UN Chief Optimistic About Climate Agreement

Associated Press + More

EDITH M. LEDERER,
Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS—Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday he's still optimistic that a political agreement to slow global warming can be reached at next month's international conference on climate change.

But he said it will take additional time to negotiate a new global treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012 and only requires 37 industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gases.

Ban has made a new climate treaty his top priority, hosting a Sept. 22 summit on climate change to spur political support and traveling extensively to build political momentum for a global agreement. He initially hoped it would be hammered out at the U.N. conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in early December.

But he signaled at a news conference that a treaty would not be agreed in Copenhagen, though he insisted "we are not lowering expectations."

"I'm still optimistic," Ban said. "If we can agree on four political elements, then that could be a hallmark of success on climate change."

He said developed countries should agree in Copenhagen on ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and developing countries should agree on ambitious targets to reduce their growth of emissions. Strong action and financial support is also needed to help developing countries limit their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change, and a global framework must be adopted to manage and ensure implementation of the agreements, he said.

"Then, immediately, we will have to continue these technical negotiations so that all these agreements can be built upon to make a legally binding and comprehensive and equitable and balanced (treaty)," Ban said.

"That's our target," the secretary-general said.

With only five weeks to go before the Copenhagen conference, Ban said he's been working with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen talking to other governments on the substance and form of an agreement that might emerge.

"There is a long way to go still," he said.

But Ban said there are still some important negotiations including a final session in Barcelona, Spain, from Nov. 2-6.

The director of his Climate Change Support Team, Janos Pasztor, said Monday "it's hard to say how far the conference will be able to go" because the U.S. Congress has not agreed on a climate bill, and industrialized nations have not agreed on targets to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions or funding to help developing countries limit their discharges.

He said Ban might go to the meeting of Asian and Pacific leaders in Singapore on Nov. 14-15 — which President Barack Obama plans to attend — to keep pressing for an agreement in Copenhagen.