UNGA General Debate Closes with Focus on Climate Change, SIDS and Rio+20

27 September 2011: The general debate of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) closed on 27 September, with a number of speakers addressing the challenges posed by climate change, preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), and the specific vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

San Marino underlined the interlinkages among global threats, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and food insecurity. Singapore called for addressing longer-term issues like sustainable development, climate change and water security along with immediate concerns of food security and job creation.

On disasters and climate change, Saint Lucia underscored his country's vulnerability to disasters, outlining national efforts to increase its resilience to climate change through a building code and environmental impact regulations. Myanmar indicated that floods and droughts had devastated agricultural production in the region and that it looked forward to tangible outcomes from the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

On the climate negotiations, Burkina Faso stressed the urgency of the challenge of climate change and the need for an international solution. Viet Nam noted that multilateral negotiations on climate change had not yielded results “up to our expectation.” Malaysia pointed to a lack of political will in the implementation of environmental goals, as exemplified by the unwillingness to honor UNFCCC commitments. He called for the principle of common but differentiated responsibility to be coupled with that of historic duty in all climate negotiations. Malawi expressed the hope that COP 17 would conclude in a positive agreement based on the Bali Plan of Action, with agreed cuts on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and measures adopted to help ameliorate the impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable countries. Noting that climate change already impacted his country, Benin called on Rio+20 to produce decisions that were in line with “the perils that await us.” Panama said climate change is one of the greatest global challenges, noting its hosting the meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Groups of the UNFCCC at the beginning of October 2011, which were to discuss the modealities for a second period of commitments of reductions in carbon emissions by developed countries and the stabilization of global temperatures.

Norway and New Zealand underscored the importance of implementing the Cancun agreements. Dominica said several outcomes agreed in Cancun could be built upon, acting as catalysts to new approaches and solutions in Durban.

New Zealand recognized that for its Pacific neighbors, climate change was a fundamental question of existence. He called for urgent and effective action on emissions reduction, the stregthening of adaptation in developing countries, and the planning of security implications. He indicated his country's committment to integrating adaptation and mitigation measures into its development activities, and provided an overview of the recent meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum, which focused on sustainable development and Rio+20. Saint Lucia said the Rio+20 negotiations should more strongly focus on oceans, noting their role in ensuring food security, mitigating climate change, generating energy.

On clean technologies and energy, Belarus underlined the importance of addressing the issue of transfer of effective energy technologies to developing and middle-income countries as a means of mitigating climate change. Burkina Faso welcomed the initiative of Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State, on a global alliance for clean cooking stoves. Dominica emphasized that climate change is an energy-related issue, adding that the Small Island Developing States Sustainable Energy Initiative was “an outstanding outcome” of the Cancun Climate Change Conference. Under the Rio+20 process, Dominica called for the creation of a special SIDS technology fund to address financing for sustainable energy technology transfer. Saint Lucia called for international assistance to help SIDS achieve energy security through renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes. Belize stressed the need for the transfer of environmentally friendly technologies and funding from the international community to SIDS that are moving towards low-carbon and no-carbon emission economies.

In his closing remarks, UNGA President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser summed up the discussions of the general debate, noting that many member States had called on the UN to tackle climate change, through supporting countries to adapt to its effects, and for developed countries to address emissions reduction targets. [UNGA Debate Summary] [UNGA President's Remarks] [UN Press Release on Saint Lucia and Dominica's Statements] [UN Press Release on Statements by Latin American Countries]