Press Conference on Results of Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

21 December 2009

Press Conference on Results of Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

21 December 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Results of Copenhagen Climate Change Conference


Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, today urged journalists not to overlook the “immediate operational consequences” of the recently concluded Copenhagen climate talks, in the form of a widely backed political agreement that would allow the treaty process to begin in earnest.

The group of least developed countries, the Alliance of Small Island States, the African Union and the European Union had announced their support at the final plenary meeting, he said, representing no less than 140 countries.  “If this document takes on the kind of support that was indicated in the final plenary, then you have a real centre of gravity for the treaty negotiations throughout 2010.”

In response to a question, Mr. Orr said it was unclear whether Sudan ‑‑ when it had registered its negative support for the text ‑‑ was speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, of which it was Chair, or if its representative was speaking purely in his national capacity.

But he added: “If the ‘Group of 77’ were added, it would push the number up almost to the full membership.”

Mr. Orr said negotiations on the text had taken place among 29 Government representatives, plus a member of the European Commission, at the Danish President’s invitation.  Several of those officials spoke on behalf of larger groups, and together they represented the entire United Nations membership, he said.  But, Sudan ‑‑ though invited as a representative of the Group of 77 ‑‑ had declared afterwards that he was speaking in his national capacity.

Adding to the confusion, he continued, was the absence of a formal roll-call describing who supported the text and who did not.  Following the rules of procedure, States could announce their support for documents immediately upon tabling, or choose to wait until they had examined the text more carefully.

Because of the lag by some States, a more complete understanding of who supported the text “will only come in the coming days”, said Mr. Orr.  But, he continued, “If you look at the statements in the final plenary, you’ll have a good sense of where the balance of support lies.”

He said the Conference had tabled the consensus agreement after the Secretary-General had intervened at the closing moments of the Conference, allaying the concerns of those States that had felt excluded from the process.

“Everyone has a right to be involved in the discussion.  Certainly, as we move into the negotiation phase around a treaty, that will have to be clarified and the process improved,” said Mr. Orr, saying the Secretary-General had stressed that fact to Member States.

But, he admitted: “Even if you have 140, you need 194,” he said, which is the total number of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

He described the result as “phenomenal”, which he said might not be obvious given the divergent views emerging in the media, with many members of the press leaving before the agreement was struck.  The “breakthrough” document agreed by States ‑‑ dubbed the Copenhagen Accord -- contained provisions on funding, and also spoke of an understanding on reporting and verification of national policies that had not been seen in prior agreements.

When one journalist pointed to the non-legally binding nature of the text, Mr. Orr said success would be borne out in time.  “The proof will only be in the pudding, when you see in the coming weeks and months [whether] Governments who say they’re providing funding will provide it, and [whether] Governments that say they’ll do certain things do it.”

He spoke of the major role played by the Secretary-General in rallying world leaders around the need to tackle climate change, and in urging them to own the climate issue.  “It was phenomenal what we saw in Copenhagen -- 120 Heads of State and Government getting down into the real guts of the debate over climate change.  This would not have been possible a year ago,” he said.

Janos Pazstor, Director of the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, who spoke alongside Mr. Orr, stressed the significance of having obtained political guidance on the climate issue from the highest levels of Government, without which a legally binding treaty would not be possible.  “What we got in this accord is exactly that.”

* *** *

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