Press conference with Christiana Figueres, Executive Director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [revised]
Doha, Qatar, 4 December 2012
SG: Thank you for this opportunity to discuss climate change with the media. As you know, I just spoke to the Governments that hold in their hands the power to decisively tackle climate change.
I have a clear and simple message: climate change is a growing crisis.
The window of opportunity to avoid dangerous warming is closing.
It is not too late. But our actions need to match the scale of the challenge.
Governments have agreed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.
This is technically possible, and it is financially viable.
What is needed is the political will.
We must take ownership. We, collectively, are the problem. Then we should provide solutions.
Greenhouse gas emissions are the highest they have ever been.
We are in a race against time. Every delay will require greater future effort – or will mean greater future harm.
Recent years have seen growing momentum in the climate change negotiations.
We have a responsibility to sustain and accelerate momentum towards an effective, universal binding climate agreement by 2015.
I have asked Governments to focus on for five key deliverables here in Doha. I know you heard my remarks at the opening ceremony of the climate change meeting, but let me repeat very briefly for your information:
First, the adoption of a ratifiable second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol; second, progress on long-term climate finance to mobilize $100 billion dollars a year by 2020 from public and private funding; third, fully equipping the Green Climate Fund and the Climate Technology Centre and Network; fourth, demonstrating that negotiations on a global and legally binding instrument by 2015 remain on track; and fifth, closing the gap between mitigation pledges and what is required to achieve the 2 degrees target.
Climate change has been at the top of my priority agenda since I took office in 2007 for the simple reason that it affects all people, increasingly and profoundly.
If we act together with a clear purpose, we can meet this challenge. But we need to be united – governments from all regions, business and civil society.
We have a clear choice: stand together, or fall together.
Thank you very much. I will be glad to take your questions.
Ms. Figueres: Mr. Secretary, you have covered the ground. I have nothing to add except to thank you for coming to the climate COP (conference of parties) and for bringing the political impetus that is necessary at this point in time, after a week of very good and productive meetings; but at this point in time, it is necessary to move to a higher political level. Ministers have arrived; we are very welcoming of their presence and their guidance and are confident we will be able to close with a successful conference.
Q: Thanks so much. I would like both of you describe what you’d like to see in Doha on climate change finance.
SG: While I expect that the Kyoto Protocol will be adopted, one other important issue will be how Member States will present to the Member States, particularly those poor, developing countries, the vulnerable countries, a road map: how this mid-term and long-term climate change financing will be met. This is a matter of credibility for Member States and this is an issue from which we can give a sense of hope. This will be crucially important in facilitating the promotion of this agreement, a legally binding agreement, by 2015. I have been meeting with a group of countries, key countries, and I will continue until tomorrow to emphasize the importance of long-term financing.
As you know, the Green Climate Fund Secretariat was already established in Songdo, Republic of Korea. This is largely an empty shell at this time. Even though the structure of climate change financing, promised in Copenhagen in 2009, has been more or less disbursed, in the amount of $30 billion. But this commitment is going to expire by the end of this month, so there should be a clear road map. That is very important.
Q: After Barack Obama was re-elected last month, you said climate change was one of the issues you really looked forward to working with him on. Can you tell us what specifically you would like to see from the United States at this conference in Doha? Thank you.
SG: The United States is a very important player in climate change. And I was very encouraged when he was re-elected; in his victory statement, he mentioned the importance of addressing “this warming planet”. And when I issued my statement welcoming his re-election, one of my key messages was to work together with the United States on climate change. I am going to meet the US representative delegation tomorrow. Of course, I will continue to work together with President Obama and his administration so that the US will lead this campaign together with the European Union.
Climate change issue should be led by the developed world. They have most of the resources. They have modern technologies. The one important element, aspect of working together is that they should provide the technologies and the financial support so that they can mitigate and adapt. Many of the developing countries simply do not have any capacity. But while the climate change phenomenon was caused mostly by industrialised countries, the impact of climate change affects equally without regard to where they are coming from, rich or poor. So it is only reasonable that richer countries should take leadership and the United States can play a very important role.
Q: When you addressed the General Assembly, you said, and I quote, “The severe impact of climate change is there before our eyes, yet too many leaders in power seem wilfully blind to the threat.” I suppose you can’t win heads by calling them blind, but what can you do as Secretary-General to engage them? And what can I do as media and civil society?
SG: Some people may not want to see all this, pretending to be blind, but I don’t think so. Everybody knows by this time that climate change is fast approaching, much faster than one would have thought. This is plainly clear scientific fact. There should be no time to waste. In that regard, it’s not only the governments or the business communities; everybody has a role to play: civil society, just even private citizens. Each and every one of us, together with the governments, civil society and business communities should lend their hands together. But what is more important is the role of governments, particularly leaders. That is why on many occasions I have been sounding the alarms to world leaders. That is why I have been trying to visit all the places around the world, starting from Antarctica to the North Pole, the Amazon, the forests, river basins, and Kilimanjaro, desert areas, you name it: the places where one can see the real impact of climate change. I have sent strong messages. Because of the United Nations’ strong engagements, climate change has become one of the top global agendas. That is one thing; therefore, there should be no doubt about that. We must prove wrong those doubters.
I am asking you journalists, that you can play a very important role. After all, you are the collectors between the scene of this climate change impact to the people, particularly the governments. Therefore I really count on your continuing engagement and covering all this climate change phenomenon. As far as I am concerned, the United Nations will continue to work with world leaders. Thank you very much.
Q: [inaudible] Earlier it was said that CERs would be the common currency of the future. Do you agree?
Ms. Figueres: CERs are certified emissions reductions and is the current assets that are created by the clean development mechanism. And when someone says that, what they are actually saying is that the role of the market is going to be a very important tool for continuing mitigation in developing countries. It is very clear that developed countries must take the lead, but developing countries have a contribution to make on mitigation and they have to be financed to make those mitigation efforts. The markets are one of the tools for financing that type of mitigation.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, what are your thoughts about what is needed from this region, especially considering that the per capita emissions from this region are at a record high [inaudible]?
SG: That is quite an important question. As you may know, this conference in Doha is the first one to be held in the Gulf region and only the second time to be held in the Arab world. As everyone knows very well, this area, they have been mostly depending on fossil fuel energy. At the same time, with all this very severe climate change impact they have been experiencing, now the leaders in this region, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and most of these countries, they are now trying to diversify their energy sources. They are investing in a smart way in renewable energy sources, solar energy; that is quite a creative and smart investment. I met with the ministers of the Arab group this afternoon and we had a very in-depth discussion of how the Arab group can be a very important building blocks in working together with the United Nations and the international community to address the climate change phenomenon, because this affects all countries. They have been suffering a lot because of the impact of desertification, food security issues, energy shortages and water issues – all these are affected by climate change. In this regard, I am encouraged that the Qatari Government is investing a lot in food security. With Sheikha Moaza tomorrow, I am going to participate in launching an event of a national food security project. And this is a good way that Arab countries can contribute.
Q: Thank you for the opportunity to ask about China’s views. [inaudible] What should they do to bridge the gap?
SG: That is why I have been emphasizing the importance of providing financial and technological support to the developing countries. China, as the number two world economy and also as one of what we call BASIC countries, they are doing a lot of efforts, even without a globally binding treaty, China’s Government has been investing a lot in a smart way to diversify their sources of energy and to mitigate and adapt by their own nationally adopted policies. This is highly commendable. Likewise, countries like India, Brazil, South Africa, those BASIC countries, they can also play a very important role, together with China. I am also going to meet the countries of the small island developing world, and some key countries, also. They are very important building blocks. Therefore, what I am really emphasizing is that climate change should be and must be addressed by the participation of all the countries regardless of the level of their national economic development. Therefore, I sincerely hope that countries like China will continue to invest in small countries. I thank you very much.