10 April 2008


10 April 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference on outcome of global climate change negotiations in bangkok

The climate change meeting that ended in Bangkok on 4 April had managed to make a good beginning of negotiations on a new global agreement in line with the call made by last year’s breakthrough meeting in Bali, Yvo de Boer, head of the Climate Change Convention, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Mr. de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), recalled that the Bali outcome called for negotiations to end with an agreement in Copenhagen by the end of 2009.  The Bangkok meeting had identified topics to be taken up at the three meetings remaining in 2008, and a number of areas under the Bali outcome that needed deeper exploration.  It had also mapped out the focus for the next major climate change conference, to be held in Potsdam, Poland, in 2009.  That meeting would focus on the long-term goal that had to drive the process in terms of emission reductions, adaptation, technology and financing.

Describing the challenge ahead as “huge”, he said that, with only one and a half years to craft “one of the most complicated international agreements that history has ever seen”.  There was much at stake from the viewpoint of divergent interests, but it had been recognized that failure was not an option.  The impacts of climate change were around us today.

He stressed that engagement by major developing countries was necessary in order to achieve agreement in Copenhagen.  They were willing to engage if funding was provided that would facilitate their engagement without harming their economic growth and poverty eradication goals.  However, such financing would not flow unless major industrialized countries made significant emission reduction commitments.  Only then would the market begin to do its work.  Challenges could only be successfully addressed if people felt their legitimate interests were respected.

Asked about the transfer of technology, the Executive Secretary said that was one of the four key issues emerging from the Bali process, alongside mitigation, adaptation and finance.  The financing component was clearly needed in order to drive the technology into the market.  As a consequence of the Kyoto Protocol, there was a market in emissions trading with an annual value of some $30 billion.  The Clean Development Mechanism (rich and poor countries working together to reduce emissions) had an annual value of $5 billion.  That proved that by putting a price on carbon, the market could be engaged in solving the problem, although that would not be enough in itself.

Major industrialized countries had indeed expressed willingness to contribute to a solution, he said in response to another question.  The European Union had already indicated that it would reduce its emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, and by 30 per cent if other industrialized nations joined in.  However, no specific commitments had been made because rich-country engagement hinged on developing-country engagement.

There was a need for a financial architecture that would make it possible for major developing countries to engage on climate change, he continued.  Without limits on the growth of emissions by countries like China, India, Brazil and South Africa, the problem would never be solved.  There was also a need for a financial architecture that would help the poorest countries adapt to climate change.

Asked about Japan’s promotion of a sectoral approach, he said that issue was discussed a lot, both among rich and developing countries.  The initial impression had been that Japan wanted sectoral approaches to replace national targets.  In Bangkok, however, it had explained that it wanted sectoral approaches to be part of national commitments.

In response to a question about agencies like the International Maritime Organization engaging in climate change while it was involved in transportation, he said Climate Change Conference parties had for years asked both the International Maritime Organization and the World Meteorological Organization to act on climate change issues.  Both organizations were moving on climate and had taken steps to take those issues forward, but some countries felt that what they were doing was not ambitious enough and that emissions resulting from aviation and shipping should be brought under the climate change regime.

Asked whether rising food and fuel prices were detracting from the attention paid to climate change, he said that issue was related to climate change.  Many countries were acting on climate change because of energy prices and energy security.  Biofuels raised concerns because agricultural resources were being taken away from food production.  Certainly, Japan intended to put climate change at the top of its Group of Eight agenda.  The issue of a short-term economic recession made it all the more important for businesses to seek clarity on how countries intended to deal with climate change.

He disagreed with a correspondent who described climate change as a technical issue, stressing that it was an economic one.  There was a one-on-one relationship between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions.  If the economy grew by 1 per cent, carbon dioxide emissions would also go up by the same percentage.  The challenge was to change the direction of economic growth, and that would not happen without political will.

Asked about the contribution of small island developing States to the debate, he said they and other groups were very active.  Small island States were saying that, unless there was action on the issue, they might still have a sign to sit behind, but no longer a country to represent.  African countries had been disappointed with the Kyoto Protocol because they felt that the Clean Development Mechanism had been of no benefit to them.  There was no need for mechanisms that would also benefit African countries.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.