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Statements in International Organisations


United Nations - 62nd Session of the General Assembly, Thematic Debate

Statement by H.E. Mr. Janez Podobnik, Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning, on behalf of the European Union

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Mr. President,

It is an honour to address this important Thematic Debate on behalf of the European Union and the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia  and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Montenegro, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.

Climate Change represents one of the major challenges facing our planet. We can already see its impacts, threatening to undermine the livelihoods of future generations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its authoritative findings in 2007 and was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for its exceptional work. The report clearly states that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased about 70 per cent between 1970 and 2004. Our current understanding of the problem and the high risks involved leave no option for any responsible policymaker but to act.

In this respect, today’s Thematic Debate is much welcomed in order to further develop and support the decisive role of the United Nations in this matter. 

Mr. President,

Climate change is upon us and we believe it is time to act. The European Union has put climate change on the top of its political agenda. International collective action is crucial for an effective, efficient and equitable response to the challenges posed by climate change. Working together will benefit every one of us.

The European Union will continue its efforts aimed at building international consensus on the urgent need to take further and stronger post-2012 action. We are doing our homework by implementing and further developing comprehensive Community Climate Change Policies.

The European Commission recently presented the legislative “Climate Action and Renewable Energy package”, which will be instrumental in shaping a response in line with our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 20 per cent by 2020 relative to 1990 levels. The package has provisions to reduce EU’s emissions by as much as 30 per cent as part of a global agreement, where all developed countries commit to comparable efforts, and where also developing countries contribute further. We are convinced that transforming Europe into a highly energy-efficient, low-carbon economy will improve our energy security and strengthen our competitiveness. Let me reiterate the European Union’s objective to limit the global average temperature increase below 2 ºC relative to the pre-industrial levels.

Mr. President,

Last year was a turning point for international action against climate change. The Fourth IPCC Assessment report underlined the urgent need for action. Subsequently, all Parties at the Climate conference in Bali agreed to launch an inclusive negotiating process on a new global and comprehensive post-2012 agreement in December 2009 in Copenhagen. Importantly, it was agreed that all developed and developing countries need to take appropriate action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

The Bali agreement addresses a shared vision for long-term cooperative action, and identifies four key building blocks: mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing. This is a very important step forward, yet leaving many important decisions to be made in the coming two years.  The EU has already presented its general ideas in this respect. In view of the EU, all building blocks are equally important and must be dealt with accordingly. The main objectives of mitigation and adaptation cannot be achieved without supporting the development and transfer of clean technologies and scaling up and re-directing investment and finance flows.

The Bali conference also took important decisions on several other issues, including the launching of demonstration activities aimed at reducing deforestation, the finalisation of arrangements for the Adaptation Fund, which will help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, as well as a strategic programme on the transfer of technologies to developing countries.

Mr. President,

Our world is increasingly interconnected. It is thus impossible to talk about climate change and development as two unrelated issues.  Climate change is a sustainable development challenge, which will affect our natural environment, as well as our social and economic development. The goal to halve the proportion of poor people in the world by the year 2015 will be impossible to achieve if we do not give due consideration to the natural resources and the environment our livelihoods depend upon. However, meeting development needs and achieving poverty eradication, while reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions and the impacts of climate change, will present a challenge to all of us.

Several important events will be taking place this year, such as the dialogue on Financing for Development, a high-level event on Millennium Development Goals, as well as the Hokkaido-Toyako Summit under the Japanese G8 presidency. We must ensure that climate change will be addressed in those debates and that the relationship between climate change, energy security, environment, development, finance and trade is further defined and explored. Cutting across the four building blocks, identified in Bali, the integration of climate into development plans is crucial. The overarching objective is to achieve sustainable develpoment, and the UN should play a key role in supporting integrated policy and decision making at all levels.

The EU is committed to promoting climate stabilisation of Greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere and adaptation in the context of sustainable development. Increased integration of adaptation and mitigation actions into national sustainable development strategies is therefore essential to combating climate change.

Mr. President,

If the attempts to reach a global post-2012 agreement on climate change are to breed results, the process leading to such an agreement as well as its scope has to be all-encompassing.

Nevertheless, the key issue is still pending: how can we all contribute? Unequivocal scientific evidence, the increasing impact of climate events and the resulting increased public attention have elevated climate change high up the political agenda. The international community needs to respond to this challenge. The United Nations provides the appropriate multilateral framework to deal with the issue and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the only forum where global decisions about future actions can be agreed to.

The time has come for the UN to strengthen its response to climate change and speaks with a united voice. The UN system must be capable of working together to support international efforts to address the negative impacts of climate change:

  • through the UNFCCC, as the appropriate multilateral framework for the negotiation, as we look to a global agreement on a post-2012 framework;
  • through the work of the agencies, funds and programmes who are best placed to provide an integrated response to the complementary challenges of promoting sustainable development, achieving the MDGs and tackling the impacts of climate change;
  • through the voice of the Secretary-General, who has so effectively galvanised the international response over the last year.

It is in this light that the EU fully supports the efforts under the leadership of the Secretary General and carried out by the Chief Executives Board to achieve a coordinated UN approach to climate change. Much good work is already underway in many parts of the UN system. The continuation of this process will enable the United Nations system to identify its strengths and consequentially the areas, in which it can maximise its contribution to fighting climate change.  We, as Member States, must also take responsibility by supporting this process through our own actions.

Implementing a post-2012 climate change framework will present fundamental challenges to the global community and calls for a strengthened international environmental governance. Of particular importance will be the financing of enhanced mitigation and adaptation efforts, which calls for new and innovative concepts. This will require enhanced cooperation between various stakeholders from private and public sectors.

Mr. President,

Climate change has the potential to redraw the face of our planet. Science has clearly underlined that the time has come for all of us to act. According to polls, undertaken in many countries of the world, a vast proportion of the world’s population believes that the international community must take a different path if we are to prevent consequences of climate change. Several events have shown us that there is increasing political will to do so. However, there is always space for improvement. The UN can play an important role in assisting this process, not only by addressing the capacity gap to act and thus guarding Millennium Development Goals, but also by leading the process to generate global consciousness. Certain activities can be undertaken by the system, within the framework of the mandates provided to it by Member States.

However, at the end of the day, we must not forget that the UN is the sum of its member states and it is up to us to determine the size of this sum.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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Date: 12.02.2008