Press statement by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres at Pre-COP 17 media workshop in Pretoria

By | 27 October 2011

Thank you very much for allowing me to speak at this important event.

Many thanks to South African Government represented by our wonderful Ambassador Diseko and to the UN Information Centre in Pretoria for organizing this media workshop that we always have before COP. It’s absolutely critical to ensure the media has all the details to do responsible reporting on climate change. Thanks also to UNEP, UNDP, UNITAR and the World Bank for providing their valuable inputs, and in particular to UNITAR for sponsoring participants from 10 different African countries.

And more than anything, thanks to the journalists for taking time to deepen their understanding of these issues. The issues are very complex, otherwise we would have solved the problem of climate change already.

This year’s UN Climate Change Conference will take place on African soil, and that is highly significant to us here at the UN. As one of the most vulnerable regions in the context of climate change, the African continent has much to win from strong action on climate change, and so much to lose if action is not taken. That primarily relates to better supported, strengthened and coordinated adaptation action, which will be so desperately needed as climate change effects such as droughts and floods increase even further than where they are now. Yet it also relates to mitigation. Of course the overwhelming majority of African countries hardly contribute any emissions – from a global perspective and there is no requirement on African countries to reduce emissions. However, African countries suffer from energy insufficiency – although to varying degrees. Attracting clean non-fossil based energy technologies will significantly benefit African economies not only in the present, but also well into the future. The benefits for African countries range from improving access to energy to those currently unelectrified, to the reliable generation of energy to power economic growth by being connected to the grid. A strong outcome in Durban can help with this.

In my view, the Durban climate change conference has two central set of tasks to achieve. It is helpful to view them as belonging to two baskets, but they are interlinked.

The first set of tasks relates to completing what was agreed last year at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico.

In Mexico, governments decided the most comprehensive package ever to help developing countries adapt to climate change and to limit the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions.

This package of support for developing countries includes agreement on a Technology Mechanism to promote climate-friendly and adaptation-related technologies, an Adaptation Framework to coordinate international cooperation on adapting to climate change and a Green Climate Fund to help financially support adaptation and mitigation.

The Technology Mechanism and the Adaptation Committee can be completed in Durban so that they can begin benefitting people in 2012. This is of particular importance to Africa, as these two institutions can help African countries strengthen their planning and response to climate change impacts, as well as help to attract clean technologies to the African continent.

And in Durban, the first phase of the design of the Green Climate Fund can be approved, which will be a major step on the road towards better supported climate action.  It will then likely go into a second more in-depth phase next year.

In Durban, governments also need to provide clarity on short-term climate finance, as well as on how they will ramp up funding towards the100 billion USD of long-term climate finance they have already agreed to provide by 2020.

This in a nutshell is the package of issues that we have from Cancun. They have all received attention and progressed and will be ready for adoption in Durban.

The second set of tasks relates to how governments will work together to achieve their common goal of limiting the global temperature rise to a level which will prevent the worst ravages of climate change.

This means, as a central task for Durban, answering the very important question of the future of the Kyoto Protocol – a central concern to many African countries. At the same time, governments in Durban will also need to agree on how they want to pursue a broader mitigation framework under the Climate Change Convention.

As part of the second set of tasks,  governments will also need to decide how they will go about reviewing the adequacy of efforts that are on the table, as well as, the adequacy of the agreed below 2 degrees Celsius temperature goal by 2015, in the light of the best available science.

The reviewed process will start in 2013, for which the guidelines will be set up next year, to be finalised by 2015.

Finally, Durban will be a place where business leaders will gather to discuss the role of the private sector in allowing the world to stay on climate-safe path, and how businesses can work together with governments to achieve this goal.

Governments, without any doubts, are at the steering wheel of response to climate change. But in many instances, the private sector is the motor that drives action forward.

In this context, the Secretariat is looking forward to show-casing examples of visionary private-public partnership projects in Durban that show how momentum for change is already building, and how these partnerships benefit Africa in general and the urban poor in Africa.

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