Press releases

Thursday 12 Jul 2001

UNEP Urges Focus On Win-win Solutions At Climate Talks

NAIROBI/PARIS, 12 July 2001 - Noting the publication of the full three-volume assessment report by the UNEP/WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said, "The scientific evidence clearly shows that climate change is the most serious socio-economic and environmental problem facing humanity in the 21st century."

"In Bonn next week, while pushing ahead to ensure immediate short-term action, governments must also build the basis for a long-term structured and coordinated response to the problem," he said.

Speaking on the eve of the upcoming climate negotiations, Mr. Töpfer, the United Nations top environment official, said that to ensure success in Bonn and to keep the Kyoto Protocol process alive, governments must concentrate on the following:

1. Concentrate on reaching a clear common agreement on the rules for obtaining emissions credits through emissions trading and carbon sinks.

"When these instruments are in place and operational, governments will have a more complete picture of what it will cost to achieve their Kyoto emissions targets, and private business will be able to take actions on a reliable basis," he said.

2. Concentrate on sending a clear signal to civil society, and especially the business community, that despite some differences between governments there is a common commitment for action.

"On the basis of thorough scientific research, all countries agree that we now have firm proof that climate change is happening. More scientific study is useful, but this should not be used as an excuse for inaction," said Töpfer.

"Bonn must be seized as a chance for both the technical experts and ministers to demonstrate positive international environmental co-operation. They must build on the 1992 Climate Change Convention and Kyoto by seeking out and promoting further win-win opportunities and incentives to corporations and the private sector in general."

"Members of UNEP's Finance Initiatives, which include representatives of the world's leading financial organizations, will deliver their position on climate change during the Bonn meeting,' said Töpfer. "The financial sector is taking a proactive role on climate change and it is important that they receive positive signals," he said.

3. Concentrate on helping developing countries to fight climate change, now.

"The Third Assessment Report by the IPCC projects a potentially devastating global warming of 1.4 - 5.8?C over the coming century. The expected changes in climate conditions will have negative impacts on agricultural production, freshwater supplies and sea levels; they will include new patterns of droughts, floods, storms, disease and health risks. The poorest will suffer most," Töpfer said.

"In response to this, industrialized countries should strengthen their financial cooperation with developing countries for creating climate-friendly economies and adapting to climate change impacts," he continued.

"In this regard, finalizing the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is also of the utmost importance. UNEP is strongly committed to the CDM, which promises to help developing countries, especially the least-developed countries and small island developing states to adapt to the consequences of climate change."

4. Concentrate on investing in clean energy infrastructure and promoting technology transfer to developing countries

"The development process, urgently needed to fight poverty, must become less carbon intensive," said Töpfer. "We must do everything we can do integrate clean technologies that have a higher energy efficiency, and also look for new sources of energy production."

Highlighting recent studies by the World Energy Council (WEC), Mr. Töpfer said there was room for concrete improvements. "The WEC studies indicate that the number of new clean energy schemes, government initiatives and renewable energy projects will, by 2005, save the equivalent of one billion tonnes of C02 emissions annually. This equates to a saving of over three per cent in terms of global greenhouse gas emissions emitted in the year 2000."

Stressing the importance of meeting the sustainable energy needs of developing countries, he also highlighted the importance of the widespread introduction of wind, solar and other renewables. Referring to the G8 renewable energy task force report that will be released next week, Töpfer said, "The Task Force has set an ambitious goal - one billion people to get renewable energy by 2010. Modern wind turbines, solar panels and geo-thermal are now state-of-the-art technologies, with more innovations in the pipeline. Their ability to provide reliable, competitive and clean energy cannot be understated."

"Economic development can be achieved without increasing carbon dioxide emissions," said Töpfer. He said that the pessimism and gloom hanging over the climate talks had masked small but real progress towards reducing emissions. He noted the progress made in China, which accounts for about 14 per cent of world C02 emissions.

"China has, despite impressive economic growth, managed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 10 per cent since 1996/97. This has been achieved by an active effort to promote energy conservation, end coal subsidies and support more efficient coal-fire power generation. The fact that one of the most important countries at the centre of the global warming debate is acting, and is managing to break the link between growth and a parallel rise in emissions, offers an important glimmer of hope that must be built on."

Summing up his views, Mr. Töpfer underlined the need for concrete action in Bonn next week. "We must do more, we have to do more and we can do more. Climate change is not simply an environmental problem but a huge threat to the overarching goals of poverty reduction and the attainment of sustainable development worldwide. I hope governments and civil society, including private business, will go to the climate discussions with a positive attitude - we must avoid an atmosphere of confrontation. We must advance the Kyoto mechanisms and keep the process alive."


Notes to journalists:
For more information or to arrange interviews with Klaus Töpfer in Bonn contact Robert Bisset, UNEP press spokesman for Europe, on +33-1-4437-7613, fax: +33-1-4437-1474, cell: +33-6-2272 5842, email: robert.bisset@unep.fr. In Nairobi, please contact Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman/Director of Communications and Public Information, P.O. Box 30552; tel.: (254-2) 623292; fax: 623692; email: cpiinfo@unep.org


UNEP News Release 01/86R

Thursday 12 Jul 2001
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