United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cancún, Mexico, on Tuesday, 7 December, to open the high-level segment of the Sixteenth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Upon his arrival, the Secretary-General was briefed by the Executive Secretary of the Climate Change Convention, Christiana Figueres.
He then had a meetingwith Jean Ping, Chair of the Commission of the African Union. They discussed the situation in Côte d’Ivoire and particularly the recent visit to that country by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, on behalf of the African Union. The Secretary-General underlined the important role of the African Union in resolving the situation in the country. They also talked about the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting, in Abuja that day, on Côte d’Ivoire. The Secretary-General reiterated the need to respect the will of the Ivorian people.
The Secretary-General met over lunch with a group of African ministers, headed by Mr. Ping and Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya. They discussed the central needs of African countries and the importance of putting those needs at the heart of the climate change negotiations. They spoke about the current state of the negotiations and the need to leave Cancún with a clear outcome. They also underlined the need to address adaptation as well as mitigation needs, and the importance of an agreement that addresses the Kyoto Protocol in addition to funding issues, monitoring, reporting and verification issues and deforestation.
After making closing remarks at a Chief Executives Board side event, the Secretary-General addressed the high-level segment of the Climate Change Conference, telling delegates: “Business as usual cannot be tolerated, for it would condemn millions — no, billions — billions of children, women and men around the world to shrinking horizons and smaller futures.” The Secretary-General also said that progress was possible in Cancún and that if a final agreement on all issues was not needed, there needed to be progress on all fronts. “We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he added. He said delegates could take significant decisions in Cancún on forests, on adaptation, on technology and on the creation of a new fund for long-term climate financing. (See Press Release SG/SM/13302)
The Secretary-General then held a press conference, urging Governments to be flexible and to negotiate in a spirit of compromise and common sense for the good of all peoples. He said climate change affected everything the United Nations does — peace and security, development and human rights — and that “the longer we delay, the more we will pay — economically, environmentally and in human lives”. He added that there was “no single magic solution to climate change” and that progress should be made wherever it could happen, to keep moving in the right direction.
In the evening, the Secretary-General met with President Felipe Calderón Hinojosaof Mexico. They discussed the state of the climate change negotiations and what it would take to achieve a successful outcome in Cancún. They talked about areas where the negotiations are going forward and those that require further progress. Subjects covered in the course of the meeting included short- and long-term financing, adaptation, technology transfer, deforestation and the Kyoto Protocol. They also discussed the United Nations role in Mexico.
The Secretary-General then had a working dinner with a group of representatives of the European Union, headed by Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, and Joke Schauvliege, Chair of the European Council for the Environment. They discussed the state of play of the negotiations and what it will take to achieve a successful outcome, not only in Cancún but also over the longer term. They discussed the central role that the European Union has been playing both in climate change negotiations and in addressing climate change on the ground. They talked about financing, both fast-start funding and long-term financing. They also spoke about the Kyoto Protocol and monitoring, reporting and verification.
Also that evening, the Secretary-General met with the Chair of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Abdullah Alsaidi of Yemen, on the margins of the Conference. They discussed the Kyoto Protocol as well as the importance of the report by the High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, particularly the way its conclusions could be integrated into the negotiations on climate change. They also talked about the special needs of least developed countries and those most vulnerable to climate change.
On Wednesday, the Secretary-General had a working breakfast with a group of representatives of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), led by President Marcus Stephen of Nauru and Prime Minister Tillman Thomas of Grenada. They discussed the need for increased ambitions by all parties in climate change negotiations in order to address global needs, as determined by science. They also focused on disaster risk reduction, the Kyoto Protocol and financing, including short-term financing and making sure it gets to countries with needs, as well as long-term financing, especially the importance of the High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing.
That morning, the Secretary-General also had bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg; the Minister/Vice-Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, Xie Zhenhua; the Environment Minister of Brazil, Izabella Monica Vieira Teixeira; the Adviser to President Dmitri Medvedev of the Russian Federation, Alexander Bedritsky; the Foreign Minister of Cuba, Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla; the Minister for Environment and Forests of India, Jairam Ramesh; and the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa Delgado.
The Secretary-General then made opening remarks at a side event on the High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, which he established earlier in 2010. Stressing the importance of adequate financial support, he said that the Group had concluded that the goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 is challenging but feasible, even in the context of the ongoing global recession. He said that financing for climate change is not about charity, and that “ultimately, climate financing is an investment in a safer, more stable, healthier and prosperous world for us all”. He urged delegates to anchor the Group’s important findings and recommendations in their negotiations. (See Press Release SG/SM/13304)
Later, the Secretary-General participated in a high-level event on REDD-Plus (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). In his address, he said that some estimates showed that deforestation had contributed up to one fifth of global carbon emissions, more than the world’s entire transportation sector. He added that protecting forests was vital for sustaining ecosystems and providing sustenance and income for more than a billion people. He said that the REDD-Plus initiative had great potential to protect forests and spark the creation of low-carbon initiatives around the globe, and he asked delegates to ensure that it received appropriate financial and technical support. (See Press Release SG/SM/13306)
The Secretary-General left Cancún on Wednesday afternoon to return to New York.