TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Feb08/03)

14 February 2008

Please find below an article on the 2nd day of the UN General Assembly thematic debate on climate change.

Best regards
Martin Khor

G77-China wary of starting new climate process in UN General Assembly
Published in SUNS #6414 dated 14 February 2008

New York, 13 Feb (Meena Raman) -- Should the UN General Assembly have a role in setting policy and operational directions on climate change, or should its role remain as a forum for discussion, leaving it to other UN agencies to play their roles?

This issue was being discussed quietly in the corridors at the second day of the General Assembly thematic debate on "addressing climate change: the UN and the world at work." While the first day (Monday) comprised discussions around two panel sessions, the second day (Tuesday) saw Ministers and diplomats from member states making statements at the GA hall.

The GA President, Macedonia's Ambassador Srgjan Kerim, in his opening remarks, seemed to indicate that the UN member states, presumably through the GA, should play an upgraded and strategic role in getting the UN to move forward on the climate issue.

However, the G77 and China was wary of this move, as it saw this as opening the door for a new climate process that may then input into other on-going processes especially in UN reform, such as UN system-wide coherence and international environment governance.

According to some G77 members, they are also concerned that there are already complex and delicate processes taking place, particularly in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). To initiate another climate-related process in the GA framework may complicate the situation, said these members.

In its statement, the G77 and China said the UNFCCC should remain the primary comprehensive framework for addressing climate change, and there should not be parallel process of debates that would detract from its negotiation process. The thematic debate should not try to influence other on-going UN processes.

The tension between the apparent ambition of the GA President to upgrade the GA's role, and the cautious response of the G77 and China could be sensed from their respective statements as the debate began on Tuesday morning.

The day's proceedings also saw interesting statements from some of the major countries and groupings involved in the climate negotiations, including the G77 and China, the EU, the Africa, Arab and Pacific groups, the LDCs, the alliance of small island states, and the US, China and Brazil. The session will be extended to a third day due to the long list of speakers.

In his opening remarks, the GA President, Srgjan Kerim, said "what we need now is a clear strategic vision from Member States so that all parts of the UN system can focus their efforts."

He said that leaders from the UN system have asked for "clear political backing" from member states so they can implement changes necessary so that the UN can deliver as one. He added that "many member states" expressed the desire to set out the general principles of a policy framework for UN activities on climate change.

To do so there are "pertinent questions" to consider, he said. What strategic goals should the UN adopt to prepare for the post-Kyoto regime in 2012? What financial architecture is needed to best channel funds to these priorities? How can we mainstream climate change into the development agenda? How can we achieve better coherence within the system?

[In referring to the "post-Kyoto regime in 2012", the President was pre-judging that the Kyoto Protocol will come to an end in 2012. In fact, only the first period of commitment by developed countries in Annex I is ending in 2012, and negotiations are taking place within the Protocol for a second commitment period starting in 2013.]

Speaking for the G77 and China, its Chair, Ambassador John Ashe from Antigua and Barbuda, in response said that the member states had requested the UN for a comprehensive report on providing an overview of the activities of the UN system in relation to climate change.

"Based on this mandate, the G77 and China anticipated a factual report that takes stock of current UN system activities in this regard. As such, there is no mandate with regard to an indication of the way forward', and coordination of the UN system action on climate change'". [He was referring to sections of the UN Secretary General's report on the UN's activities on climate change.]

Added Ambassador Ashe: "This remains the purview of the member states to decide on. Work on coordination mechanisms, and structures or frameworks, including clusters of activity or lead agencies must be subject of intergovernmental consideration and decision prior to implementation."

The G77 and China stressed that the UN system entities should assist in the effective implementation of the provisions, commitments and action plans of the UNFCCC. "Coordination of UN system activities to enhance its role in meeting the challenge of climate change requires inter-governmental consideration, agreement and oversight of member states".

The G77 recognized the primacy of the UN in directing and supporting global efforts to meet the global challenge of climate change in supporting its Framework Convention on Climate Change. "The General Assembly, given its universality, should unequivocally urge Parties to undertake urgent action now to meet their commitments under the Convention, provide clear policy direction in this regard and to support the Bali Plan of Action", said Ashe.

"The road to Copenhagen, where concluding talks on the current process on the Bali roadmap will be held in 2009, will be a difficult one, particularly for developing countries and the poorest and most vulnerable. Leadership will therefore be critical if our response is to reflect the scale of the challenge.

"We need effective and comprehensive global response, within the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, to cover adaptation, technology transfer and financing, as well as mitigation. Without rapid and tangible efforts by developed countries in this regard, climate change will lead to increased poverty and will negate our efforts at achieving sustainable development," he added.

The G77 reiterated that the UNFCCC is and should remain the primary comprehensive framework for addressing climate change. "There should not be parallel process of debates that would detract from the negotiation process under the Convention... This thematic debate, as well as the Secretary General's report on the Overview of UN activities in relation to Climate Change should not attempt to influence any other processes such as the system- wide coherence debate or the discussions on international environmental governance."

The G77 and China said urgent action is needed now to fully implement the commitments under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, especially those on financing for adaptation, technology transfer and capacity building.

The G77 stressed that developed countries must take the lead in addressing the implementation gap, since the extent to which developing countries can effectively respond to the challenge depends on the effective implementation by developed countries of their commitments related to financing and technology transfer.

"Appropriate mitigation actions will have to be enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building that are commensurate with the magnitude of the tasks ahead of us, that is in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner, as agreed in the Bali Action Plan.

"The provision of financial resources is a binding commitment of developed country parties. Clear guidance should be given to facilitate access to financial resources and investments without conditionalities.

"It is essential that such financial resources not be considered as ODA but additional, and in compliance with existing binding commitments under the Convention. Further, financing for adaptation to climate change and the impact of response measures should not be a reallocation or realignment of existing development financing."

On technology, the G77 said that developing countries should be provided with greater access to cost-effective, efficient and affordable advanced clean technologies, "Efforts in this regard need to be scaled up. Furthermore, the UN can play an important role through the promotion of an intellectual property rights regime that facilitates the transfer of such technologies".

The G77 also called for increased support for capacity building in developing countries to enhance national efforts to promote an integrated approach to climate change response measures and sustainable development planning.

Slovenia's Environment Minister, Mr. Janez Podobnik, speaking for the European Union, said that if the attempts to reach a global post-2012 agreement on climate change are to bring results, the process leading to such an agreement as well as its scope has to be "all encompassing."

He said that "Unequivocal scientific evidence, the increasing impact of climate events and the resulting increased public attention have elevated climate change high up the political agenda. The international community needs to respond to this challenge. The UN provides the appropriate multilateral framework to deal with the issue and the UNFCCC is the only forum where global decisions about future actions can be agreed to.

"The time has come for the UN to strengthen its response to climate change and speaks with a united voice. The UN system must be capable of working together to support international efforts to address the negative impacts of climate change: through the UNFCCC as the appropriate multilateral framework for the negotiation; through the work of the agencies, funds and programmes who are best placed to provide an integrated response to the complementary challenges of promoting sustainable development, achieving the MDGs and tackling the impacts of climate change; through the voice of the S-G.

"It is in this light that the EU fully supports the efforts under the leadership of the SG and carried out by the Chief Executives Board to achieve a coordinated UN approach to climate change."

"Implementing a post 2012 climate change framework will present fundamental challenges to the global community and calls for a strengthened international environmental governance," stressed the EU.

Algeria, speaking for the Arab Group, said that international action and cooperation must give special attention to supporting the developing countries most vulnerable to climate change, and take into account the interests of developing countries that produce fossil fuels, including oil, whose economies will be adversely affected by the responding measures to climate change, as well as the interests of the developing countries whose economies will be affected adversely by measures and procedures on the exploitation of forests.

It also called for the development and transfer of clean technologies to developing countries, including technologies of clean fuel production, and the technologies of carbon dioxide capture and storage and the development of the projects of the clean development mechanism and the establishment of research and study centres for climate changes in developing counties.

Barbados, speaking for the Caribbean Community, said that the inadequacy of financing for adaptation activities in the developing countries is a major failing of the entire international system. Citing the 2007 UNDP Human Development Report which estimates that new additional adaptation finance of at least $86 billion a year will be required by 2015 to meet the most basic and pressing adaptation needs of developing countries, it said that this figure represents a mere one tenth of what developed countries currently mobilize for military expenditure.

Bangladesh, speaking for the LDCs, said that the Bali Action Plan has heightened our hope for a comprehensive global agreement by 2009. The most important issue for all of us to agree on is the stabilization target within the framework of the Bali Action Plan.

It said that the LDCs would raise their voice for the stabilisation scenario, where we have to reduce our emissions by 50% compared to our present emissions by 2050. Failing to achieve this target would mean unbearable consequences for the developing countries especially the most vulnerable LDCs.

Tonga, speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum of Small Island Developing States, said that the Bali roadmap concluded that any new climate change regime would need to include reduced emissions from deforestation in developing countries. "However, there is a need to develop appropriate monitoring guidelines as well as capacity at the local level to reduce deforestation."

Cameroon, speaking for the Africa Group, stressed the need to enhance the funding for adaptation. It said that the Adaptation Fund needs to be funded adequately and that there also be equitable distribution of clean development mechanism projects. It said that CDMs have a potential role especially in sub-Saharan Africa in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Brazil said that ethanol production from sugarcane reduces greenhouse gas emissions and does not affect the production of staple food and is socially sustainable. "Despite this untapped potential, developed countries have placed all sorts of barriers to bio-fuels from developing countries while spending billions of euros and dollars in subsidies for inefficient produces. Such measures distort markets, raise energy prices, spread poverty, endanger food security and are inconsistent with climate concerns."

Brazil also stressed that when discussing the future action, "We are not looking for a new post 2012 regime nor is there a Kyoto Protocol expiration date. The successful outcome of COP-13 with the approval of the Bali Action Plan reiterated the validity and importance of the current climate change instruments and multilateral regime."

Brazil also added that we must act decisively to promote, facilitate and finance the transfer of and access to environmentally-sound technologies and know-how, particularly from developed to developing countries, for both adaptation and mitigation. "Innovative mechanisms for removal of barriers to transfer and diffusion of these technologies to developing countries, including new and additional financing, are fundamental issues that should be discussed and agreed upon under the Bali Action Plan."

China (represented by Ambassador Yu Qingtai, special representative for climate change talks) said that the conference in Bali contributed to the acceleration of the negotiating process by confirming the twin-track negotiating process involving the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, and a clear-cut pronouncement on the mechanism and the time-table for the process.

"The Bali conference also reaffirmed the Convention and the Protocol as the main channel for international response on climate change and reiterated the fundamental principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, thereby safeguarding the very foundation for international cooperation in this regard."

As regards the post-2012 international cooperation, China emphasized 3 points:

-- The principles established by the Convention and the Protocol and the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" as constituting the essential foundation for international cooperation; and any framework must be firmly based on them.

-- The four building blocks (mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance) are all important components in developing an effective framework and should be given equal attention;

-- An effective response to climate change requires broad participation of the international community. The effectiveness of participation by developing countries will, to a significant extent, depend on whether the developed countries will take substantive actions on financial and technological assistance. "Effective mechanisms should be set up as soon as possible, to ensure that measurable, reportable and verifiable assistance be provided to the developing countries with regard to financial resources, technology and capacity building to facilitate their achievement of sustainable development," it said.

Egypt in addressing international cooperation said that the UN stood idle in relation to mechanisms in the areas of finance and technology transfer, which it said remained in the hands of the private sector or in fora not bound by the UN resolutions, foremost being the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility and the Adaptation Fund established under the UNFCCC. It said that this situation does not allow the UN system to play an effective role as long as this situation remains.

Malaysia said six steps have to be taken, including removal of obstacles to technology transfer, and increasing funding of various types to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation actions. The climate challenge can be met only if it is seen as an issue of development, rather than its own. Economic growth must take place alongside environmental objective of reducing greenhouse gases and social objective of employment creation.

Malaysia stressed that technology transfer is closely tied to the private sector's role and IPRs. "Unless some relaxation of IPRs is allowed, such transfer may prove to be impossible because of the high costs involved. The UN system should explore the use of partnerships to make such transfers possible."

As new capital assets will triple between 2000 and 2030, the UN should make efforts to direct investment and financial flows towards technology that is more environmentally friendly to ensure that countries do not get locked into unclean technology in the decades to come.

The Netherlands Minister of Environment Mrs J. Cramer stressed the role of the private sector which will provide the bulk of financial flows to scale up climate friendly investments. Governments should create a favourable investment climate and provide the right incentives. She called for engagement of the private sector in formulating a post-2012 arrangement. +