World leaders have demonstrated the political will necessary to make a breakthrough on climate change, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he wrapped up the largest-ever meeting of heads of State or government on the issue.
“This has been a groundbreaking, historical event,” he told reporters following the conclusion of the gathering at United Nations Headquarters in New York, which he also characterized as a “sea-change in the response to climate change.”
Mr. Ban convened the event in an effort to forge a coalition to accelerate a global response to climate change and build international momentum for the major summit to be held in Bali, Indonesia, in December.
That meeting seeks to determine future action on mitigation, adaptation, the global carbon market and financing responses to climate change for the period after the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol – the current global framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – in 2012.
“Today I heard a clear call from world leaders for a breakthrough on climate change in Bali,” Mr. Ban said in his closing remarks at the day-long event, which drew top officials from over 150 nations, including 80 heads of State or government. “And I now believe we have a major political commitment to achieving that.”
Stressing that a post-Kyoto agreement must be in force by the end of 2012, he called for “comprehensive and inclusive” negotiations to take place in Bali.
“We have come a long way in building understanding and a new consensus this year. More remains to be done, but this event has sent a powerful political signal to the world, and to the Bali conference, that there is the will, and the determination, at the highest level, to break with the past and act decisively.”
Four plenary sessions on the themes of adaptation, mitigation, technology and financing were held simultaneously at the event, entitled “The Future in our Hands: Addressing the Leadership Challenge of Climate Change.”
In summarizing the adaptation session, Mr. Ban said that participants voiced solidarity with the most vulnerable nations – in particular, the so-called small island developing states and least developed countries – to the consequences of climate change. Such nations have contributed least to the state of the planet, and yet are most impacted by it.
Those who attended this session also agreed on the need to reduce disaster risk and bolster community resilience to extreme weather events through planning and capacity-building, he said.
Speakers at the mitigation plenary noted the need for long-term plans of action, with many participants calling for legally binding emission targets.
“There is a broad recognition of the need to tackle the root causes of the problem and reverse its effects through decisive action,” the Secretary-General noted. “The current level of effort will not suffice.”
On technology, Mr. Ban said that many participants pointed out that technological solutions for pushing forward the goals of adaptation and mitigation already exist. “Effective policy frameworks and cooperation mechanisms can greatly accelerate the deployment of these solutions between and within the North and the South,” he said.
Global collaboration must be urgently increased to help developing countries to move towards low carbon and renewable energy, which can in turn spur economic growth, he noted.
Additionally, since fossil fuels will be ongoing sources of energy for the foreseeable future, energy efficiency must be improved and new technologies – such as carbon capture and storage – must be sought out.
Finally, regarding financing, many participants suggested that tackling climate change need not curtail economic development, the Secretary-General said. Developing countries should be provided with resources for investment and for cultivating their ability to identify and implement the necessary policies to promote sustainable growth.
Several speakers called for an enhanced carbon market in developed nations that offers flexibility, allows for a cost-effective transition to low-emissions economies and ultimately provides incentives to developing countries.
Mr. Ban also said that the attendees noted that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the only forum to devise solutions to the challenges posed by climate change. “All other processes or initiatives should be compatible with the UNFCCC process and should feed into it, facilitating its successful conclusion.”
Also speaking at the event’s closing, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, which is hosting the upcoming summit, noted that the plenary sessions were “marked by a strong sense of commitment and urgency.”
Regarding the upcoming Bali meeting, Mr. Yudhoyono said “there is a public demand for concrete and bold action. Thus, we are looking forward to their principal outcome: a bold global decisions addressing climate change without significantly jeopardizing development efforts.”