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The Second Committee of the UN General Assembly at its 65th session

New York, 1 November 2010


Statement by Christiana Figueres, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change



Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,


This being my first opportunity to report to the second committee, I very much regret not being in New York to do so personally. I thank you for your flexibility in enabling me to address you from Bonn via live video link. In fact, my good colleague Luc Gnacadja will also be conscious of his greenhouse gas emissions and address you via this video link.


The progress report that you have before you provides an overview of the outcomes of the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 7-19 December. It includes outcomes of the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP15) and the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP5). Furthermore, it includes updates on the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), as well as the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP).


Copenhagen reflected that climate change has become an issue at the highest political level. More than 100 Heads of State or Government attended the conference and showed an unprecedented political determination to combat climate change.


Nonetheless, Copenhagen concluded with an outcome that responded only partially to the high expectations for the conference. It clearly showed that a “silver bullet” solution to climate change is not an option. Instead, progress has to be made one step at a time.


The outcome of the conference in Copenhagen was an important milestone along the path of building effective climate change action.


It may not have been evident to everyone, but the fact is that Copenhagen significantly advanced the negotiations on the infrastructure needed for well-functioning, global climate change cooperation, including improvements to the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.


Negotiations almost reached agreement on a package on adaptation, a new technology mechanism, a capacity-building framework and a governance structure for finance.


Going forward, the conclusion of negotiations on these issues can now put in place an operational architecture for long-term global cooperation on climate change.


The conference also produced the Copenhagen Accord. While the Accord was merely noted by the conference, it does represent a letter of political intent to constrain carbon and respond to climate change, both in the short and in the long term.


The Accord includes a temperature limit of below 2 degrees Celsius and a provision to review this by 2015 in light of the Convention’s ultimate objective of preventing dangerous interference with the climate system.


It also includes a commitment by developed countries to provide short-term finance of USD 30 billion, with a balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation for developing countries up to 2012. To date, developed countries have announced pledges totaling USD 28 billion and many of them are now making information available on the disbursement of these funds, which is very encouraging. Developed countries must fulfill this pledge in a transparent and timely manner.


In terms of long-term finance, developed countries committed to mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020. To this end, the Secretary-General set up a high- level advisory panel tasked with identifying ways to mobilize these funds - the panel will present its report to the Secretary-General this week.


Finally, the Copenhagen Accord invited Parties to submit information on their mitigation intentions. All developed countries have submitted their targets for emission reductions by 2020. 43 Developing countries have communicated information on the mitigation actions they plan.


In preparation for the next United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico from 29 November to 10 December, work in 2010 has progressed.


The Ad Hoc Working Groups have held four formal negotiating sessions this year and have taken work forward. Under the Convention, the AWG-LCA made important progress by integrating the outcomes of Copenhagen into a Party-driven text for negotiations. Progress was also made under the Kyoto Protocol by the AWG-KP, where a comprehensive text to facilitate the preparations for negotiations has now been accepted as the basis for further work.


Parties are in broad convergence that a politically balanced package of decisions, carefully poised between and within both negotiating tracks, could be an achievable outcome in Cancun.


At the last negotiating session held in Tianjin, China, in October, Parties moved forward on which issues could be included in such a politically balanced package. This includes items that would operationalize important action on climate change in the areas of adaptation, technology cooperation, capacity-building and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. It also includes the establishment of a climate change fund to house long-term climate finance.


While this is encouraging, a number of politically charged issues also need to be part of the package to achieve the necessary balance. They include:


  1. The question of how the mitigation targets and actions can be formally advanced in the process. Formalizing mitigation targets for developed countries could then also help advance the negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol.
  2. Accountability and transparency provisions for the implementation of targets and actions;
  3. The accountable provision of predictable and sufficient long-term finance;
  4. And, lastly, the impacts of response measures need to be addressed in a satisfactory way.


Notwithstanding these critical issues, there is a strong sense that Cancun can achieve a meaningful outcome.


Cancun needs to achieve a meaningful outcome to restore the credibility of the climate change process and, more broadly, to restore the faith in multilateralism. Encouragingly, in Tianjin, Parties gave a strong sense that they are committed to making Cancun a success.


But that will only be possible if developed country Parties show bold leadership and all countries show a willingness for compromise and flexibility.


Cancun can be an important step forward, but it is only a step. The intergovernmental negotiations to address climate change must and will continue to make progress. This means that work will continue in 2011 and beyond and that the process will need your continued support.


In closing, I would like to encourage you to take work related to climate change forward in the General Assembly, and to support implementation by helping to make the necessary linkages to other important issues on your agenda. This will ensure an integrated and effective response to climate change.


This video link offers us the opportunity of live interaction and I am therefore happy to answer any questions you may have.


Thank you


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