Secretary-General's press conference on climate change
Bali, Indonesia, 12 December 2007Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
Before I answer your questions, I'd like to make very brief remarks.
We are here to discuss climate change today. Before that, however, let me express my outrage again at the cowardly attacks against the United Nations and innocent civilians in Algiers yesterday. These attacks cannot be justified under any circumstances.
Let us not forget that the United Nations officials killed were serving humanity's highest ideals. We must honour their sacrifice and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Thank you very much and let me now turn to the issue that brings us together here today: climate change.
I have stated it before: climate change is the defining challenge of our age. Science has given us a clear signal. Climate change is already happening and is getting worse. The poor and defenceless will be hit the hardest. Even as the reports were launched, the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] scientists said more alarming evidence is reaching them daily.
But there is good news too. We can come to grips with this threat at a reasonable price if we act now. We cannot afford to delay any longer. Now we need the political leadership to provide the answers. In September world leaders made a clear statement and called for a breakthrough in Bali. I am here to remind the Ministers, the negotiators, that they must deliver on that call. Bali needs to set the wheels in motion that will get us to a new international deal on stronger climate change action. Parties need to agree on the agenda of these talks and set a clear timeline for the conclusion of negotiations, hopefully by 2009.
Climate change is a huge challenge, but it is also an opportunity. If we address it comprehensively and intelligently, we can accelerate the shift toward a new age of green economics and truly sustainable development, where growth, decreased carbon intensity, and poverty alleviation all go hand in hand.
But this focus on the future does not mean that we can forget about today. The agreement on an Adaptation Fund [reached] here in Bali can jumpstart concrete action to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change. We also need concrete progress on technology to help countries green their economic growth.
I am also here in Bali to tell all countries here assembled that the UN stands ready to deliver. The many parts of the UN system have been working together in an unprecedented fashion to ensure that we can help all countries address their unprecedented mitigation and adaptation challenges. Today, we are at a crossroads, one path leading towards a comprehensive new climate agreement, and the other towards a betrayal of our planet and our children. The choice is clear.
Now, I will be happy to take your questions but before doing so, let me thank Mr. Yvo de Boer for his exemplary hard work and leadership during this process.
Q: Harlan Watson was before you, and on the 25 to 40 percent issue in the text he was saying that numbers in texts predetermine outcomes – I think maybe that's why they don't that to be in there. I was wondering if you have any thoughts on that? And secondly, whether you think there is any possibility that the G-77 countries and China could actually accept emissions targets - check my language - emissions targets by targeting sector?
SG: I know that on emissions targets there are differences of opinions between developed and developing countries, and even [within] these groups of countries. But as a matter of principle, to have a very effective addressing of climate change, sometime down the road, there may have to be a target kept on greenhouse gas reduction. The numbers – 25 to 40 percent reduction – were recommended by scientists of the IPCC in Valencia, and it is a guideline, but that is the recommendation and suggested ideas as a way of addressing global warming, if the international community can prevent the global temperature from rising above 2 per cent. This is what the scientists have said and that is what we have presented in the preambular sections, but I know that this will have to be negotiated during this period.
Since I am here with Mr. de Boer, if he needs to make any additional comments, I would be very happy to be assisted by him. I think you would be better served by his professional answer.
Q: Mr. Ban, if there is no agreement on a strong ambitious negotiation format in Bali, that would obviously be a very bad signal to send out on the issue of climate change, do you also think it is a very bad signal specifically for the system of the nation state. Wouldn't it show that humanity, under the nation state system, under the UN system, is unable to cope with a global peril such as climate change?
SG: First of all, we work for success. We don't work for failure. We must succeed from this Bali meeting. We must be able to launch time-bound negotiations for international agreement. I hope by the end of 2009, with clear agendas for present and future, we must be able to adopt this Bali roadmap.
I appreciate all the challenges and difficulties of many countries, and the international community. That is why we are having this Bali meeting, and we will be meeting again in Warsaw and in Denmark by 2009. This will be a very difficult and complicated process of negotiation. But what I want to see from this Bali conference is that, as I have clearly stated in my remarks in the opening session, is that we need to stop this negotiation with a clear time bound negotiations, with clear agendas. For these specific numbers and targets, I hope we will be able to have better negotiations among the parties concerned.
At this time, I would really urge major economic powers and major economies to exercise flexibility and to demonstrate their leadership.
When all the leaders came to New York in September, during the high-level meeting which I convened, everybody was very much encouraged by such strong support and determined political will. We were able to galvanize political will at that time. We have capacity and technology, finance. And science has made it quite clear. All we are lacking is political will. I again urge the leaders to exercise their political will.
Q: Sir, you mentioned many times that the global warming threat is imminent. But you are talking about the process by 2009. Aren't you concerned that a longer process would lead to a weaker commitment by states?
SG: From now until the end of 2009 - it may look long before 2009 – two years – but if you consider and if you look at past experience particularly on this very sophisticated and difficult, complex type of multilateral negotiation – two years is not that long. We really need to expedite our process of negotiation. Therefore, we need to have a very clearly time-bound target to conclude by the end of 2009. It is our goal, the United Nations and I as its Secretary-General will spare no efforts to facilitate and to help member states and to urge [them to action]. Whatever political influence I have, I will try to use.
Q: [inaudible, on deforestation]
SG: I will ask Mr. de Boer to answer that question.
Mr. de Boer: This is, of course, an incredibly important convention, but it is not the only game in town. Just a few days ago the World Bank announced the launch of a very significant facility which is specifically being created to address the question of deforestation today. So in other words, while we are working within this convention to see how deforestation can be incorporated, the World Bank is already providing opportunities now.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you think it would be better that the conference would come to an agreement of the deadline of 2009 by skipping this kind of targeting of numbers of emissions, and if that is the case, what is the guarantee that in two years time these countries will agree to a target number of reductions?
SG: Frankly speaking, realistically, it may be too ambitious if delegations expect to be able to agree on a target of greenhouse gas emission reduction. But as I told you, sometime down the road we will have to agree on that. At this time we need to launch this negotiation, to discuss in a detailed manner, how the international community should address this issue on an urgent basis. This is my goal. Therefore we need to work hard during the remaining three days to agree on a road map to launch this negotiation. I think we can. I am reasonably convinced that we will be able to agree on all those issues.
Q: I have two questions. One, you talk about two paths we could be going down here. Who is pushing the alternative path to not complete a Bali roadmap?
And then, secondly, everyone is talking about moving the deadline up from 2009, but there are also people in the United States who say that may 2010 or 2011 is is more practical for a new administration coming in, if presumably the president currently doesn't succeed here. So is there any thought to moving that 2009 deadline back a year in order to give the new presidential administration enough time to 1/ get confirmed by the US senate, and 2/ get them [inaudible]
SG: I can clearly say that nobody is pushing towards the second path. I am quite convinced that all the delegations are working hard to arrive at the first path. That is our goal here. What I am saying is that if we do not act now, if we do not cooperate fully, if we do not exercise political flexibility and leadership, I am afraid that we may be going toward that. We must prevent that from happening.
Secondly, it is my understanding that the United States is also supporting that this deal should be concluded before the end of 2009.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, if I understood you correctly, you have just said that the 40 per cent target, you could have an agreement that didn't have that target here and you could decide the numbers later down the road, and Mr. de Boer said earlier that what we wanted out of this was to launch formal negotiations agree on an ambitious agenda, and set 2009 as the deadline. Now the US delegation was here in this room a few minutes before you and they said they would agree to launch formal negotiations here with 2009 as an end date without specific targets. Does that mean that basically we have achieved what you came here to achieve, and that we have done it already?
SG: I know the position of the US government and some other major economic powers on these quantifiable targets. They have reservations on this for various reasons - domestic reasons or their national policy reasons. As I said, this was the guidelines suggested and recommended by the scientists. We need to work in a scientific way in addressing global warming issues. The scientists have made it quite clear. It is amazing that 2,500 members of IPCC have spoken in unequivocal terms, with one voice, therefore this should be respected.
Now, what I said just a few minutes ago. We have to agree on this target. There needs to be a target – whether it be a short term, medium term or long term. Some countries, they are talking about long term targets – like the United States. As I said, for the international community to be able to agree on these specific targets, we may have to engage in further negotiations. The text which we have provided was exactly saying what had been recommended by the IPCC. I hope the delegations will have due respect for these scientists' recommendations. Now, I hope the delegations will continue to agree on what would be the mutually agreeable text on this matter.
Q: If it's not necessary to come up with fixed targets this week, when in your opinion will it become necessary?
SG: As I have said repeatedly, it is true that there are differences of opinion on these quantifiable targets, even with scientists recommendations. There seem to be many different reasons according to the countries. Therefore, practically speaking this will have to be negotiated down the road. But it is better that the international community agree on this as soon as possible. We have two years before we can conclude the universally accepted international deal on this issue.
Mr. de Boer: No one, no one is expecting specific targets to be agreed at this meeting. The only thing the discussion is about is whether the effort that is going to be taken over the next two years should be guided by an IPCC range of desirable emission reductions. So the question is not agreeing a target now, but whether we should say that the process should be guided by a certain level of ambition. And I think everybody also agrees that at the end of that two-year period, in 2009, there has to be absolute clarity on individual country commitments.
Mr. de Boer: This week there has to be an agreement to formally launch negotiations to agree the agenda and to set the end date. I haven't said anything about guidelines. I have said whether the negotiating process should be guided by a certain level of ambition.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, have you met with the US delegation, or are you planning to meet with them? In either case, what have you discussed with them and told them regarding this issue of targets?
SG: I had a bilateral meeting with the US delegation yesterday afternoon, soon after my arrival in Bali, with Under Secretary [Paula] Dobriansky and [his team]. We exchanged our views on the current status of negotiations, and I listened to the views and positions of the US Government. In fact, with the US government, I have been constantly discussing and consulting with leaders of the US government, including President Bush and Secretary Rice. I urge the US government to exercise flexibility as the largest economic power of the world, as you might have seen during the opening ceremony, there was a high level of expectation that the international community look at how the United States react. At the same time, I appreciate the US initiative by having convened a major meeting last September, and I understand that they are going to do the same early next year. I welcome and appreciate such an initiative so that major economies in the international community will be able to narrow down or coordinate positions which would be complementary to the ongoing UNFCC process, and it is encouraging that the United States supports this ongoing UNFCCC process.
Q: Kofi Annan, your predecessor, described a shocking lack of leadership on climate change in Nairobi last year. What would you like to see as a minimum from industrialized countries in terms of a demonstration of leadership after Bali? Thank you.
SG: It is true that industrialized have historical responsibilities to the current situation caused by global warming. At the same time, they have the capacity - technological innovation, financing, and their adaptabilities. All these technological innovations and financing facilities should be given to developing countries as incentives so that they can get on board. It is true again that ironically it is the least developed countries and in general developing countries who have least caused this global warming situation but they are the hardest hit. They are trying to do their best with their national initiatives and measures to overcome and address these issues. Therefore, such efforts by the developing countries should be properly assisted and given incentives. Therefore, I would like to emphasize again that industrialized countries should take the lead.
Thank you very much.