spoken of?
The Secretary-General: I cannot prejudge the outcome already of the Bali negotiating conference. This may be a long and difficult negotiation process. What is important is that the whole international community must have a common commitment. There was political will demonstrated today by the leaders. We have resources; we have technologies to address this global warming phenomenon; what is lacking is the political will at this time. I really wanted to generate and solidify that today. We will try to send out a very clear, focused and credible message to the negotiators in Bali, and we will see how we can generate and sustain this momentum up to Bali and beyond so that we will not make any vacuum before the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol.
Therefore, at this time it is too early for me to tell whether countries will commit to a mandatory commitment. The most desirable thing is if political leaders think about future generations and, most importantly, planet Earth. Then we must have a full commitment.
Mr. De Boer: Just one thing. A United States representative, in presenting President Bush's initiative last week, talked about nationally binding goals, for example, for 2020 and 2030. So, in a sense, I think we have moved, in the case of the United States, beyond the debate about legally binding or not legally binding, but now it has become a debate about the level at which it is binding.
Question: I wanted to ask about coal. There is an analysis that says that the continued construction and use of coal-fired plants negates a lot of the impact of other efforts by companies to reduce their emissions or to reduce the emissions of cars. So earlier today, Al Gore called for a moratorium on the construction of new coal plants until the technology exists to do capture and store.
Mr. De Boer, on Friday you said that China and India need to keep using coal and that they have abundant coal. So I am wondering how you respond to what Al Gore called for today?
And Mr. Secretary-General, how do you choose either between the two approaches or balance combating climate change with poverty alleviation in countries like China and India and their use of coal?
The Secretary-General: Maybe I will first answer before Mr. De Boer answers in greater detail and in a more professional manner. I will try to answer you in a more general way.
As I clearly stated during my summary, we are not asking developing countries to choose between development and addressing this issue. Both issues should be taken care of. This is our goal. According to countries, there may be differences of technological level; developing countries have a lower level of technologies. But the important thing is that we need to have some research and development to find renewable resources, alternate sources of energy. There may be coal-based energies, nuclear power, and other bio-fuels or wind-power-generated energies. So we need to look at all the possibilities to find cleaner technologies that are sustainable.
Maybe Mr. De Boer can answer in a more detailed manner.
Mr. De Boer: In order to grow its economy and eradicate poverty, China is building one power plant every week, and most of those power plants are coal-fired. It is, to my mind, inconceivable that you would stop building coal-fired power plants today in countries like China and India that have an abundance of cheap coal. The challenge, as the Secretary-General indicated, is to shift towards a modern energy mix, a clean energy mix, but also to use clean coal technology and, perhaps in the future, also carbon capture and storage to ensure that you can use that coal without a climate impact.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, my question is about the phrase “shared by differentiated responsibility”. Do you think it is fair that some developing countries have turned out to be greater emitters than some developed countries today, and that those developing countries still stick behind this phrase “differentiated responsibility” and that they do not get any mandatory limits on their emissions?
The Secretary-General: That was the principle agreed during the Kyoto Protocol framework, and now there is an agreement between developed and developing countries that this common but differentiated approach should also be maintained. This is what I stated during my summary report to the General Assembly this afternoon. This is the agreement. We will try to work out what will be the best way. This is the current agreement, but this negotiation should be based on flexibility and inclusiveness and innovation.
So as we move on, there may be many other renewable sources and cleaner technologies, and developing countries will also be in a position to develop and research their own energies. Therefore, at this time, I am not in a position to say anything other than what I have just said.
Question: Mr. Yudhoyono, earlier today you made an announcement about the avoided deforestation and the meeting you are hosting later. The press conference is cancelled, so I am trying to find out more about any consensus of views coming through there, particularly regarding your statements about the need for a carbon market. Was that a new carbon market, a separate carbon market to send a higher price? If you could please clarify more, I'd be very grateful.
Mr. Yudhoyono: We, eleven tropical rain forest countries, held a meeting today as a side event of the High-level Event on Climate Change. The essence of the meeting, the conclusion of the meeting, was to have a common position that, on the one hand, all developing countries, all tropical rain forest countries, have to do their own obligations and to set up concrete and intensive reforestation-afforestation-clean development mechanisms, with the hope - Actually, we are facing problems due to lack of capacity to accomplish our obligations and missions, so we need genuine and fair partnerships. We need technology, we need resources that may be given to us. Of course, we did not discuss in depth the exact formula of the carbon credit, among others, but the spirit is there.
While we are also seriously conducting our own approach to deal with climate change, we need genuine support and partnerships with developed countries.
The other spirit is that we have to realize that we have to do more in safeguarding and protecting our forests. That is actually the essence of our meeting today, the meeting of tropical rain forest countries attended by eleven countries. We will continue to foster our relationship, to share experiences, ideas and how to deal with constructive forest management. We will also participate in the next Bali Conference, with the hope that there will be constructive cooperation, to support our own goals and achievements in managing our forests. That is the essence of our meeting today.
Off-the-Cuff on 24 September 2007