UN confident of success at Copenhagen climate summit, with US on board

19 November 2009

With just 17 days left before the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen, a top UN official today predicted success for a framework accord including specific reduction targets from the United States, the only hold-out among industrialized nations, with a formal treaty to follow within six months.

“There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that it [Copenhagen] will yield a success,” the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Yvo de Boer, told a news conference in New York, saying President Barack Obama’s presence in the Danish capital “would make a huge difference.”

As the three main points that must come out of Copenhagen, he cited individualized targets “in black and white” by industrialized States to reduce global warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, a list of actions by developing nations, and clear short- and long-term financing to support developing countries on both mitigation and adaptation.

At an informal meeting of the General Assembly held today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, citing various emission and deforestation reduction targets announced recently by Indonesia, Russia, the Republic of Korea, Brazil, Japan and the European Union, also voiced confidence in reaching a deal in Copenhagen that sets the stage for a binding treaty as soon as possible in 2010.

He put short-term financing from richer nations to the developing countries at $10 billion in fast-track funding annually over the next three years to jump-start low-emission growth, limit deforestation and finance immediate adaptation measures, while medium-term needs are estimated at $100 billion annually through 2020.

Mr. de Boer told the Assembly that aggregate pledges made so far by industrialized countries for mid-term reductions fell short of the target of 20 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, which the scientific community calls necessary to avoid more disastrous change, adding: “Industrialized countries clearly need to raise their level of ambition.”

Also, he said, without resolving the political issues of mitigation and finance, reaching agreement in Copenhagen would be impossible in the battle to curb climate change, with its impact already being felt in droughts, changed rainfall patterns and floods.

General Assembly President Ali Treki told the same meeting that progress at Copenhagen is not optional – “it is imperative to our very survival.”

He later added at a news conference that the world is now conscious of the dangers of climate change for everyone, not just the most vulnerable countries, and that it is in the interest of everyone to “achieve a good result” in Copenhagen.

A numerical mid-term target and a commitment to financial support from the US are essential “and I believe it can be done,” Mr. de Boer added at his news conference.

“I’ve seen some recent reports that say that Copenhagen has failed even before it starts and I must say that those reports are simply wrong.” He cited new commitments and pledges coming in “almost every day” from both industrialized and developing countries.

The political leadership that so many heads of State and government promised at the September climate summit at UN Headquarters in New York “is alive, it is well and it will lead to success in Copenhagen,” he declared.

“Rich countries must put at least $10 billion [for developing countries] on the table in Copenhagen to kick-start immediate action, and they must list what each individual country will provide and how funds will be raised to deliver very large, stable and predictable finance into the future without having to constantly renegotiate the commitments every few years.”

The conference also needs to launch immediate action for international cooperation on the pressing needs to preserve and sustain forests, he said, noting: “If the lungs of the world collapse, the rest will die.”

Finally, governments must agree in a tight deadline to finalize it all into a legal treaty, he added, “and that means no delay, no more long drawn-out process. For all this Copenhagen will be the turning point where talking about action stops and taking action begins.” Originally it had been hoped that the treaty could emerge at the conference, set to begin on 7 December.

On financing for developing countries, Copenhagen must provide much more clarity as to who will be contributing what, “because another collective pledge that leaves unclear what individual shares of that pledge are doesn’t really help you very much,” stressed Mr. de Boer.

Asked about the position of the US, which never ratified the 1997 emission reduction treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol, he replied: “I think that President Obama has shown incredible courage and leadership… He wants a strong domestic policy in this area not just because of climate change, but also because of issues of energy security and energy prices… he wants a deal in Copenhagen.”

Mr. Obama was now focusing on health care and climate change will come up early next year, but “having said that, I am confident that the President of the United States can come to Copenhagen with a target and with a financial commitment,” he added.


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