Press Conference by General Assembly President on Informal Climate Change Meeting

19 November 2009

Press Conference by General Assembly President on Informal Climate Change Meeting

19 November 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by General Assembly President on Informal Climate Change Meeting

The upcoming conference in Copenhagen on climate change should not only be attended by the most interested and concerned Heads of State, but there should also be good results, the President of the General Assembly said this evening at a Headquarters press conference after an informal Assembly meeting on the matter.

Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki said Member States had just heard a briefing by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the status of the ongoing intergovernmental negotiations process in the run-up to the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change.  During the high-level debate on climate change in September, the Assembly had heard several commitments by Member States, including from Japan, to contribute towards a solution to the problem.  Today, the Republic of Korea had announced its commitments.

Also today, he had heard from representatives of small island States on the problems they were confronting because of climate change, which should be addressed.  He said he had spoken to the President of the World Bank who had promised action in that regard.  He hoped that the situation during the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference in Rome on food security, in which almost no donor countries had participated, would not be repeated in Copenhagen.

Also participating in the press conference, and previously, in the Assembly’s meeting, was Trudie Styler ‑‑ co-founder of the Rainforest Foundation and spouse of the singer, Sting.  She explained that she had founded the Rainforest Foundation some 20 years ago, when, during a visit to the rainforest in the Amazon a Kayapo chief had told her:  “There is a lot of smoke.  My people are very sick.  But whatever happens in my forest today will affect all of you, in your lands, tomorrow.”

“The pigeons have come home to roost,” she added.  Never before had she attended a meeting which had to deal with the potential that “our planet may come to an end”.  It was “heart-rending” to hear from small island States that were exposed to flooding and threatened with non-existence.

“ Copenhagen has to become legally binding with its treaty,” she stressed.  “We can’t just have another pow-wow and have no tangible results.  That could be, and from what scientists are telling us, will be, catastrophic.”

During her visits to the rainforests, she said she had seen how the indigenous people had been exploited by big business.  Referring to the pollution caused by oil companies in Ecuador, she said that Copenhagen should answer the question of how much the great polluters of the world should pay to compensate for the damage they had caused from their illegal drilling and logging.

Asked what the minimum requirement should be in order to call Copenhagen a success, Mr. Treki said that the Secretary-General had pointed out that there should be legally binding commitments.  United States President Barack Obama had committed the United States to participate, for the first time.  The world was now conscious of the danger.  Today, the representative of Bangladesh had talked about the calamities his country was confronting.  In Rome, he had heard that 30 countries were confronting hunger, mainly because of climate change.  There was desertification in Africa.  Lakes were shrinking or disappearing.  Climate change affected everyone.

Ms. Tyler agreed that a legally binding treaty in Copenhagen was “an absolute must”, adding that simply halting deforestation was the “single fastest and cheapest way to make a significant reduction”, as deforestation accounted for about 20 per cent of the world’s total carbon emissions.

“We have allowed mahogany boards and cheap beef burgers to hold more intrinsic value than human life,” she said, adding that forests were worth nothing until they were turned into something, into toilet paper, for instance.  Land was worth nothing until it was producing something that could be sold on the world markets.  “We have allowed the dollar, the pound and the petrol in our tanks to rule our world.”  Halting deforestation, therefore, was an outcome she sought from Copenhagen, as that would result in a 20 per cent carbon emissions reduction.

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