4 December 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, predicted that 2009 would prove to be the “year of climate change”, as Governments around the world worked in earnest to draft a successor to the new Kyoto Protocol -- considered by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be a top priority for the international community.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, Mr. Orr said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was scheduled to deliver an address next week at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Poznan, Poland, where officials were gathering from 1 to 12 December to begin paving the way for negotiations in Copenhagen next year.  The Secretary-General’s appearance was timed to coincide with discussions on the concept of a “shared vision” for the Copenhagen talks, involving the participation of world leaders and Government ministers in charge of climate-related issues.

Mr. Orr said that, upon taking office, the Secretary-General had made climate change a top priority when he saw that a successful global climate deal would require involvement at the highest levels of Government.  At Poznan, the United Nations chief planned to hold bilateral discussions on the issue with Heads of State and Government, as well as ministers, and had called on his Special Envoys to support that process.

Appearing alongside Mr. Orr was Janos Pasztor, Director of the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, who said the Secretary-General was intent on supporting countries to reach an “ambitious” but “ratifiable post-2012 agreement” in December 2009.  In the Secretary-General’s view, that agreement should include emissions reductions targets for developed countries, measurable and verifiable mitigation actions by developing countries, technology support by the developed world for developing countries, and an international arrangement to oversee those measures.

He said discussions at Copenhagen were likely to be complex, and that the Secretary-General could act as a bridge between groups like the “Group of 8” or the “Group of 20” and the entire United Nations membership.  “We need nothing less than a revolution to pave the way to the low-carbon economy of the future, including massive investments by the public and private sectors in alternative energy systems.”

Asked what he thought would come out of Poznan, Mr. Pasztor alluded to the age-old tension stemming from the desire of developing countries to get as much financial and technology assistance as possible to fulfil their obligations, which must be provided by developed countries.  “The discussions are perhaps becoming more focused”, he said.  “Before, it was just generally technology transfer.  It wasn’t very clear what it was for.  Now, it’s very specific.  It is going to be for measurable and verifiable actions by developing countries.”

In the meantime, Mr. Pasztor said the Secretary-General was expected to mobilize the entire United Nations system to help countries to implement existing climate change agreements, and a summit on climate change was already being planned for New York next fall.  At the same time, under the United Nations’ “Delivering as One” initiative, designed to bring more cohesion to the Organization’s myriad activities, Mr. Pasztor said the Executive Heads of the system’s agencies -- through the Chief Executives Board -- would focus on bringing different agencies together to address issues in ways that built on the strength of the agencies and bring some coherence between them.  However, that initiative did not address the internal operations of individual agencies, he said, in answer to a correspondent.

In response to the same correspondent, Mr. Pasztor said the recent suspension by the Executive Board of the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism of DNV of Norway, one of the largest auditors of the clean energy projects under the Kyoto Protocol, demonstrated the Board’s serious attempts to adhere to strict criteria, which he took to be a positive development on the Board’s part.

When asked by another correspondent to comment on the anticipated role of the new United States Administration, Mr. Orr said the President-elect’s recent comments on climate change had raised hopes in some quarters of a good outcome to Copenhagen.  But that “no single country, however important” would “deliver the negotiations single-handedly”, he added.

Even though attention was currently riveted on the international economic crisis, Mr. Orr stressed repeatedly that climate change was likely to take centre stage in 2009.  “It may not feel like it right now, looking at the economic crisis in the headlines every day”, he said.  “But one reason I feel confident in saying 2009 will be the year of climate change is that, increasingly, Governments, individuals and corporations are beginning to understand the direct linkage between setting a framework for climate change and economic recovery.”

The Poznan Conference was not a negotiating conference, said Mr. Orr, but he noted that some negotiation was beginning, “hopefully serious negotiation”.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record