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UNFCCC Executive Secretary Calls for Multilateral Solution to Climate Change

Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary18 October 2012: Addressing the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), presented progress made in the climate negotiations and urged acceleration towards a new low-carbon paradigm, stressing the crucial roles of the multilateral process and private sector engagement in such a transformation.

Figueres stressed the compounding effect of climate change on global challenges, calling for more urgent action and emphasizing that “we are not moving at the speed and scale demanded by science.” She highlighted three key achievements following the UN Climate Change Conference held in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011. First, she said governments now had specific objectives to "usher in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol by January 2013," which would close the regulatory gap. Second, she noted agreement on the finalization of the negotiation stage of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) and move towards implementation. Third, she underlined commitment to adopt "a new, universally-inclusive and legally-based agreement by 2015 to start from 2020," stressing that this would close the ambition gap on reducing emissions and support to developing countries.

Figueres highlighted three reasons why the multilateral process is cumbersome but crucial. She described the global dimensions of climate change, noting “emissions do not respect national boundaries,” emphasizing the inclusion of all countries in developing adaptive responses. Second, she stressed that each country can contribute to solutions, stressing that “global participation makes the negotiations more complex, but it also makes the eventual solution- low carbon living- more cost effective, and more durable.” Third, she called for a global accounting system with all countries following the same rules for measuring and reporting. Figueres also supported concurrent, mutually reinforcing national, subnational and regional level action.

Figures described the key role of the private sector in the clean energy revolution. She cautioned, however, that “the policy signals are not yet strong enough to accelerate the massive move of capital towards clean technologies” and reach the low-carbon tipping point. She recommended: fiscal, monetary and regulatory policy coordination; clear policy frameworks; new thinking on climate financing to attract large institutional investors, using public funds to de-risk and leverage private funds to support projects at large scale; and a clearer carbon price signal.

Figueres concluded by recommending the acceleration of the low-carbon tipping point, urging the audience “to do more, to move quicker.” [UNFCCC Executive Secretary Lecture]