I had both failure and success: outgoing UN climate chief (Interview)June 9th, 2010 - 12:22 pm ICT by IANS
By Joydeep Gupta
Bonn, June 9 (IANS) As he prepares to leave his post at the end of the month, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer says he faced “both failure and success” during his four-year tenure and asserts that a lot more “cooperative action” needs to take place before a legally binding global treaty can be signed to combat climate change.
Climate change was a subject discussed by some experts behind closed doors and the rest of the world knew little about it when de Boer became executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2006. In four years, he has brought it to the top of the global agenda.
While the world remembers the failure of the climate summit in Copenhagen last December, de Boer told IANS in an interview here that climate negotiations led by him achieved “very significant success” at the 2007 summit in Bali.
“Remember that we were working with the Bush administration then,” he said. “Still, the US signed the negotiating mandate (to combat global warming).”
The other big positive during his tenure that de Boer recalled was to “underline the importance of a financial architecture” under which developing countries could get funds to help them cope with climate change that is already reducing farm output worldwide, making droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more severe and raising the sea level.
“During my tenure, I have put a lot of effort into getting trade and finance ministers and heads of state and government into the climate negotiations process,” de Boer told IANS, “because the solutions (to the global warming challenge) lie in the economic domain.”
The Copenhagen summit attracted 120 heads of state and government, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Vienna born son of a Dutch diplomat flagged two topics important for developing countries that he had brought on the agenda. One was agriculture and how it helps combat climate change - quantifying this may lead to farmers in poor countries getting paid extra to raise crops. The other was paying poor countries to conserve their forests. “That was demonised at the beginning of my tenure. It was called forest blackmail. But it is now mainstream.”
Of course his main disappointment was the failure at Copenhagen. “No one left Copenhagen happy,” de Boer said. He thought for a few moments, then added: “I am not in the habit of overestimating myself, but I don’t think I can take the blame for this.”
And almost at once he went on: “It’s not as if there was no progress in Copenhagen. There was the Copenhagen Accord, progress on the negotiating text (towards a global treaty to combat climate change) and pledges (to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that are warming the atmosphere).”
The UN climate chief had courted controversy midway through the talks here in preparation for the next climate summit by saying greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges in the coming decade were not good enough. He explained: “The scientists tell us that for global temperature rise to stay within two degrees Celsius, emissions have to be reduced by 25 to 40 percent by 2020. What I said was that the current pledges from either the industrialized countries or the global response are not doing that.
“But we have a 2015 review clause in the Copenhagen Accord, by when the next assessment report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - a global scientists’ collective) will be available. If that review clause survives, 2015 will be very important. It won’t change things by 2020, but it’s an opportunity to alter trajectory. I was in the small room in Copenhagen (where the accord was hammered out by a handful of countries, including India) and all industrialised country leaders were committed to 80 percent emissions reduction by 2050.”
What was his advice to successor Christina Figueres? For a global climate deal, advance by negotiators and by political leaders were both essential, de Boer replied. But after the Copenhagen fiasco, he was “in two minds” about whether heads of state or government should attend climate summits.
“Their backing is essential but they have to receive a product sufficiently mature for them to deal with.” That was far from the case at the Copenhagen summit.
What did he expect out of the negotiations as he prepared to leave office? “A lot of cooperative action,” de Boer said. “That needs to happen before a legally binding treaty. You cannot have a treaty first. That is putting the cart before the horse. What treaty will countries sign to if they do not know its implications?”
The UN climate chief is going to join the consultancy firm KPMG. Asked why, he said: “Governments set policy, but it’s the private sector that must deliver the results. I have been advocating a private public dialogue to combat climate change. Now it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is. And I’m happy I’m going to do some teaching too.”
(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at email@example.com)
- Climate treaty virtually written off this year - Jun 09, 2010
- Durban Summit goes down to the wire, negotiators hopeful of deal (Third Lead) - Dec 11, 2011
- Some hope for a deal at Durban climate summit - Dec 10, 2011
- Two resignations, many fallouts in climate geopolitics (Comment) - Feb 21, 2010
- Talks won't arrest global warming in next decade: UN climate chief - Jun 07, 2010
- UNFCC official optimistic about Copenhagen climate accord - Feb 04, 2010
- Climate summit reaches agreement - without commitments - Dec 11, 2010
- Manmohan Singh absolutely right: UN climate chief - Jul 08, 2009
- Climate summit looks at weak deal - Nov 30, 2011
- No commitments in Cancun Agreement, India's interests 'protected' (Second Lead) - Dec 11, 2010
- UN official spells out actions to be agreed upon in Copenhagen - Dec 07, 2009
- India, China almost certain to sign Copenhagen Accord - Jan 23, 2010
- Sino-US climate talks helpful, but too late for Copenhagen: Experts - Nov 14, 2009
- `Huge opportunity' for stronger climate deal in Mexico: de Boer - Feb 26, 2010
- Promises to cut pollution fall short of saving world: UN climate chief - Dec 08, 2009
Tags: change climate, climate negotiations, climate summit, closed doors, cooperative action, de boer, droughts floods, dutch diplomat, economic domain, finance ministers, financial architecture, framework convention on climate change, global agenda, global treaty, heads of state and government, joydeep, manmohan singh, prime minister manmohan, prime minister manmohan singh, un framework convention on climate change