TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Feb08/04)

20 February 2008

Please see below a report of Day 3 of the UN General Assembly thematic debate on climate change.  It was published in the TWN's South North Development Monitor (SUNS) on 15 Feb.

Reports of the previous two days were sent earlier.

Best wishes
Martin Khor

North-South differences in UN General Assembly climate debate
Published in SUNS #6415 dated 15 February 2008
By Meena Raman, New York, 14 Feb 2008

Differences of views emerged between developed and developing countries over the "Bali Roadmap" (the follow up to the Bali climate conference last December), especially on what should be the future of a "post 2012 regime", on the third day (Wednesday) of the General Assembly thematic debate on addressing climate change.

Diplomats from member states who had not addressed the Assembly on Tuesday took to the floor of the GA hall to make their statements.

Some developed countries referred to a "post-Kyoto regime" or to a "successor to the Kyoto Protocol after 2012", implying that the Kyoto Protocol is about to expire.

But in contrast, some developing countries reiterated that the Kyoto Protocol is not dead, nor would its life-span be over in 2012, and insisted that the industrialized countries (referred to as Annex 1 countries ) commit to targets for reducing greenhouse gases in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, beginning in 2013.

Some speakers also criticized the adaptation fund, whose structure was set up in Bali, for the way it taxed the developing countries (instead of developed countries) and for being grossly inadequate. Several developing countries called for re-examining or relaxing IPRs applied to climate-friendly technology.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines also raised the issue of developing countries having to shift to climate-friendly technologies while continuing to pay for infrastructure that is no longer viable, which were funded and designed by foreign funders. It is "illogical and immoral" that we continue to pay developed creditor states for these items, it said.

Saudi Arabia said that in Bali, an important agreement was reached and that agreement did not by anyway imply that the Kyoto Protocol was dead or over, or that the Climate Change Convention is not good anymore.

"Actions to address climate change are lagging but that is not because there is a deficiency in the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol," said Saudi Arabia. "The deficiency has been in the implementation of the commitments under these agreements. In Bali, we have reached an agreement on a detailed timetable for the remaining work of the Adhoc Working Group under the Kyoto Protocol, which will agree on new ambitious targets for industrial countries, targets for the Kyoto second commitment period, targets that hopefully will be met this time."

Saudi Arabia added that in Bali, agreement was also reached "to launch a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2012".

"It is not an agreement to replace or supersede the convention or any of its principles. We have agreed to step up the contributions from developing countries, with actions in the context of sustainable development. Actions that are measurable, reportable and verifiable; with the condition that these actions are supported and enabled by measurable, reportable and verifiable technology, financing and capacity building.

"It is not like developing countries were incapable of taking these actions without the Bali agreement or any other agreement to follow; the problem is that the tools to enable them to take these actions were never made available. This is the real challenge. This is the core of the climate challenge and it has always been.

"Our success through this year and next year will not be just in finding some consensus language and text that we can all agree to. Our success will be in making breakthroughs in unlocking the toolbox, and in availing the required financing and technology that can really make a difference," stressed Saudi Arabia.

Earlier, the representative from Russia said that following the adoption of the Bali Action Plan, in 2008 and 2009, "... comprehensive negotiations are to be held within the framework of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to agree on the international regime of post-2012 (post Kyoto) climate cooperation."

Russia added that it is also of fundamental importance that the Bali meeting reaffirmed the priority of the UNFCCC as a universal mechanism for attaining the ultimate goal of stabilizing greenhouse gases at a level safe for humanity and the biosphere.

"We view as reasonable the attempt to organize future climate work in the UN system on the basis of the UNFCCC's strategic areas (adaptation, mitigation, technology and finance), including in particular sectors (energy, transport, health etc.)," said Russia.

Malta explicitly referred to "the successor to the Kyoto Protocol", and called for action by all countries in combating climate change following the Bali outcomes.

Germany said that Bali launched a negotiating process to be completed by 2009 with a new global and comprehensive post 2012 agreement. "We, the industrialized countries, have to remain the driving force. This is a question of fairness and of credibility. We have to reduce our GHG emissions between 25% and 40% (compared to 1990 levels).

"The EU is willing to reduce GHG emissions by 30% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels) in the framework of an international agreement. We will in this case even commit to a 40% reduction. A climate-friendly restructuring of our economies is both possible and affordable. Ambitious climate policy does not constitute an obstacle to economic and sustainable growth. On the contrary, climate protection makes sound economic sense. It is a driving force for innovation and employment."

Japan said that it will make every possible effort to ensure that the Bali Roadmap produces the most effective framework by the time of COP 15 in Copenhagen. It said that along with other major emitters, Japan will set a quantified national target for greenhouse gas emission reductions. "In order to realize a drastic reduction in such gases worldwide, it is imperative that there be equity in the shouldering of this obligation," Japan said, adding that it was willing to share its experience by transferring high-quality environmental technology to other countries.

The United States spoke on Tuesday and said that it supported the outcomes of Bali and that a global solution requires that all countries collaborate. It referred to the meeting of the major emitters last month which it said supports the UNFCCC process.

India said that despite the comprehensive nature of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), background documents for this thematic debate have erroneously referred to "framework/comprehensive global agreement" while referring to the agreed outcome of the Bali Action Plan. (India was referring to the UN Secretary General's report on the activities of UN agencies on climate change).

"Other mechanisms of the UNFCCC, like the negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol for GHG reduction commitments for Annex 1 parties post-2012 have also been ignored," added India. "The issues of technology and financing are vital for effectively addressing climate change. We would have liked to see a detailed coverage of these issues in the background documents provided for in this debate.

"Current mechanisms to promote cost-effective and affordable access to advanced clean technologies for developing countries have not been very successful. The UN must play a leading role in this area by promoting joint research; country-driven approaches incorporating existing capacities; adoption and diffusion of technology; greater focus on adaptation technologies; and most important of all, a facilitative IPR regime that balances rewards for innovators with the common good of humankind.

"The issue may be difficult: the UN must grasp the nettle and not bypass it in background documents. Similarly, there is urgent need to provide new and additional financial resources to developing countries for addressing climate change, without diverting resources meant for development.

"The role of the UN cannot merely be limited to assisting developing countries in formulating policies to enhance climate change-related investment flows. It would be myopic to believe that such national efforts would be sufficient to raise the large resource flows required.

"Instead, the UN must assist in the development of financial mechanisms and funds for effective resource flows into developing countries. On mitigation, rather than identifying mitigation strategies by developing countries, the UN should focus on how developed countries can sharply reduce their GHG emissions.

"In this regard, the UN should play an active role in advocacy by urging developed countries to meet their commitments, and to take further ambitious GHG reduction commitments. The UN should also identify various ways and means by which developed countries can take action in mitigation. The developed countries must reduce their emissions so that the developing countries can breathe and grow," said India.

India added that climate change must be addressed in the context of sustainable development, rather than attempting to integrate it with trade, social, economic, security, migration or humanitarian issues.

"We would also caution against using discussions on climate change to influence other ongoing processes like the system-wide coherence or the International Environmental Governance. While the UN Chief Executives Board can play a role in coordinating UN system efforts, we would like to see much greater member state oversight," said India.

Pakistan (which had been the Chair of the G77 and China during the Bali conference) said that the Bali Action Plan promotes an integrated and coordinated approach to address climate change in a manner that ensures the sustainable development and sustained economic growth of the developing countries.

"The UN had made an important contribution by building up the political momentum for the successful conclusion of the Bali conference," said Pakistan. "It should play a similar catalytic role to address all three pillars of sustainable development.

"One important area where the UN can and must make an important contribution, as part of an integrated approach to sustainable development, is the implementation of the commitments already made to address the challenge of climate change including in the four areas of mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance.

"The UN through the GA and ECOSOC can devise new mechanisms or use the existing ones to effectively monitor the implementation of internationally agreed goals including MDGs and those commitments under the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol."

While saying the Secretary-General's report has made a number of interesting suggestions to enhance the capacity of the UN system to assist countries in meeting the climate change challenge, Pakistan asked where the resources needed to undertake those steps will come from.

"We must ensure that the existing resources are not diverted and that adequate provision for additional resources is made to allow the UN system agencies to take on the climate change responsibilities as mandated by intergovernmental decisions."

Papua New Guinea (PNG) said that in looking forward from Bali, the next two years will become increasingly complex as we struggle to define "common but differentiated responsibilities" and the steps all nations must undertake to deal with climate change.

"If we are to succeed, we must acknowledge that primary responsibility for global warming and its consequences today falls primarily upon industrialized nations, including the resulting mitigation and adaptation challenges all of humanity must now face," stressed Papua New Guinea. "We are very concerned by the hubris of certain industrialized nations who promote emissions reductions in certain developing countries as a precondition for taking responsibility for carbon emissions at home.

"We seek leadership by example. We say, please show us how deeply emissions can be cut in all industrialized countries, rather than simply pointing fingers at the poor in developing countries. Therefore, all industrialized nations must demonstrate leadership by reducing carbon emissions within their own borders through deep and hard targets. This concept has to be the bedrock for any future international agreements on climate change."

In response to addressing the deforestation problem, PNG said that if deforestation causes 20% of global emissions, then we must allocate 20% of available resources to address this important source of GHG emissions. "The current UNFCCC mechanism to fund adaptation within developing countries is frankly unethical," said PNG.

"How can we justify taxing developing countries through a 2% levy on CDM trades only, for adaptation costs that are no fault of their own? In any enlightened society, those primarily responsible for the damage must pay for corrective action," asked PNG.

It said that adaptation taxes should be levied against carbon trading of Annex 1 countries and not be deducted from the fractional revenues derived by developing countries from the CDM. It said that the current structure is "untenable and unconscionable."

St. Vincent and the Grenadines said that "if climate change is indeed the defining human development challenge of the 21st century as stated in Bali, we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that this challenge can be addressed on the cheap."

The Adaptation Fund, it said, was undercapitalized and will be unable to cope with even modest adaptation needs unless it is buttressed by substantial voluntary contributions from developed countries.

"Additionally, it is necessary to fundamentally review the debt obligations of developing countries through the prism of climate change. Many of us are still paying for infrastructural investments that are no longer viable, or whose effective lifespan will be severely curtailed by climate change. Many of us have to borrow more to retrofit previous investments, which are often funded and designed and built by foreign lenders.

"It is illogical and immoral that we continue to pay developed creditor states for items whose very use is compromised by their actions. The gravity of the climate challenge also forces us to abandon longstanding proprietary paradigms of technological exclusivity. The world cannot sacrifice its collective climate security on the altar of private profit or outmoded concepts of intellectual property.

"The developed world and the scientific community must find ways to quickly and freely place emerging green technologies and capabilities into the hands of those who need them most urgently. Measurable, reportable and verifiable cooperation in the fields of technology, capacity building and financing are not charity. They are shrewd investments against future global catastrophes.

"Further, the profound developmental implications of climate change must necessarily trigger a fundamental reexamination of the international community's approach to developmental assistance. Development commitments made in the past - before the impact of climate change was fully understood - must now be reconsidered.

"And those of us in the developing world must clearly consider the developmental impact of not only climate change, but also the measures being employed to address it. For example, the rush to biofuel production will barely dent the developed world's appetite for fossil fuels, but has already made the basic foodstuffs noticeably more expensive in many developing states. We cannot allow ourselves to be negatively affected by both climate change and its proposed solutions," it stressed.

Singapore said that the post 2012 framework should take into account the differences in national circumstances and specific constraints that countries may face. It said that the post-2012 framework cannot adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. The framework should take into account the need for continued development and economic growth.

"Many governments are faced with immediate priorities like improving living standards. They need economic growth, resources and energy, in particularly fossil fuels, to achieve these goals. It will be difficult for them to accept a framework that impedes their development. But this does not mean that addressing climate change and economic growth are mutually exclusive." +