Durban, South Africa

6 December 2011

Secretary-General's remarks to media at UNFCCC COP17

SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the media. It is a great pleasure to see you.

As you may be aware, this morning I arrived from Germany, after having participated in the second Bonn Conference on Afghanistan.

Peace and development in Afghanistan will require commitment from the government and people of Afghanistan and their international partners.

It will need cooperation on broad range of issues: on peace and security, women's empowerment, on women's and children's health, and sustainable development. There are many challenges.

But the country's sustainable development will depend, too, on global efforts to tackle climate change. In that regard, I am very happy to be part of the COP-17.

This is true throughout the globe.

I have personally seen the devastation of floods in Pakistan last year and most recently in Thailand.

I have witnessed the impact of deforestation in Indonesia and Brazil, and shrinking glaciers and icecaps at both Poles.

And I have met people in Kiribati whose homes are sinking beneath the waves.

Here in Africa, I have seen the effect of desertification in the Sahel.

As we meet, a terrible humanitarian emergency is unfolding in Niger and in western Sahel.

And, in the Horn of Africa, hundreds of thousands of people still face the prospects of starvation.

The long-awaited rains have brought floods to compound the problem.

Across our globe, climate [patterns] are becoming more and more unpredictable.

Extreme weather events are becoming more intense due to climate change.

The poor are affected first and worst.

That is why we need to show solidarity and resolve here in Durban.

We have no time to lose.

We need progress in the climate negotiations –now.

This is my message to world leaders.

I have already met with President Zuma and Minister Mashabane, President of COP-17.

I thank them both for their leadership and strong commitment to address these issues.

I will be meeting with the leaders of many groups, the most affected regions particularly, including AOSIS and the G77 and China, as well as other major negotiating partners.

Tomorrow, I will host an event on climate change financing with Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia and Prime Minister Stoltenberg of Norway who have shown important leadership in this area.

I will also meet with members of the business community, who are important stakeholders in helping to shape a more sustainable path to development and sustainable energy for all.

While here in Durban I will also focus on REDD Plus, as reducing deforestation is key to addressing both climate challenges and development needs.

We need advances on all of these areas now.

We need to make progress on the ground.

And we need to see continued momentum in the negotiations.

Here at COP-17, I have just called upon all parties to implement what was agreed in Cancún last year, make tangible progress on short- and long-term climate change financing and make progress on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

We must not forsake our collective vision of a comprehensive, binding climate change agreement that is both effective and fair for all.

These are all threads in the tapestry of sustainable development.

Only by weaving them together can we achieve the future we want –an equitable future where all people have the opportunity to live in peace, dignity and prosperity.

Thank you for your attention.

I'd like to give the floor to Christiana Figueres.

[intervention by Christiana Figueres]

Q:Mr. Secretary-General, Jon Herskovitz from Reuters. I have a question about the process itself. The UN sign says the consequences are becoming more severe and the window for action, the opportunity for action is getting smaller and smaller. But the COP process itself is taking so long to unfold. Is there something wrong with the UN process that needs to be expedited to address this dire problem now, especially given that the Kyoto Protocol terms will wind up next year first term commitments and the talk so far is that the EU deal which looks at new cuts being implemented by at least 2020 at the latest.

SG:I can share your frustration that this process has been taking so long. It's not because the United Nations system or process has some problem. It's up to the Member States' political will. That is why I have always been urging the leaders that they have to demonstrate their political leadership. It's true that there are many domestic and global challenges. There is not even a single country which is not having domestic economic or political problems. So they have to look beyond their national borders. That has been my consistent message. That is why I have been travelling all around the world wherever I could see for myself the impact of climate change and wherever I could send out strong messages to world leaders. That's what I have been doing. I will continue to do so. It's true that the world is now going through austerity, financial austerity. There are many regional conflicts issue. National leaders may not have much time to pay attention to this climate change. That's what I regret very much as Secretary-General. They have to have a common vision that this climate change is a global challenge requiring global solutions, global solidarity. [There is] nothing wrong with the United Nations system. I really again urge world leaders. Now, climate change is one of the very serious issues which we have to address to realize a world we want. Do you really want to leave this world where our succeeding generations will have this same problem? A binding, legally binding comprehensive agreement may not be possible in Durban, as I said, but this will have to be our priority. We should not forsake our common vision to have a legally binding treaty where all the countries, big or small, rich or poor -- they can work together to address this issue. Thank you very much.

Q:Good evening sir, my name is UgochiAnyaka from Nigeria. We're not certain right now what the fate of the Kyoto Protocol. I want to ask about the CDM [Clean Development Mechanism] projects already happening in Africa. Africa is very affected by climate change. What will be the fate of the projects of those who have invested so much in these projects if the Kyoto Protocol does not come through, what's going to happen to these projects? Is there an alternative? Thank you.

SG: I'll answer you in more general terms and then I will ask ChristianaFigueres to brief you more in details as she has been following-up. This Kyoto Protocol has been built up over two decades. This is the only institution by which many countries have been implementing their commitment to mitigate and adapt to reduce their greenhouse emissions, to realize this world where everybody can live without fear of this climate change impact. My message is clear as I said in my remarks just a few minutes ago: we must not leave a vacuum between the first and second commitments. This is a legal mechanism therefore we must find a way forward for the Kyoto Protocol in the future. We have to have a clarification. My understanding is that while there are some countries who are very much opposed to the extension [of] the Kyoto Protocol, most of the member states of the UNFCCC are in favour of taking this, carrying on this Kyoto Protocol. I hope that leaders this time in Durban will make firm and clear guidelines on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General and Ms.Figueres, I am Wang Mangmang with China Central Television. My question is for the Secretary-General. China says it is ready for a legally binding treaty. What is your reaction to this development? Thank you.

SG: I am encouraged to hear that statement by the Chinese delegation. In principle, in general, I am very encouraged that key Member States are coming out with such positive statements and I hope that this will also provide, create a good atmosphere in our continuing negotiation. I know that there are some conditionalities which have been contained in the statement but we will have to see how this negotiation process evolves. But what is important at this time is that all the Member States should express their firm, determined will. And one message again, as I said, practically speaking, it may take more time to be able to agree on a legally binding comprehensive treaty. But Member States should not wait until we will be able to agree on such a treaty. I am encouraged that many countries are taking domestic measures to mitigate and to adapt -- domestically binding. These are very welcomed developments and I really encourage all the Member States, particularly key countries who can make a great impact in this negotiation process, [to] take domestic measures. China has been taking such measures and India and many countries. I have been very much encouraged and moved by what I have seen while travelling. Each and every country are doing their own efforts. Now, by the time we have a globally binding agreement, that will be much better but we should not wait until such time. And I encourage them to do whatever they can do domestically.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I am Joydeep Gupta of Third Pole in India. The UNEP latest report again shows us to what extent climate commitments fall short of instances. And latest commitments seem to be going even further down in terms of emissions so gap is getting more and more and every organisations like yours every year and everybody says it needs to close. So what's your reaction to that and what's needed to push the states to reduce emissions?

SG: Our goal should be ambitious and the IPCC has made it quite clear that climate change is happening at a much faster speed than we might expect, we might know. The IPCC has also recommended the targets [that] Member States should take domestically. Some countries have reached [these] but most of the countries have yet to do so. It is encouraging that at least 118 countries, UNFCCC member states, have taken their domestic targets and registered with the United Nations and I think I would encourage them much more to do so. There are major countries, major polluting countries, who really have to commit themselves to have higher and much more ambitious targets. I am going to have meetings with major negotiating partners tomorrow -- including BASIC countries and AOSIS and G77 and United States and European Union, major developed [countries]. So I sincerely hope that we will have very ambitious targets as soon as possible.