Press Conference on 22 September Climate Change Summit, Related Developments

8 September 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on 22 September Climate Change Summit, Related Developments

The upcoming United Nations Summit on Climate Change would be crucial in providing much-needed political momentum for negotiations on the issue as the deadline for an international deal loomed, Janos Pasztor, Director of the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, said at Headquarters this afternoon.

“The full engagement of world leaders is absolutely essential ‑‑ there are now only 15 negotiating days left before Copenhagen begins,” Mr. Pasztor said, in reference to the early-December meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, by which agreement on a new global climate change regime must be reached.  The preceding United Nations Summit opens at New York Headquarters on 22 September.

International negotiations on the new regime had been much too slow, he said, noting that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was continuously urging leaders to step up action towards “a fair, comprehensive and effective global treaty that addresses one of the most fundamental challenges the world is facing”.  The Secretary-General’s recent visit to the Artic was a reminder that failure to take action would have serious consequences, “not just for polar bears in the Arctic, but for people on every continent and in every country”.

However, he said there were grounds for optimism in the meetings that Mr. Ban had held with Heads of State and Government over the past months, pointing out that commitments by national leaders to participate in the New York Summit had already surpassed the mark established by a similar gathering in 2007, which had included 82 leaders.  “My crystal ball tells me it will be quite a bit higher,” Mr. Pasztor predicted.  In any case, all 192 Member States would be represented, with ministers representing most of those not sending a Head of State or Government.

He acknowledged having seen media reports to the effect that President Barack Obama of the United States would be attending.  The opening session would hear from the leaders of countries now emitting the most greenhouse gases, those most vulnerable to climate change, fast-emerging developing countries and those working to avoid deforestation.

Following the opening, he said, national leaders would engage in round-table discussions, each of which would include a range of countries and work through the key roadblocks to a comprehensive climate change agreement.  The Secretary-General’s four climate change envoys, as well as five executive heads of United Nations agencies, would provide support to the round tables.

A background paper posted on the website of the United Nations Climate Change Summit would form the basis for discussions, but there would be no formal outcome document, he said.  However, the Secretary-General would release a summary from the Chair and meet with the media immediately after the closing plenary.

The two weeks leading up to the summit were crucial, he maintained.  A number of other climate events would be taking place between now and December but this was the only one that included all actors.  “We need a global solution for a global problem,” he said.

He noted that the Organization was working to ensure that the event itself was climate neutral, to be offset by support to a carbon-reduction project that had not yet been chosen.

Asked what roadblocks were holding up a climate change deal, he said the Summit would focus on five areas:  adaptation; greenhouse gas reduction actions by developed and developing countries; funding to support mitigation and adaptation; and the Governance structures needed for an effective regime.

In response to a question about a letter from the “Group of 77” developing countries voicing dissatisfaction with the inclusiveness of the opening session, he emphasized that there would be a “balance” in the countries to be heard at the opening, and there would be opportunities for all to make their views known throughout the proceedings.  However, the most important aspect of the Summit was the discussions between leaders at the round tables.

Responding to another question, he said no new financial commitments to support the efforts of developing countries were expected during the Summit, but it was hoped that there would be work on a new framework.  Most important for the Copenhagen Agreement was not funding figures, but an effective formula bringing together different funding sources that could be scaled up according to needs.

Acknowledging that accelerating the progress of the negotiations would be difficult, he concluded:  “If things were wonderful, we wouldn’t need a Summit.”

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.