Press Conference by Head of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to Update Status of Negotiations

14 May 2009

Press Conference by Head of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to Update Status of Negotiations

14 May 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




A viable climate change agreement was achievable before the critical Copenhagen meeting in December, but with only 200 days left, progress must accelerate, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change said at a Headquarters press conference today.

“Things really are becoming very urgent,” he said, adding that, counting only the negotiating days, a mere six weeks remained before the Copenhagen conference, where countries would be expected to agree to an ambitious and effective climate change deal, to follow the first phase the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Fortunately, climate change remained high on the international agenda despite the financial crisis, he said, and the past 100 days had brought some encouraging developments, starting with the “clear commitment” of the new United States Administration to re-engage in international negotiations and put an ambitious domestic policy package in place.  Also, industrialized nations were finally beginning to give developing countries some credit for actions they had already taken on climate change.  There had been a lot of “very encouraging” reporting on what Brazil, China, India, South Africa and others had done.

In another positive development, he said, United States President Barack Obama had reinvigorated the “major economies process” started by former President George W. Bush, with a greater focus on climate change, which brought together the 17 largest greenhouse gas emitters that were key to any agreement in Copenhagen.  Additionally, many countries were trying to re-channel economic growth in “greener” directions as part of their stimulus packages intended to aid recovery from the global economic crisis.

It was “fascinating” that the largest share of “green” in such packages was to be found in China, Republic of Korea and some developing countries, he said.  They were putting measures in place towards ensuring energy efficiency, sustainable building and cleaner transportation.  They were “clearly seeing this as an opportunity to change direction”.

Possibly most important, emission reduction targets for most industrialized countries were now on the table, he said.  It was also important that any agreement reached in Copenhagen, at the very least, clarify how much industrialized countries would have reduced their emissions by 2020, and what developing countries were willing to do to limit the growth of their own emissions.  Those two areas were inextricably linked because the United States and other industrialized nations would not be able to ratify any agreement without corresponding commitments by developing countries.

Developing countries, in turn, would not be willing to address climate change unless a stable financial support system for both mitigation and adaptation was created, he said, because previous funding mechanisms under the Climate Change Convention had not garnered significant amounts of funding and, more importantly, had not provided for greater funding over time with increasing needs.

For all countries, ambitious action would only make sense if every other country was engaged, he stressed, cautioning that, otherwise, highly polluting activities would move from one country to another to avoid emission limits, while those outside the regime would have an unfair competitive advantage.  In that light, it was particularly important that the United States and China reach an understanding on the way forward.  It would also be critical in Copenhagen to approve an international governance structure for climate change agreements which would include representation for developing countries, but not necessarily require additional institutions.

Asked whether the Clean Development Mechanism and other such instruments from the Kyoto regime would continue, he said it was clear that they would, but it was also clear that they all needed improvement to ensure that they indeed resulted in reduced emissions through the transfer of technology and resources, and did not just encourage “money and hot air pumping around”.

Responding to a question about the situation of oil-producing countries, he said they could take advantage of Convention mechanisms to diversify their economies.  In that way, Saudi Arabia had begun to take steps aimed at producing renewable energy.

Asked whether Australia’s pullback from previously announced emission targets was damaging to the international negotiations, he said the country’s Government had tried to make both the left and the right happy by making their emission reduction targets more stringent, but pushing back the regime’s starting date.  Australia was like many countries and the European Union, which could only put so much on the table individually.  The regional bloc, for example, might go from a 20 per cent to a 30 per cent reduction if others joined in.

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