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UNGA Second Committee Underlines Importance of Climate Change Negotiations

6 October 2010: The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) met on 6 October 2010, in New York, US, to continue and conclude its general debate, addressing, inter alia: the critical importance of deliberations on climate change, biodiversity and the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD); the need for an agreement on targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; expediting the implementation of existing climate change agreements; and new financing to help countries mitigate and adapt to its effects.

A number of speakers addressed issues pertaining to small island developing States (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs). Egypt, expressed his commitment to supporting the efforts of all developing countries, including SIDS, landlocked developing countries and LDCs. The United Republic of Tanzania noted that the vulnerabilities of SIDS had been further exacerbated by climate change, and urged the international community to increase its support for them. Japan outlined his country's assistance to SIDS and LDCs. India underscored the need to address the threat of climate change to SIDS. Haiti highlighted its fragile situation with regard to climate change, warning that if nothing was done to combat it, some countries could disappear within half a century.

On the interrelation between sustainable development and climate change, Malaysia, associating himself with the G/77 and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), underscored the linkages among climate change, financial and economic recovery, and realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), emphasizing that the UN could play a more effective role. Lao People's Democratic Republic, associating herself with the G77, the LDCs, the Landlocked Developing Countries and the ASEAN, and El Salvador underlined that the climate, food and energy crises undermined progress towards realizing internationally agreed development targets. Maldives said climate change and sustainable development should not and could not be treated separately. The International Labour Organization (ILO) stated that “by redressing the historic imbalance between economic, social and environmental policies, we can turn the climate crisis into an opportunity to speed up the transition to low-carbon, high-employment, poverty-reducing economies.” The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) explained that it took a people-centred approach to development, working with public authorities on various activities, from upgrading water and sanitation facilities to addressing food insecurity and climate change.

On disasters and climate change, Malaysia and Namibia stressed that natural disasters, resulting largely from climate change, continued to affect many countries, with Namibia noting the rising demand for funding to build and restore infrastructure destroyed by disasters. Tuvalu stated that extreme weather could destroy its progress overnight and threaten the very survival of vulnerable States. Japan called for reinforcing the resilience of communities through the Hyogo Framework for Action.

On climate change negotiations, numerous speakers, including Malaysia, Tuvalu, Tanzania, Namibia, Japan, Haiti, Mozambique, El Salvador, Kenya and the Observer for Palestine, called for a successful outcome in Cancun, Mexico, at the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) to the UNFCCC. Malaysia and Tuvalu referred to COP 15 to the UNFCCC, which took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009, as a “failure.” The United Republic of Tanzania recognized that Copenhagen had been historically significant, but that the outcome had been below expectations for actionable commitments and programmes. India said the lack of progress on promises made at Copenhagen undermined the level of trust required to advance the negotiations. Malaysia and the United Republic of Tanzania underlined the importance of renewed political will. Kenya and India emphasized that the outcome in Cancun should be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Namibia called on major emitters of GHGs to make ambitious reduction commitments that they honor. Mozambique and Haiti expressed hope that States would adopt legally-binding measures to reduce GHG emissions in Cancun. Tuvalu called for agreement on amendments and rules for the Kyoto Protocol, a mandate to start talks on a new legally-binding agreement based on the Bali Action Plan, to include a set of decisions providing interim implementation measures. Pakistan urged a general agreement on the period 2012-2020.

Numerous developing country representatives, including the United Republic of Tanzania, Myanmar, Namibia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Uganda, underscored the importance of technology transfer to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Tuvalu indicated she was seeking partners to help with renewable-energy and energy-efficiency technologies.

Some speakers touched upon indigenous peoples' issues. Ecuador described its Yasuni ITT initiative, an innovative project in which the Government had decided not to extract its underground oil reserves, thereby avoiding emissions and protecting the indigenous people in that area. Sri Lanka called for the inclusion of indigenous peoples and local communities in the implementation of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries and the role of conservation, sustainable use of forests and enhancement of carbon stocks (REDD+) activities.

In closing, Enkhtsetseg Ochir (Mongolia), Committee Chairperson, summarized the three-day general debate. She said speakers had emphasized the critical importance of the deliberations on climate change, biodiversity and the UNCSD (or Rio+20) in 2012.  She added that speakers had underscored that tackling the sustainable development challenge entailed agreement on targets for GHG emissions, expediting the implementation of existing agreements and new financing. She also mentioned that many countries in special situations had discussed the great impact of the financial, energy, food security and climate change crises. [UN Press Release]