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Rich & Poor Nations Must Tackle Climate Change

Rich and poor nations must forge ahead to tackle climate change - UN official

After the successful conclusion of the landmark United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, developed and developing countries alike must continue to build on the momentum generated by the meeting, an official from the world body said today.

"This was not just your average negotiation and it was not just your average UN meeting," Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, told reporters in New York. "There was from the very outset high expectations for this meeting. The truth is that those expectations were met."

All three benchmarks set for the Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - the launch of negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol expiring in 2012; a robust agenda for these upcoming talks; and a specific timetable to complete them by 2009 - were achieved.

There were "clear indications" at the Bali gathering that both developing and developed countries are taking the climate change issue very seriously, Mr. Orr pointed out.

From the final outcome document, the so-called Bali Roadmap, "you see a lot more forward-leaning posture from developing countries, that unlike the Kyoto negotiations, said we know that we need to be a part of this," he said.

The fact that poorer nations will play a key role in the coming debate "is no longer up for debate," Mr. Orr noted.

Meanwhile, developed countries also came to the table with a new stance of many topics, particularly regarding technology and financing issues. Prior to Bali, he observed, there was a "reticence to really engage what it's going to take on the technology side or on the issue of the dissemination of technologies around the world."

One of the biggest new subjects discussed at the Conference was deforestation and land use, which was not part of the Kyoto protocol because there was insufficient agreement among countries, he said.

The enthusiasm for the issue was made evident by some concrete commitments made during the two-week meeting, particularly by Norway, which pledged $550 million annually for five years to tackle the problem.

"Norway will no be the last of the major donors in the North that are going to be putting significant money into this," the Assistant Secretary-General told the press.

Looking ahead, the pace of negotiations must pick up and enter an "implementation track," he said, with four meetings to be convened in the coming year instead of the usual lone annual meeting.

Mr. Orr also stressed the recognition by the delegates of the leadership role of Mr. Ban, who attended the Conference as a facilitator, not as a negotiator.

The meeting's most dramatic moment came last Saturday, when talks were running into overtime, Mr. Orr said. The Secretary-General, who had been in Timor-Leste, flew back to the Bali negotiations, where "there were a lot of nerves" because "a lot of things had been agreed but a lot of it was conditional on other things being agreed."

Upon entering the negotiation chamber, the delegates burst into applause and gave Mr. Ban a standing ovation. After appealing to delegates to "go the extra mile" to finalize a deal, participants again gave the Secretary-General a standing ovation, Mr. Orr said.


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