Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen at United Nations Headquarters

22 September 2009
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Danish Prime Minister

Lars Løkke Rasmussen at United Nations Headquarters

Following is a transcript of the joint press conference by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Denmark’s Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, held in New York today, 22 September:

Secretary-General:  Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the media, Prime Minister Rasmussen.

We have just concluded an historic Summit –- the largest-ever gathering of world leaders on climate change.

The level of representation at this Summit clearly shows that climate change is now at the top of the global agenda.  Some 150 countries participated.

It was an historic event for other reasons.  Today marked the moment when the political momentum has shifted in favour of sealing a fair, effective and ambitious global climate deal in Copenhagen.  This is the main point of the Chairman’s summary that I just presented at the conclusion of the Summit.

For the last few months, I have been very concerned by the slow pace of the global negotiations.  But I listened carefully to the discussions today, and I sense that something that has been missing for the past few months has returned.  It’s a sense of optimism, urgency and hope that Governments are determined to seal a deal in Copenhagen.

This Summit has put fresh wind in our sails.  It has harnessed much needed political momentum.  We’re on the right track.  Today we achieved what we set out to do.  We focused the attention of world leaders at the highest level on the urgent need for action.  We helped bridge differences and build trust between developed and developing countries by bringing them together at the same table in private, face-to-face discussions.

We can by no means claim victory.  But one thing I am absolutely sure of:  without today’s Summit, the world would not cross over the finish line in Copenhagen.

When I was in the Arctic a few weeks ago, I saw the glaciers melting at an alarming pace.  What I sense today is that, finally, we are seeing a thaw in some of the frozen positions that have prevented Governments from making progress in the negotiations.

Of course, we need agreement on the details.   In my Chairman’s summary, I highlighted areas of convergence among leaders on five key issues in the climate negotiations:  A package on adaptation; ambitious mid-term mitigation targets by industrialized countries; supported actions by developing countries to slow the growth of their emissions; scaled-up financing and technology support to unlock investment and catalyze green growth; and equitable governance that address the needs of developing countries.

We are not there yet, and while the Summit is not a guarantee that we will get a global agreement, we are certainly one step closer to that goal today.

What we heard today was new and significant.  It was not in the form of one overarching proposal, but many constructive ideas.  Countries showed their seriousness about their national plans.  For example, the Maldives pledged to become climate neutral by 2020.  New national efficiency targets that would slow the growth of emissions in China, plans for greater investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the United States and a politically bold and crucially timed pledge by Japan to cut emissions by 25 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020.

But most important was the realization that local and national efforts are not enough.  We need a global agreement to tackle this global issue.

There is still a long way to go.  And there are many questions that still do not have answers.  But tonight, I sense we are closer to a deal that protects people and the planet and catalyses sustainable green growth.  We must maintain this momentum in the crucial weeks leading up to Copenhagen.

Thank you very much.

Prime Minister Rasmussen:  Thank you, Secretary-General, for convening our meeting today.  It has been well conducted.  And with a successful outcome.  Your personal leadership is highly appreciated.

COP-15 in Copenhagen is less than three months away –- and yet we are still far from a solution.  The deadlock in the [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)] negotiations needs to be broken.

Our meeting today has marked a very important step in the right direction.

Heads of State and Government have today committed to show bold leadership on climate change and to inject the needed political momentum to the negotiations.

We have sent a clear signal.  That Heads of State and Government from now on make it a priority to become actively involved and provide clear support and guidance to their negotiators.

And most important, Heads of State and Government have shown firm determination to seal a deal in Copenhagen in December.

So I am quite encouraged by our meeting today.  Heads of State and Government are engaged, have committed to show leadership and have confirmed that Copenhagen is our deadline.

Our success will depend critically on the continued engagement of Heads of States and Governments in the process up to and at COP-15.

With a strong, global agreement in sight, Denmark intents to invite all Heads of State and Government to come to Copenhagen and close COP-15 at the summit level.

So what will the Copenhagen agreement look like?

Today I have spelled out my vision for a global agreement in Copenhagen.

It should be ambitious.  It should be binding.  It should correspond to the 2 degrees scenario.  And it should constitute the overall political framework for future global efforts against climate change -- based on the following five key elements:

First, developed countries must take the lead by committing to ambitious mid-term reduction targets.

Second, developing countries must commit to undertake concrete domestic actions that reduce their growth of emissions.

The combination of these two elements will approximately deliver half of the reductions needed to accommodate the 2° Celsius target.

Consequently we need a third element, which is finance mitigation and adaptation.

We need to provide the other half of the reductions through developed countries financing of developing countries additional emission reductions.

And we clearly need to address the issue of adaptation.  We need to provide financial support beyond existing [official development assistance (ODA)] to countries incapable of handling their adaptation challenges. 

Supplementary -– as the fourth element -– we need to create financial flows through the carbon market.

And finally -– the fifth element -– we need to ensure the credibility of the agreement through a transparent system for measurement, reporting and verification.

This is basically what we need to obtain in Copenhagen.

It is not as simple as it sounds -- but it is indeed achievable.

And after today’s meeting I am very encouraged that we will get there -- and seal the deal in Copenhagen on the 18th of December.  Thank you.

Question:  [inaudible]

Secretary-General:  I think today was the success we needed to propel us forward.  You have seen many important countries, particularly Japan for the first time, the Japanese new Prime Minister has committed to cut emissions by 25 per cent below the level of 1990 by 2020.  The European Union again reaffirmed their commitment to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.  But they expressed their willingness even to increase to 30 per cent –- this is quite significant.  China has expressed willingness and there are many important countries, like India, who have been taking quite reluctant position and they have come forward.  This is significant.  As I said, this is a new fresh dynamic which we must seize.  I sincerely hope that we can seize this momentum leading up to Copenhagen.

Many developing countries also expressed their determined political will, that with financial and technological support they will take domestic measures.

Prime Minister Rasmussen:  Well, I can’t add much to that, because I totally agree with what the Secretary-General just said.  But I shall add just one thing.  It is the feeling I got when I participated in these round table discussions where everybody commit themselves to Copenhagen as a deadline.  So in addition to what Ban Ki-moon just said about Japan, China, India showing real progress, I would like to add this feeling of political momentum which was very strong in the meeting room today.

Question: You mentioned the importance of [inaudible] at the highest level today.  How much was there in the session for the idea put forward by [inaudible] Mr. Sarkozy about having a summit of leaders in November?  Do you think that will happen in time [inaudible] Gordon Brown; any other leaders, did they sign up today?

Prime Minister Rasmussen:  First of all I must say that I am very encouraged by the fact that Gordon Brown has decided to participate in Copenhagen and I hope it will send a strong signal to many political leaders.  I know for sure that many are already taking into consideration to participate in Copenhagen.  We haven’t discussed the Sarkozy proposal in details, but what he actually proposed is that we perhaps in the [inaudible] process where we already have had one summit meeting in August could have another one before Copenhagen and I mean, I am open to that suggestion if it contributes to a solution in Copenhagen, it’s a good idea.

Generally speaking, I must say that in, for instance, the round table discussion I participated in, it was a very strong signal that Heads of State have decided to engage themselves in this.  It is obvious that this issue is so complex that it can’t be solved by environmental ministers alone, or ministers for finance for that sake.  In order to close an ambitious agreement we need strong personal involvement from Heads of State.

Question:  Thank you.  Mr. Secretary-General, in your last press conference, you told us that China and the United States will be the two key countries who can make an impact in the negotiations.  Given the much warmer reception of [Japanese] Prime Minister [Yukio] Hatoyama’s speech today compared to that of [United States] President [Barack] Obama’s, can Japan’s impact on the negotiation equal that of the United States and China, and given the vague commitments that are coming from the United States, can you achieve the same deal that you wanted to seal in Copenhagen?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Of course, you sense that Member States have given quite an enthusiastic support when Prime Minister Hatoyama announced the new policy.  The previous Administration’s policy was 8 per cent cut.  Now it is quantum jump to 25 per cent.  Therefore, I think the Japanese Government’s ambitious target will change the dynamics among developed countries.

I think President Obama’s remarks represent a whole new approach to the problem of climate change by the United States. I think this will lead to a very constructive approach.  The United States, like many other countries, faces some vigorous, domestic challenges and debate on this issue as you may understand.  But I think that the President and many in the United States know that a deal is in their best interest and the world’s best interest too.

Then in the case of China, China is now the largest producer of renewable energy in the world.  I think that anyone who still doubts their sincerity on climate change needs to take another look.  China recognizes the impact that climate change is having and will have, and understands that they must act.  When I visited China, my meetings with the Chinese leadership were focused only on climate change.  The leadership of China has pledged to me that they will do all to make this Copenhagen deal a success.  Therefore, it would be very important that countries like China, India and the United States take ambitious targets as well as a practical approach.

India also has said that it wants a deal in Copenhagen.  It has announced significant goals for growth and for emissions reductions by 2020.  The Indian Environment Minister [Jairam] Ramesh has announced that, while India’s per capita carbon emissions is much lower than in developed countries, they will even look at per capita carbon emission positive plus.  These are new changes.  Therefore, I am optimistic that we can achieve a deal in Copenhagen.  But it will not be easy.  It involves an incredibly complex and difficult negotiating process.  But with the political will leaders demonstrated today, I hope that they have instructed their negotiators with clear guidance and directions.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General.  After hearing the leaders today, in what areas of negotiations prior to Copenhagen do you think the commitments are weaker?  Adaptation or transfer of technology, probably?

Secretary-General:  As Prime Minister Rasmussen has said, and I said in my summary, there are four or five areas largely; there’s adaptation, finance, technology, mitigation, good governance and shared visions.  First, there should be ambitious targets by industrialized countries.  But in a sense, a more important element would be financial and technological support for the developing countries, who would have no capacity to mitigate and adapt.  Therefore, providing substantial amounts and scaled-up development to developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable countries, would be key to making Copenhagen a success.  Thank you very much.

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