Posted by David Shafie
When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed an audience of delegates and observers tonight, he asked the participants–and those around the world following the news from inside the conference center–to remain optimistic.
The Secretary General insisted that the media’s portrayal of the conference as a stalemate is not accurate, and on the problems facing developing nations, he told us, “I’m much more sympathetic than I’m given credit.” By the time we saw him speak this evening, he looked tired, but spirited. He reminded everyone that it’s unprecedented to have such a large number of states engaged in a negotiation this far-reaching. On today’s protests, he said the fact that 40,ooo people wanted to come into the hall (most of whom had to be turned away) was a “positive” sign because it shows how much people want the parties to take action.
Ban said he was aware how the media was portraying the conference, and that the public should not be discouraged about by the reports they hear. He said he was confident a deal would be reached, and acknowledged there were some sticking points. One is the issue of greenhouse gas mitigation–many of the countries involved in the talks have proposed targets, but they still haven’t been able to agree to accept the levels recommended by scientists. Another is the issue of fast track financial support to help developing nations deal with the effects of climate change. While the amount already pledged by developing nations is “not insignificant,” Moon said, the discussions have not produced a solution to the problem of long-term support for those countries. In addition to the $4 billion already pledged, there should be a “fair formula for burden sharing” and a mechanism for long-term support.
Ban’s comments came at the conclusion of a question-and-answer session held by the administrators of 20 UN and UN-affiliated agencies, including UNESCO, the UN Environmental Program, and the World Bank. In an impressive display of unity, the administrators sat in a semicircle onstage and described their organizations’ dedication to the climate change issue (Chief negotiator Yvo de Boer’s seat was empty, since he was still working in a closed-door session on the climate deal).
Each of administrators’ comments were well-received. However, Francis Gerry of the World Intellectual Property Organization energized the room by summarizing the dilemma facing negotiators in a way that resonated with the delegates and observers: Two million women and children die of pulmonary disease die every year due to indoor air pollution because they have no access to electricity, and their household energy source is burning biomass. That’s a death toll that rivals malaria, Gerry said. So, he asked, how can we ensure that the one of benefits of alternative energies will be to save those lives, not just a few dollars for the people who put up a solar panel?