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Bangkok climate change talks good start, but ‘huge’ task lays ahead – UN official

Bangkok climate change talks good start, but ‘huge’ task lays ahead – UN official

The climate change talks held last week in Bangkok were successful in devising a schedule for negotiations leading to a long-term international agreement on the issue, but actually devising an accord that all countries will sign remains a major challenge, a top United Nations official told reporters today.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said the outcome of the first round of negotiations on a new global climate change agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol – set to expire in 2012 – was “a good beginning.”

The Bangkok talks, held from 31 March to 4 April, was the first meeting since last December’s landmark UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in which 187 countries agreed to launch a two-year process of formal negotiations on strengthening global efforts to fight, mitigate and adapt to the problem of global warming.

Last week’s meeting “did manage to make a good beginning towards a good end,” Mr. de Boer said at a press conference in New York, noting that countries identified exactly how issues will be taken up for the rest of 2008, which topics will be taken up at the three meetings that will happen during the rest of 2008 and which areas in the Bali outcome need to be further explored.

The meeting also mapped out the focus of the next major climate change conference, to be held in December 2009 in Poznan, Poland, which will address the issue of risk management and risk reduction strategies, technology and the key elements of a shared long-term vision for joint action in combating climate change, including a long-term target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While the Bangkok meeting was a success, the challenge ahead is “huge,” he added.

“We basically have one and a half years in which to craft what I think is one of the most complicated international agreements that history has ever seen, with a great deal at stake from the point of view of different interests,” Mr. de Boer said.

“At the same time, I believe that countries recognize that failure is not an option in all of this. The impacts of climate change are being seen around us already today.”

Earlier this week, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) released a report on the dangers to human health posed by climate change. Also, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented new findings at its meeting in Budapest, Hungary, pointing to increased water stress as a result of climate change.

“So this is clearly an issue that’s recognized as one that has to be dealt with now, and has to be dealt with significantly,” stated Mr. de Boer.

The Executive Secretary-General outlined several challenges that need to be addressed in the negotiating process, which is set to conclude in Copenhagen by the end of 2009. The first is the need for further and meaningful engagement of major developing countries.

The second hurdle is providing financial resources that will make it possible for these countries to engage without harming their primary concerns surrounding economic growth and poverty reduction.

At the same time, he added, those finances will not begin to flow unless major industrialized countries make significant emission reduction commitments.

“It is my firm belief that we will only address those challenges in a process where people feel their legitimate interests are respected at the negotiating table,” he stated.