Deputy Secretary-General, Discussing Climate Change at Regional Meeting, Calls for Stronger Ambition in Building on Copenhagen Outcome

19 February 2010

Deputy Secretary-General, Discussing Climate Change at Regional Meeting, Calls for Stronger Ambition in Building on Copenhagen Outcome

19 February 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General, Discussing Climate Change at Regional Meeting,

Calls for Stronger Ambition in Building on Copenhagen Outcome

Following is the text of Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks on climate change, “From Copenhagen to Mexico”, to the meeting of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Latin America and the Caribbean, in Mexico City on 17 February:

This year, the focus of our work is on ramping up progress on the Millennium Development Goals.  This follows a busy year in which the focus was on climate change.  Of course, these two issues are deeply interconnected.  Addressing one without the other makes no sense.  Countries cannot develop if our planet’s climate is destabilized -- a point we highlighted at the press conference earlier today -- with all the harmful effects this entails for water, food and energy security, economic growth and political stability.

Similarly, development gains cannot be sustained without reducing climate risks and strengthening our ability to adapt to those changes already locked into the atmosphere.  Needless to say, these impacts could prompt further political instability, especially in fragile countries or disaster-prone countries.  Climate change could also precipitate resource conflicts -- above all, for energy, arable land and fresh water -- and, therefore, drive large increases in population migration.

These are serious challenges that require sober, detailed analysis.  To that end, the Secretary-General is launching a high-level panel on development and climate change, as mentioned in the press conference earlier, which will examine, amongst other issues, how we can enhance climate-resilient development in the coming decades.

It is now two months since the Copenhagen Climate Conference.  Let me briefly address what happened in Copenhagen and the current status of global efforts to address climate change.  The good news is that world leaders now take this issue very seriously.  All told, 119 world leaders came to Copenhagen, including those from the largest polluters as well as those most vulnerable to climate impacts.  Leaders agreed that climate change has a direct bearing on their countries’ economic competitiveness and development, national security, and energy independence.  For some, survival itself is at stake.

Admittedly the negotiations were difficult.  But Copenhagen was an important step forward.  Copenhagen produced a broad political consensus on a long-term global response to climate change, as captured in the Copenhagen Accord.  It provides serious political impetus to inspire the twin-track UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] negotiations that will continue this year.

The Copenhagen Accord is a political agreement that does not replace the need for concluding a legally binding agreement.  Copenhagen also mobilized leadership at the highest levels of Government, which is ultimately where the climate challenge must be resolved.

In brief, what did the Accord achieve?

First, countries agreed on a goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2°C or less; second, both developed and developing countries acknowledged their responsibility to limit or curb their emissions.  Countries put forth voluntary national mitigation targets, which, if implemented, will help reduce global emissions.  Countries also agreed on the need for a global climate framework that reduces emissions from all sources, including the nearly 20 per cent of all global emissions that come from deforestation.  Third, there was also agreement on the need for a technology-transfer mechanism and comprehensive support for the most vulnerable.

Developed countries committed $30 billion to support climate change action in developing countries over the next three years, ramping up to $100 billion a year by 2020.  We hope to move forward very quickly in mobilizing these resources and implementing programmes on the ground.  To that end, as you have likely heard, the Secretary-General set up on Friday, 12 February, an Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, chaired by Prime Ministers Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, to help resolve this issue.  The results of the Group’s work will be channelled back into the UNFCCC process.

Developing countries are keen to move quickly towards low-emissions growth and prosperity.  Of course, there is the human element as well.  Millions of people here in this region and around the globe are already suffering from climate impacts.  Providing resources for adaptation is an ethical imperative.  It is a smart investment in a safer, more sustainable world for us all.

In sum, Copenhagen marks the first time that all countries have a clear goal towards which they are working.  At present, more than 50 countries, collectively representing more than 80 per cent of global emissions, have given the United Nations national pledges to cut and limit greenhouse gases by 2020.

Of course we must build on what was achieved in Copenhagen and strengthen the level of ambition.  Current pledges, while welcome and necessary, are still insufficient to keep global temperature rise to below 2°C.  We need to go much further -- and faster -- if we are to meet the scientific bottom line for limiting the risk of catastrophic climate change.  The goal remains an international agreement that would deliver concrete and ambitious cuts in emissions as well as a set of measures to implement mitigation and adaptation in the developing world in the fastest, most effective way possible.  The form this agreement takes is for Governments to decide.

The human and economic costs of inaction are high.  This is a point that Secretary-General Ban has made time and time again.  Every year of delay is estimated to cost $500 billion, according to the International Energy Agency.  If the world continues business as usual, emissions will soar and global temperatures could rise by up to 6°C by the end of the century.

The Secretary-General will continue to work with world leaders to ensure they lend their strongest support to the Government of Mexico as it assumes leadership of the UNFCCC negotiating process.  The United Nations is committed to doing all it can to improve the efficiency and transparency of the global climate negotiations.  We must, therefore, strive to ensure that all voices are heard and heeded, and that an agreed outcome is reached here in Mexico at COP 16.

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