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UNGA Second Committee Begins Consideration of Sustainable Development

1 November 2010: The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) began its consideration of sustainable development on 1 November 2010, in New York, US.

Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, presented a note by the Secretary-General on the implementation of UN environmental conventions (document A/65/294) that transmits the reports submitted by the Secretariats of the UNFCCC and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), via video link from Bonn, Germany. While recalling that the 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen had concluded with an outcome that only partially responded to high expectations, she underlined that it had enhanced significantly negotiations on the infrastructure needed for global climate change cooperation. Despite politically-charged issues with regard to climate change, she noted a strong sense that Cancun could achieve a meaningful outcome, stating that "Cancun can be an important step, but it is only a step. The intergovernmental negotiations to address climate change must and will continue to make progress." She further called on developed country parties to show bold leadership and on all countries to show a willingness to compromise and be flexible.

A number of speakers also addressed the climate change negotiations. Yemen, on behalf of the G77, urged developed countries to undertake ambitious and enhanced commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to ensure there was no gap between the first and subsequent commitment periods. He also called on them to take the lead at the upcoming Cancun Climate Change Conference. Belgium, on behalf of the EU, called for a significant increase in the pace of negotiations to reach a successful and balanced outcome during the upcoming Cancun Conference. Nepal, on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), called for the urgent conclusion of a legally-binding international successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol and for a deeper commitment to mitigation, noting that LDCs need a sustainable framework to meet the adaptation and financial requirements for coping with the negative effects of climate change.

Australia, speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand (CANZ), stated that Cancun should provide a balanced, substantive outcome that would bring closer a legally-binding agreement based on the Copenhagen Accord. South Africa noted that, with Mexico and Denmark, it had formed a troika to ensure continuity and leadership during the ongoing climate change negotiations. He indicated that the recommendations of the Global Sustainability Panel, co-chaired by South Africa and Finland, would contribute substantially to sustainable development and particularly climate change negotiations. Ethiopia said a legally-binding agreement could be reached in Cancun, given firm commitments from developing countries. Peru stated that the upcoming Cancun Conference must produce a legally-binding agreement that would include a daring and voluntary mitigation strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Cuba stated that the Cancun Conference would be a "second chance" to reach a binding agreement and to evaluate the political will to take leadership.

On the principles guiding the negotiations, Chile, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, called on States to take urgent global action to address climate change, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. South Africa underscored that equity, as well as common but differentiated responsibilities, must continue to guide negotiations under the UNFCCC towards a legally binding instrument. Cuba called for the equitable settling of that "historical debt" to ecology, in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and the respective capabilities of the different groups of countries. He added that developed countries must take leadership on reducing emissions.

On finance, Belgium, on behalf of the EU, indicated it was providing €2.4 billion for adaptation and mitigation, with a particular emphasis on the most vulnerable developing countries, such as LDCs, small island developing States (SIDS), and African countries. Indonesia said adaptation efforts and nationally-appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries should be supported with adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology transfer and capacity enhancement. Nepal, on behalf of the Group of LDCs, stressed the need for: increased resources and technology; broad participation by LDCs in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM); and addressing the financing gap in sustainable forestry by providing new resources to support sustainable forestry management in LDCs. Ethiopia underscored that, among efforts to reach a legally binding agreement in Cancun, the necessary financial resources should be mobilized to address urgent adaptation and mitigation tasks, including in the area of forestry. Chile, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, called on the international community to give developing countries new, additional and predictable financial resources, as well as capacity-building and access to the technology required to address the consequences of climate change. Papua New Guinea, on behalf of the Pacific SIDS, and China, called for the mobilization of fast-start financing commitments. Malta noted that of the $30 billion pledged in Copenhagen for fast-start financing, the EU and its member States had pledged €7.2 billion or 30%, and that his country had pledged €800,000.

Some speakers addressed the particular vulnerability of SIDS. Indonesia underlined that SIDS should receive more technical and financial support to address the unique challenges they face. Papua New Guinea, on behalf of the Pacific SIDS,  said it was disturbing that current pledges to reduce emissions would likely lead to a rise of 3° to 4° C above pre-industrial levels, warning that such an increase would cause damage far beyond the capacity of Pacific SIDS to cope. Australia, speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand (CANZ), underscored that climate change threatened the very existence of SIDS. The US recognized the concerns of the most vulnerable countries, including small islands and LDCs, and stated that it was enhancing efforts to help them and other countries adapt to the changing climate. Japan underlined that his country attaches great importance to SIDS, as reflected in its provision of assistance in the areas of environment, climate change, health and education.

On disasters, Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, introduced the report on implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (document A/65/388), stressing that disaster risk reduction (DRR), if properly incorporated into national development plans and accountability frameworks, was a smart and strategic investment that could accelerate realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), help adaptation to climate change, and reduce the socioeconomic impact of disasters caused by natural hazards. Norway warned that the frequency of natural disasters was expected to increase in the years to come, partly due to the effects of climate change, urbanization in disaster–prone areas, and the destruction of natural coping mechanisms. She underlined the need for climate change adaptation measures  to be better integrated with DRR in the sustainable development efforts of the international community.

Also on adaptation, some speakers focused on desertification. Gabon, on behalf of the Africa Group, underscored the urgent need to adapt to climate change, highlighting that desertification and land degradation continued to threaten sustainable development in Africa. Kuwait said international partnership is necessary for countering global challenges, including climate change and desertification.

On forests and deforestation, Peru indicated that his country is planning to reduce its emissions by reducing deforestation and modifying its energy matrix. Brazil explained that her country is adding renewable energy sources to its energy matrix so as to reduce emissions resulting from deforestation. Belarus called for increasing the potential of countries to reduce emissions through flexible projects to preserve degraded forests and swamp lands. Norway stressed the importance of sustainable forest management in the overall effort to reduce carbon emissions and foster equitable long-term development. She urged the inclusion of emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation in a new global agreement under the UNFCCC.

On mitigation and green growth, the Republic of Korea said the negative economic, social and security implications of climate change had sounded the alarm, and all countries must work together on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. He added that his country had been the first to embrace green growth as a national strategy. Noting that science showed that all major economies must take serious action to mitigate emissions, the US indicated that it would assume a leadership role in that regard. He indicated his country's commitment to a national transition to a clean energy economy and to working with countries worldwide to promote cleaner technologies. Thailand described her country's development plan for 2012-2016, which aims to achieve a "green and happy society" with a shift towards a low-carbon and knowledge-based society. Malta described working with other littoral States of the Mediterranean and the adoption of a declaration aimed at contributing to the emergence of low-carbon, resource-efficient and climate-resilient economies in the Mediterranean. Saudi Arabia expressed its concern about GHG emissions, and stressed the importance of reducing the use of coal as an energy source. [UN Press Release]