UN climate chief says rich must act for global deal

LONDON - The world can salvage a new deal to combat global warming but rich countries must first fulfil their pledges on climate aid, the U.N.’s new climate chief, Costa Rica’s Christiana Figueres, told Reuters.

By (Agencies)

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Published: Tue 18 May 2010, 11:57 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:44 AM

The United Nations appointed Figueres on Monday to be its climate chief and head international talks on how to contain the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Agreement on a global deal was not a priority for 2010, she said, reflecting a widespread down-scaling of ambition after a bad-tempered summit in Copenhagen in December.

The priority now was to build trust, she said, to help agree in the future a successor to the Kyoto Protocol whose first round ends in 2012.

“I do think we will end up with a global agreement,” she said in a telephone interview.

“It is a great challenge but with great challenges come great steps.”

Figueres, 53, will take over from Dutchman Yvo de Boer as head of the U.N. climate change secretariat from July 1.

She is the first leader of the secretariat to come from a developing country. Such an appointment was widely forecast after a rich-poor rift in Copenhagen, where developing countries said the industrialised world was shirking its historical responsibility for causing climate change.

Low-carbon growth

The economies of developing nations faced particular challenges, said Figueres, and especially to grow while emitting less carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, and against a backdrop of a more hostile environment, in particular for small island and African states.

“We are discussing the growth of developing countries,” said Figueres, who beat fellow short-listed candidate Marthinus van Schalkwyk, a former South African environment minister.

While failing to agree a binding international climate deal, the Copenhagen summit did produce an accord in which rich countries pledged $30 billion fast-track funding from 2010-2012 for poorer countries facing more droughts and floods.

Delivery on such pledges to help countries adapt to climate change, and others to slow deforestation, must be the priority for the next major climate meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in November and December, Figueres said.

“Parties need to prove to themselves that issues already on the table, such as fast-tracking financing, that’s not just on paper but can also be delivered. That’s the focus of Cancun.”

Some analysts are doubtful any new formal, binding pact beyond Kyoto can be reached, expecting instead a patchwork of national targets and schemes.

Figueres said she expected a deal, but was unsure of the timing. “When and how there’s a binding agreement is the purview of the parties to decide. I don’t think it’s the priority of parties right now.”

When asked if developed countries had failed to deliver on their past pledges in U.N. climate talks, Figueres said: “That’s certainly the view of most developing countries. That is certainly something we can improve.”



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