UN Summit on Climate Change Discusses Measures to Help the Most Vulnerable and Emission Reduction Targets
22 September 2009: The UN Summit on Climate Change convened in New York, US, on 22 September 2009, bringing together approximately 100 Heads of State and government. At the close of the Summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced optimism that negotiations for a new climate agreement are on the “right track,” but also warned that momentum must be maintained to ensure success in Copenhagen.
In his opening remarks at the Summit, Ban stressed that failure to reach broad agreement in Copenhagen would be “morally inexcusable, economically short-sighted and politically unwise.” In a summary of the talks among world leaders, Ban noted that there was convergence on five key issues, including enhanced measures to help the most vulnerable and poorest adapt to the impact of climate change, as well as setting emission reduction targets for industrialized countries. Heads of State and government also agreed on the importance of developing countries taking mitigation actions with necessary support; scaling up financial and technical resources; and setting up an equitable governance structure.
During the day-long event, leaders acknowledged the “scientific imperative” to curb emissions by at least 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, with many referring to the importance of a 2-degree Celsius limit on global temperature rise. The event also featured eight interactive round table discussions that focused on transforming economies to enable sustainable, low-emissions growth. They consisted of 25 participants each and were co-chaired by 16 Heads of State from developed and developing countries.
THE outcome of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will give a glimpse of what will be in store for the upcoming Copenhagen deal in December.
But, the ongoing negotiations on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by climate officials from 192 countries before they meet in the Danish capital is itself not going on smoothly.
UNFCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer made it a point to attend the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions on Sept 10-12 in Dalian, Liaoning province, China, to impress on business and Chinese leaders the significance of sealing a deal on climate change.
The day before, the UN climate chief was in Japan to deliver a powerful speech at the Asahi World Environment Forum.
According to de Boer, the targets put forward by developed countries have not met the recommended range of between 25% and 40% reduction in greenhouse carbon emissions below 1990 levels.
The Japanese offered earlier this week to go from -8% to -20%, which nevertheless is significant, he said on the side lines of the Annual Meeting of the New Champions, otherwise known as the Summer Davos.
“We don’t have a final offer on the table yet from the US. Europe has indicated that it will do -20%, and might go to -30% if other countries make comparable efforts,” he added.
Negotiations are ongoing and would conclude in Copenhagen, but he would like to see the nett results end up within the range recommended in the Fourth Assessment Report on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
While the United States is feeling the pressure to show commitment after its failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (the predecessor international climate treaty that expires in 2012), developing nations such as China and India have offered no specific target, except pledges to develop new and renewable energy.
Since 2007, negotiations have been deadlocked due to disagreements over who should bear the brunt of responsibility for cutting carbon emission and who should pay for it.
Two more rounds of negotiations will take place in Bangkok (Sept 28-Oct 9) and Barcelona (Nov 2-6) in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks.
In view of the slow pace of negotiations, de Boer said it would be impossible to craft an international treaty comprehensive enough to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
“What Copenhagen has to achieve is basic political understanding on key cornerstones that will make it possible to then go on to draft a comprehensive agreement,” he explained.
“Among the cornerstones will be getting the commitment of the developed countries to lead the fight against climate change so that developing countries will follow suit, agreeing on stable financial support for developing nations to limit emission and coming up with a fund that does not reflect the post-war donor-recipient relationship.”
De Boer later joined in a CNBC debate, during which business leaders called for concrete results from the Copenhagen climate summit.
Panellist and Deutsche Bank Group vice-chairman Caio Koch-Weser said: “We need to see three things coming from Copenhagen or shortly after – a global cap-and-trade system that places demanding limits on carbon emissions by developed countries, low carbon growth in developing countries and an annual US$65bil to US$100bil (RM227.5bil to RM350bil) fund to help developing nations deal with climate change.”
SPX Corp chairman Christopher Kearney said two of the most promising ways the world can drive increased energy capacity while addressing climate change are increased investments in nuclear power and efficiency improvement in technology.
“Nuclear power is proven, safe and emits zero greenhouse gas while generating the kind of base load power advanced economies require,” he said.
“The Obama administration should expand its present US$18.5bil (RM64.75bil) loan guarantee programme for nuclear investments. China is rapidly building new nuclear capacity and the US, which has not built a new nuclear plant in 30 years, needs to do the same.”
The Climate Group Greater China director Wu Changhua said the private sector would be responsible for 85% of the investments in addressing climate change while all the governments could do was to give them the incentive to follow through.
“We should not have any problem with the technology to deal with climate change,” she told reporters after the debate.
“The key is how to manage the fund, which is to say how much money developed nations can put in to help the developing world reduce gas emissions.”
As for China’s role in Copenhagen, Wu said the nation was now less reliant on coal energy and had made tremendous developments in wind energy and geothermal heat pump technology, but the Chinese government should do more to develop nuclear energy.
Closing the Summer Davos, International Trade Union Confederation president Sharan Burrow said climate change solutions also meant an industrial revolution opportunity to improve employment rate around the world.
“This is an opportunity to grow jobs but it will require political will. There is a big deal in Copenhagen in terms of ambitious targets but, more importantly, climate financing that provides the necessary money for adaptation and mitigation for poorer countries,” she said.
“If we can provide India where 400 million people do not have electricity with a renewable energy option, think of the jobs we will create, and look at what we can do in Africa, Latin America and other places.”
Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen said politicians and climate change decision makers must deal with global warming issues with consumers in mind.
“Politicians see people as citizens or voters while business leaders see these same people as consumers. Their voice is going in a clear direction, that we need to end all bickering and get things done both in Copenhagen and Doha (where the World Trade Organisation’s global trade talks have started but are yet to conclude),” he said.