Press Conference on High-level Advisory Group on Financing to Address Climate Change

12 February 2010

Press Conference on High-level Advisory Group on Financing to Address Climate Change

12 February 2010
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on High-level Advisory Group


on Financing to Address Climate Change


Looking to re-energize the global push to prevent or mitigate the impacts of climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today launched a new high-level advisory panel -- to be co-chaired by the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and Ethiopia -- intended to identify effective mechanisms for raising up to $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor nations cut emissions and foster green growth.

With millions of people in Africa and around the globe suffering from the effects of climate change, providing resources for adaptation was not only a moral imperative, “it is also a smart investment in a safer, more sustainable world for all,” the Secretary-General told reporters at a press conference at Headquarters the morning.  Joining via video link were the panel’s co-chairs, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom. (Secretary-General’s opening remarks issued separately as Press Release SG/SM/12741)

The Secretary-General said the High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing would be charged with mobilizing, as quickly as possible, the financial resources pledged in the “Copenhagen Accord,” the outcome of the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, where delegations agreed to jump-start immediate action on climate change and guide negotiations on long-term action.  Under the Accord, developing countries were to be given $30 billion until 2012 and then $100 billion a year until 2020.

“[L]et me emphasize the importance of rapid action.  It is particularly important to release money for immediate adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing countries, especially for the most vulnerable,” Mr. Ban said, adding that developing countries needed to move as quickly as possible toward a future of low-emissions growth and prosperity.  Therefore, the High-Level Advisory Group would investigate ways to jump-start mobilization of new and innovative resources and mechanisms.  Those resources would support adaptation, mitigation, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building.

As for the new panel’s composition, the Secretary-General said that at least two other Heads of State and Government would participate, President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway.  Other members would include high-level officials from ministries and central banks, as well as experts on public finance, development and related issues, who would all serve in their personal capacities for the next 10 months.

“There will be an even balance between developing and developed countries,” he said, adding that he would issue the full list shortly.  The new panel was expected to issue its final recommendations before the next conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun, Mexico later this year.

Speaking from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Meles acknowledged that, while developing nations had ultimately agreed to the climate financing goals set by the Copenhagen Accord, many remained deeply cynical about whether that money would ever be delivered.  Such a high degree of scepticism was perhaps understandable, given the many promises of financial assistance to the developing world that had never been kept.  “This time around, promises made have to be kept, because the alternative is irresponsible management of the climate, followed by catastrophic changes,” he declared.

Developing countries in general, and the poor and vulnerable countries in particular, desperately needed financial and technological assistance to be able to adapt to inevitable climate change and to contribute to the mitigation of such change, Mr. Meles continued, adding that he was convinced that the Advisory Group could play a vital role in coming up with practical ideas on implementation of the provisions on finance of the Copenhagen Accord.

He was also optimistic that the Advisory Group’s work could make it possible for the developing world to join the developed world in Mexico to craft a “final and binding” treaty on climate change with the confidence that promises made on finance would be kept.  “I believe we need to come out with clear and specific sources of finance that can generate the resources promised […] I also believe we need to come up with a delivery mechanism that is both efficient and transparent so that all sides are assured that we are dealing with real resources,” he said.

Prime Minister Brown, addressing the press conference from London, acknowledged Prime Minister Zenawi’s sentiments about Copenhagen outcome, but he also stressed that, despite the disappointment of not reaching a final agreement there, 92 countries had since communicated support for the Accord.  In addition, 66 nations had set out their plans for climate change or identified their targets, covering about 80 per cent of global emissions.

“Already, we can see that, if promises are met, the Accord would lead to the peaking of global emissions by or before 2020, and make it possible for us to uphold to the trajectory of holding global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius,” he said.  The Advisory Group’s mission now was to press ahead with the financing elements of the Accord.  “Among other things, the panel must get the $30 billion for fast-start finance for 2010-2012 flowing right now to help developing countries immediately tackle and adapt to climate change, address deforestation and move forward with low-carbon growth,” he said.

“We must put in place appropriately transparent mechanisms for measurement, reporting and verification, and we must take forward cooperation on technology,” he continued, also calling for deeper international agreement through a detailed set of rules and governance arrangements, under the United Nations, to be finalized in Cancun later this year.  “Our end goal remains a legally binding outcome.”

Mr. Brown said that fast-start finance was vital, the efforts would have to rise significantly after 2012, including through providing additional funding to exiting official development assistance.  Still, the overall goal of $100 billion annually could not be met by tax-payer revenues alone, so actors must examine new sources of finance, both public and private. 

“This is the task of the High-Level Advisory Group,” he declared, pledging that the panel would drive the combat against climate change by ensuring that the poorest countries had the necessary finances to do so.  “If we can do this, I believe many of the other challenges related to climate change can be resolved,” he said, and while the panel’s task seemed daunting, its success was very important for the environment and the entire world.

Responding to a question posed by a reporter in Addis Ababa regarding the reticence of some rich countries to meet even the minimum requirements needed to tackle climate change, the Secretary-General recalled that there had been firm agreement among the leaders in Copenhagen on the financing targets set out in the Accord.  He expected the Advisory Group to come out with detailed modalities on how the money would be generated and how it would flow to developing countries.

For his part, Mr. Brown said the United Kingdom stood by its commitments and would work to make real the figures agreed at Copenhagen.  At the same time, the conference had decided that the level of money would be scaled up to $100 billion by 2020.  A large part of that would come from the private sector -- for example, by auctioning of national emissions allowances -- and the Advisory Group must look at how to bring together such finance.  “It will be difficult, but that was the agreement,” he added.

“We have to state the obvious:  not all developed countries were reluctant to provide the money,” said Mr. Meles when he weighed in on the topic.  Indeed, it was not only the United Kingdom, but the European Union as a whole that was committed to the agreement.  The resources must be identified, generated and distributed in a way that did not put more pressure on what everyone understood were the already overstretched budgets of developed countries.  “This is the key […] and I believe it can be done,” he said.

Following another reporter’s suggestion that the push for innovative financing was foundering, especially with United States President Barrack Obama’s cap-and-trade legislation stalled in Congress, Mr. Brown said that, ultimately, a worldwide low-carbon economy would be a huge benefit for the United States and other countries.  It would lead to the development of new technologies, the creation of new jobs and a new kind of prosperity based on a greener environment.

Continuing, he said the technologies being developed in the United States and elsewhere could help lead the push, from electric cars to renewable energy and other low-carbon products.  “We have to be fair to developing countries.  I think that people will come to see, as the low-carbon economy emerges, it is right for us to help the countries that have been affected […] and need support to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  I think we can win this argument across the board,” he said.

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