UN climate talks back on track after brief suspension

14 December 2009Talks resumed at the United Nations summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, today after African nations briefly suspended negotiations over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, currently the only legally binding pact on climate change. Many industrialized countries are hoping to merge the Protocol and the outcome of the Copenhagen meeting, which entered its second and final week today, into a single agreement.However, their developing counterparts, among the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, want to extend the Protocol past 2012, when its first commitment period ends, and hammer out a separate agreement this week in Copenhagen.“I think this is not just an African concern,” Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told reporters today. “I think that the vast majority of the countries here want to see a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol.”To this end, informal consultations kicked off in Copenhagen today, he said, with the Kyoto Protocol topping the list of discussion topics.Mr. de Boer said that talks are halfway up the hill whose summit is an agreement reached by world leaders at the end of the two-week Copenhagen meeting.“I think we’re queuing up for the cable car, but the rest of ride is going to be fast, smooth and relaxing,” he noted.One of the remaining challenges, the official pointed out, is “how to capture countries’ commitment, countries’ willingness to act in a final agreement at the end of this week.”The ministerial portion of the conference, to be attended by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will kick off tomorrow, while the high-level segment – which will see the participation of 115 heads of State – will begin later this week.Mr. Ban, who departs for Copenhagen today, emphasized at his end-of-year press conference in New York today that “decades of effort will come down to this one critical week” in the Danish capital.“Seldom in history has a choice been so clear,” he said, exhorting negotiators to redouble their efforts and make the final push towards a new agreement.“If everything is left to leaders to resolve at the last minute, we risk having a weak deal – or no deal at all,” the Secretary-General said. “And this would be a failure of potentially catastrophic consequence…“As we depart for Copenhagen, I am confident that a fair deal is within our reach – a deal that can be embraced by all nations, large and small, rich and poor.” read more

Ban appoints Sigrid Kaag to head up joint OPCWUN mission in Syria

The UN chief appeared with Ms. Kaag at a news briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, he also announced that the appointment was made in close consultations with OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü.Ms. Kaag currently works for the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and has previously worked for the world body’s children’s agency UNICEF.“As Special Coordinator, [Ms. Kaag] will be responsible for overseeing all activities on the ground undertaken by the OPCW and United Nations personnel,” Mr. Ban said. “She will work directly for me and the Director General of the OPCW, and will be located in Cyprus, where the joint mission will have its staging area and support base.”Ms. Kaag’s role includes ensuring access and security for the OPCW inspectors, as well as logistical, communications, medical, administrative and policy support. She will also have to coordinate the provision of international assistance to complete the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme in accordance with the decisions of the Security Council and OPCW Executive Council.The Joint Mission also announced today that the OPCW and the UN have established separate but complementary Trust Funds.The appointment of the Special Coordinator and the arrangements related to the Trust Funds are based on the recommendations made by Mr. Ban, with the advice and support of Mr. Üzümcü, in accordance with the letter by the Secretary-General to the Presidency of the Security Council earlier this month.The Joint Mission has been established in order to achieve the timely elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme in the safest and most secure manner possible, and will continue the work undertaken by an OPCW–UN advance team in Syria since the beginning of this month.In his remarks to the press, Mr. Ban stressed that cooperation of all parties is required, with the situation in Syria still dangerous and unpredictable.“The humanitarian situation is worsening. The statement issued by the President of the Security Council two weeks ago called on all parties to end the violence and stop targeting civilians. It is vital to turn those strong words into action,” he said. “While mobilizing to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, the United Nations has not lost sight for one moment of the wider tragedy that is still destroying Syria. We are equally focused on reaching a political solution that will stop the appalling violence and suffering being inflicted on the Syrian people.”Mr. Ban said that efforts to hold the so–called “Geneva II” conference in November, bringing all stakeholders to the negotiating table. In addition, the Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi will visit the region for consultations with the key parties related to the conference. “We are calling on all who truly wish to work for peace and a new, democratic Syria to focus not on military actions but rather on ensuring the success of this conference.”Meanwhile, UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that the joint mission has now conducted verification activities at a total of 11 sites that are identified in Syria’s disclosure. “Activities have also included overseeing the destruction of critical equipment at six sites, as well as some destruction of so-called Category 3 weapons, and that is, in other words, unloaded chemical weapons munitions,” he added. read more