22 November 2010
Press Conference

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

Press Conference by Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning


on Upcoming Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico


Looking ahead to December’s conference on climate change, in Cancun, Mexico, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning Robert C. Orr said today that the international community could expect “concrete results” in some areas, but that there was no “silver bullet” for the climate challenge.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference, he recalled that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had made climate change a priority throughout his tenure at the helm of the Organization.  While hopes for the upcoming climate conference, formally, sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, were much more limited than the “huge” expectations that preceded last year’s conference in Copenhagen, progress in Cancun remained possible.

“We’re at a very different point of the climate negotiations today,” said Mr. Orr.  While the United Nations did not expect “all issues to be resolved” at the conference, however, there were some issues that were close enough to resolution that important outcomes could be achieved in Cancun, he added.

When asked about specific areas where progress might be made during the upcoming conference, Mr. Orr pointed to deforestation – which accounted for almost 20 per cent of global emissions – as well as the wider dissemination of technology and stronger financing. In particular, agreement over the mobilization of $30 billion over the next three years - or so-called “fast-start” funding - would help build more confidence in overall financing for the climate change agenda.

The Secretary-General would attend the opening of the Cancun conference on 7 December, said Mr. Orr, and would urge countries to work towards a “balanced set of outcomes” and to move the climate change agenda forward on all fronts. Specifically, he would urge Governments to take decisions on those topics where there was already consensus, while encouraging progress on some of the more challenging issues - including mitigation and reduction of emissions, ensuring accountability and transparency, and the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

He added that the Organization also hoped to see agreement on next steps – what he called a “road map” for the next year – emerge from the Cancun conference.

As climate change negotiation “proceeds on one track”, Mr. Orr noted, States had a responsibility to ramp up their own actions on the ground – regardless of the negotiation.  “The longer we delay, the more we will pay, both in terms of lives and in terms of money,” he said.

When asked if a venue such as the G-20 meeting, or a smaller ad hoc group, might be more appropriate for furthering the climate change agenda, he replied that, while smaller groupings could be very useful in advancing pieces of the discussion, they were no substitute for a negotiation process that included all countries.  “A global agreement requires everybody.  The nature of this problem requires everybody,” he said.

Mr. Orr also responded to questions about ongoing denials by some groups of the existence of climate change, the impact of national politics on climate change negotiations, as well as about United Nations security at the Cancun conference. 

Overall, he said, a pragmatic approach to the conference’s outcomes – and to the climate challenge in general – was needed at this time.  “We need to make progress where we can, on the issues we can, and make sure that we don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good,” he stressed.

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For information media • not an official record