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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


Secretary-General's press conference at the United Nations Climate Change Conference [unofficial transcript]

Poznan, Poland, 11 December 2008

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the media.

It is a great pleasure to be here with you and share the exchange of views.

I thank first of all the people and Government of Poland for hosting this important climate change conference and for the hospitality and excellent arrangement. And I thank Mr. [Yvo] de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] for joining me today.

Earlier today, I called for bold, urgent steps to tackle climate change. This is a defining global challenge of our time. The world must come together to address it.

Last year I was in Bali. The leaders there committed to reaching an agreement in Copenhagen by the end of 2009 that addresses all elements of the Bali Road Map. The world will hold them accountable to this commitment.

Since ratification can take one to two years in many countries, that leaves us practically just one year to negotiate one of the most complex multilateral treaties ever.

There has been progress, but much more needs to be done. And there must be no backsliding on previous commitments.

What we need to do is quite clear. We need deep cuts in emissions to stabilize our climate. All countries will have to be part of the solution, though some are more responsible than others and have more resources available to help.

We must help developing countries with mitigation and adaptation. We need to dramatically increase the financial and technological resources that can help make this happen. And we need institutions that can support these efforts.

All this must be done and begin today and not in 2012. And certainly the price tag will be significant, but it pales next to the enormous costs -- and human consequences -- of inaction. It is also dwarfed by the sums already being dispensed in response to global financial turmoil.

It is vitally important that the ministers meeting here today deliver the strong political guidance and direction needed in the run-up to Copenhagen.

The clock is ticking. Emissions are rising. We must harness the political will required to reach agreement next year.

On that note, I am heartened to see the United States re-engage actively in global climate discussions, and I look forward to their leadership on the road to Copenhagen.

The financial crisis must not be used as an excuse to defer action on climate change. To the contrary, a smart, far-reaching response to climate change can also help revitalize the global economy. Clean, green technologies can spur growth and create millions of jobs. Cloaked within the financial crisis is an opportunity to put our societies on a prosperous, more sustainable path.

It is fitting that we are in Poland at this time in our efforts to achieve this transformation. Even though I used this analogy, let me repeat it again. Twenty years ago, the people of Poland showed that historic changes are possible by acting in solidarity.

Today, we need not just national but global solidarity. Millions of lives and our very well-being depend on getting this right and sealing a deal that all countries can support.

Thank you very much. I would like to give the floor to Mr. de Boer. After that we would be happy to take your questions.

[Remarks by Mr. de Boer]

Q: You paid tribute to the Americans in your approach to these negotiations and I just wondered if you can say anything about how damaging and how destructive or to what extent we have been held back by the attitude of the American delegation under President Bush.

SG: The American administration under President Bush - in fact they have also [made] a very constructive contribution by initiating and convening a major economist meeting, and they have also taken many technological innovations. Now we really hoped that they should have done more proactively by joining the Kyoto Protocol. In fact they have been staying outside this Kyoto Protocol. That is why the agreement which we will have to adopt by the end of December next year will have to be comprehensive, effective and balanced and ratifiable by all the countries.

What I said in my remarks about the US Government re-engaging in this process: that is first of all very encouraging and very much welcome. I had a telephone talk with President-Elect Obama, and he assured and confirmed to me that he will make the climate change issue a priority issue and also the partnership between the United Nations and the United States will be further strengthened. I have met representatives of the new administration and also the current administration. I hope there should be a very smooth and constructive transition from the Bush administration to the Obama administration.

The whole world is watching how the United States and the new administration will deal with these climate change issues. This is an issue, a global challenge, requiring global response through global partnership. All the countries must take part to resolve this issue.

I am very much encouraged by the very forthcoming and engaging positions of the Obama administration, saying that they will re-engage in the UNFCCC negotiations. And they will also take all energy efficiency policies [on board] and also launch a deep cut as well as cap-and-trade. You have seen all the statements issued by President-Elect Obama and his team. Those statements are in line with what the United Nations has been pushing and promoting. I hope we can expect much closer and more constructive participation and contribution by the United States.

At the same time, I hope the European Union will also take a leadership role. I sincerely hope that by tomorrow, through their summit meeting, they will be able to agree on this climate and energy package which will have a very significantly positive impact on the Poznan conference and also towards the Copenhagen conference. Thank you.

Q: Expectations on these climate talks have not been high. What are your expectations and have they been met, since there is only one day to go? Another question: You said this morning that there must me a midterm emission goal for industrialized nations. Do you think that 25 to 40 percent emission cuts by industrial nations by 2020 should be enough?

SG: I think we have taken an important step forward in Poznan. As Mr. de Boer said rightly, the purpose of this meeting was not to come to final decisions. We have agreed on a detailed work programme for 2009. Very important and significant progress is being made on the operationalizaton of the issue of the adaptation fund. And it is quite significant that all parties have recognized that agreement on a climate deal cannot wait for the resolution of the financial crisis. Even the finance ministers who met in Warsaw confirmed that. This current crisis can be made into an opportunity to re-energize an economic transformation into a green growth economy and creating millions of jobs. This is very significant.

I am sure that ministers will be able to exchange views on shared visions so they can give clear guidelines and directions to negotiators for next year's meeting. I hope that all this will have laid down a solid foundation for our goal in Copenhagen.

Now, on this midterm target, it is very important for industrial countries to define their midterm target by 2020, while developing countries should also be able to define their scope and the format of their mitigation efforts. To make this possible, industrialized countries should provide necessary resources; financial resources, technological transfer to developing countries in their efforts towards adaptation and mitigation. These are very important principles to which every Member State agrees.

Now, on the exact target. If we can agree on this target for a specific target, the sooner the better. If they can agree sooner, then we will be in a much better position to engage in detailed negotiations from next year.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you consider to invite Heads of State to a summit, like you did last year to promote the conference in Copenhagen?

SG: Now, engagement in the negotiations can always continue at the technical experts level, senior level, ministerial level and even above the senior level. But based upon our experience, and particularly when it comes to very delicate and complex multilateral negotiations treaties, the engagement of Heads of State or Government will be very much necessary and important. On many occasions we have seen such cases in the past and to unblock these crunches, these sticking points, we will discuss with the Member States, when and where the intervention and engagement of the leaders will be necessary.

What I am considering at this time, what I can tell you at this time is: I am considering convening a summit-level meeting focused on climate change at the time of the General Assembly in September. But in the course of our negotiations, considering the progress of the negotiations, we will have to discuss these matters with the Member States, whether we will have an additional summit-level meeting on this issue. Thank you.

Q: This morning, Secretary-General, you made it a point of praising the developing countries and ask them to show more leadership. Why did you do that? Do you feel that leadership is shifting, that the center of gravity is shifting towards the developing countries?

SG: In fact, I have been asking leadership from all for all. Any one country, however powerful or resourceful, cannot address this issue. This is a global challenge, requiring a global response, concerted action, concerted efforts by all the members of the international community. Of course, I said in my earlier remarks, the capacity may vary, depending on where you come from, whether you come from rich or poor countries. There are countries or groups of countries whom I have asked to take a leadership role. In fact climate change should be led by developed, industrialized countries, considering all historical responsibilities and the level of development, level of their capacities and resources. But as far as negotiations are concerned, you cannot ask any one country or group of countries?.we need to all go hand in hand together, but based on the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Q: Just following up on this question about developing countries. How do you see Brazil´s role? You quoted Brazil as one of the leaders in your speech this morning. How do you see Brazil's role in the negotiations and in the future?

SG: Brazil has been making a great contribution to sustainable energy, sustainable economy, and they have also made a good contribution to development and research in biofuels, and that is very important. And they also have paid a lot of investment and policy attention on the issue of deforestation. I have myself visited Brazil and had on many occasions intensive, constructive discussions with President Lula and other Brazilian Government officials. Now, clearly, Brazil is one of the many important countries who can contribute and who can also show leadership and whose example can be emulated and followed by many other countries. In that regard I count on the continuing commitment of Brazil.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, this afternoon, the Chinese Minister said the following: “Any attempts to deviate from or breach a convention or deny the Kyoto Protocol or to merge the convention processes with the Kyoto Protocol process, will be detrimental and will ultimately lead to a fruitless Copenhagen conference.” The Chinese minister seems to have picked up on rumours we are hearing, coming out of quarters not a million miles from Annex 1 countries. Would you like to comment on the Chinese Minister's thoughts?

SG: First of all, I had very good constructive talks with the Chinese Minister yesterday and I was introduced to many good examples of national initiatives taken by the Chinese Government. The very constructive engagement and contribution by the Chinese Government is essential in helping to agree to a ratifiable and acceptable and comprehensive agreement by 2009. There are many important elements and principles, as I said, common but differentiated approaches. I know that there are many issues where each and every Member State has concerns and challenges. All these concerns and challenges have to be considered in the course of negotiations. But what I would like to emphasize is that rather than I comment on any specific positions or comments, we must all come together so we will be able to agree on one global agreement which is very comprehensive, inclusive and balanced and ratifiable by all the countries. This should be an agreement for all and by all. This is very important, an important point. Thank you very much.