Outlining UNEP's expectations for the Fourth Conference of the Parties (COP-4) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), meeting here from 2 to 13 November, Toepfer emphasized the importance of building on the good preparations undertaken by UNEP and others for the conference.
"Such work is a pre-condition for action and will, I hope, enable governments to agree on a clear Plan of Action and timetable, to solve the many outstanding substantial and methodological problems faced by both developed and developing countries alike," he said.
Toepfer underlined that the "mechanisms" agreed to in Kyoto at the last meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-3) cannot be a substitute for domestic action by industrialized countries. "The bottom line is that developed countries must start cutting their emissions of greenhouse gases. They should adopt win-win strategies, those that reduce emissions in ways that also help the economy. All other action should be supplemental to this effort," he said.
Last year in Kyoto, Japan, governments agreed on a Protocol to the UNFCCC. By adopting the Kyoto Protocol, Annex 1 countries to the UNFCCC (developed countries) signed up to the first ever legally binding targets for cutting the production of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Now, one year on, the task in Buenos Aires is to establish the rules of the game - the practical steps - for reaching those Kyoto Protocol targets.
"UNEP will continue to play a leading, integrated, role in this process," said Toepfer. "In collaboration with others, UNEP is contributing to the development of the mechanisms established under the Kyoto Protocol, just as it did in establishing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with the World Meteorological Organization. "
UNEP is specifically responding to the question of the impact of climate change. In this regard, the Global Environmental Facility's Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) - for which UNEP provides the secretariat - convened a workshop at COP-4.
"The important work we are doing on impact, mitigation, adaptation and assessment will be closely integrated into the work of the IPCC's Working Group II," said Toepfer.
"A further priority for UNEP," Toepfer continued, "is to look at the sustainable development component - the social, economic and environmental implications - of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and ensure developing countries have access to the necessary information about it. It is fundamental that we help fully integrate all countries into the climate change debate and act as a forum for open, informed dialogue," he said.
To this end, UNEP hosted a special meeting of African environment ministers and experts in Nairobi last month where COP-4 topped the agenda. The meeting, attended by 26 ministers, was designed to provide them with an opportunity to learn more about, and discuss, the implications for Africa of important environment agreements (on climate change, the ozone layer, biodiversity and desertification), and the strong inter-linkages between them.
There are strong scientific relationships between the various environmental conventions and UNEP believes a strong initiative to reinforce inter-linkages between environmental issues and human needs can offer new and better opportunities to devise effective policies that meet both local and global needs. On 12 November in Buenos Aires, UNEP and The World Bank will launch a new "Inter-linkages Assessment Report." (Media are invited).
The Nairobi ministerial meeting allowed for African countries to agree on a Common Position with regard to the CDM, which they agreed should be a high priority for Africa. UNEP will continue to actively facilitate similar dialogue amongst developing countries and, at the request of African governments, play a more active role in CDM related activities.
The Kyoto Protocol's mechanisms may be one way forward, especially with regard to the CDM and transfer of environment friendly technology to developing countries, but they are not, on their own, a solution to the climate change problem.
"From Buenos Aires we need a clear signal that all involved with the issue mean business," said Toepfer. "Action from governments will help convince producers, consumers, communities and individuals to adjust their activities in ways that limit emissions, as the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol will only succeed if they are widely supported by the public and by key constituencies and interest groups," he said.
For more information or to arrange interviews, (in Buenos Aires) contact
UNEP Press Officer
Tel/fax: (54-1)-314 1400, mobile: 15-4166147,
Tore J. Brevik,
Information and Public Affairs,
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya,
Tel.: 254-2-62-3692, Fax: 254-2-623692,
UNEP News Release 1998/113