UN climate change chief urges governments to accelerate talks on emissions reduction

12 May 2011

The top United Nations climate change official today urged governments to step up the pace of negotiations on the further reduction of emissions of the hazardous greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, ahead of the next UN climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, in December.

Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said States needed to agree on the strengthening of international conditions to allow nations to work together to make deeper global emission cuts.

“This means confronting the open political question of the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the only agreement today that captures binding commitments by industrialized countries,” Ms. Figueres told a news conference at UN Headquarters.

The Kyoto Protocol is an addition to the UNFCCC that contains legally binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and whose first commitment period is due to expire next year. Negotiations on the second commitment phase of the Protocol continue.

“What governments have very clear before them is that they’re already facing the possibility of a regulatory gap [on the new phase of the protocol] and the more they delay that, the more firm the regulatory gap will be. So I don’t expect that they will choose to extend that. My sense is there will be a lot of political commitment… but that is really going to be the top political issue for this year,” she said.

Governments also needed to design the new climate institutions that will provide adequate and efficient climate support to developing countries, including the green climate fund, the technology mechanism, and the setting up of the climate change adaptation committee, she added.

Outside of the negotiations process, Ms. Figueres said there were encouraging climate change trends, including a move, even by large economies towards new policies that promote low-carbon growth. The private was also increasingly investing in low-carbon business and renewable energy, she added.

“So in Durban, governments need to take further steps to drive both of those very important trends and faster,” she said.

She voiced concern that “the pace of the negotiations is going slower than science demands and the level of ambition is lower than science demands.”


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