UN Climate Chief Dismisses US Threat To Abandon Negotiations

The United Nations' new climate chief issued a stinging response today to U.S. threats to abandon the 15-year effort to forge an international agreement on climate change.
The UN is the only venue capable of executing such an agreement, argued Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, during an afternoon press conference on the last day of negotiations in Bangkok."
"There is no other venue where every country is at the table. There is no other venue where the most vulnerable country is at the table where it needs to be. There is no other venue equipped to take decisions," said Figueres, a former Costa Rican negotiator who has been involved in the talks since 1995.
"Every time we are not advancing as quickly as everyone would like there is talk of other venues."
"Yes!" she said. "I very much encourage everybody to look for every other opportunity to work on climate change. Everything they achieve will enhance our process here at the United Nations. Because, as I have said, this is the only place where they can actually take decisions."
Figueres was responding to comments by U.S. Climate Envoy Todd Stern, who said in an interview published Wednesday that the UN process is built on unreasonable expectations, and that international binding emissions caps are "not doable."
Stern's comments came as negotiations in Bangkok stalled for days over agenda disputes that Stern compared to “bickering over the shape of the negotiating table.”
A lot of what was bound up in the very high expectations at the start of this whole process was unrealistic,” Stern said in an interview last night after speaking at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York. “I don’t think it’s necessary that there be internationally binding emission caps as long as you’ve got national laws and regulations. What I am saying is it’s not doable.”
During the New Energy Finance Conference, Stern said binding international treaties are unnecessary because only national laws and regulations ultimately prove binding.
This is the second time the U.S. has threatened a walkout. The Guardian newspaper quoted Stern soon after the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 saying the U.S. really only needed to negotiate with a small number of growing economies, like China, India, Brazil, and South Africa, and that might best be accomplished outside of the UN.
Asked about those comments at the time, former UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer offered a conciliatory response. He had called Stern, de Boer told reporters, Stern denied making the comments, and he believed him.
Today, Figueres was asked by a reporter whether she thought a resolution was still possible.
"Everything is possible in life," she said. "That's what makes life so exciting. But I do know that all countries really want the resolution part of this."
The UN's official recap of the Bangkok conference is here. The UNFCCC will next host delegates from its 192 member nations in December at Durban, South Africa.

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