Back in 2007, he shed tears on stage yet successfully kickstarted a mandate for governments present at the Bali climate change conference to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a legally binding agreement within two years in Copenhagen, Denmark. “*At that time* I thought our secretariat was being unfairly criticized. then I left *the stage*, but when I came back, everybody stood up and clapped. So we had a happy ending,” he told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the UN environment conference in Nusa Dua, Bali.
And last week, he was back in the tourist island to compare notes with delegates disappointed with the decisions reached at the Copenhagen climate summit last December. There were no tears this time around. However his task was made harder as he also came to break some bad news – his decision to resign from the post of executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ahead of schedule, on July 1, after almost four years on the job.
With only six months to prepare for the Mexico climate conference, some say it will be tough to find someone to fill his shoes – sparking fears that countries will never be able to ink a legally binding climate treaty in time, before the Kyoto Protocol’s commitment phase expires in 2012. While De Boer said his decision to resign had nothing to do with the failure to produce a legally binding deal in Copenhagen, he warned it was unlikely a new climate treaty would be finalized in Mexico this year, and urged countries to shift toward reaching an agreement at the 2011 summit in South Africa instead.
“The first priority is to rebuild confidence and trust…” he said. Under the Kyoto protocol, only industrialized countries committed to reducing their carbon emissions. After Copenhagen, more than 60 countries submitted plans and targets to reduce carbon emissions, accounting for more than 80 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
“So now, I think things have changed, and the whole international community is saying we want to move on with this target,” said the 56-year-old former deputy director general of the Dutch Environment Ministry, who became the UN’s climate chief in September 2006. Resolving sharp differences between rich and poor countries – blamed for Copenhagen’s failure – remains a big issue, although these nations have signed and ratified the climate change convention.
“I think the biggest challenge *with the job* is to convince governments, for the sake of their national economic interests, to act on climate change and to show them that you can grow your economy in a green way while *at the same time* eradicating poverty.” Every country, he said, is subject to different circumstances. Producing countries, island states and countries like Indonesia, are more concerned with issues pertaining to islands and forests while countries in Africa with how to address droughts. “I’m saying the challenge is to find a way forward that addresses the interest of all countries. That’s what makes it so complicated.”However, he insisted on the need to rebuild trust after Copenhagen and work hard to meet carbon emission reduction targets as required by the Kyoto Protocol.
Countries like Spain, he said, are investing in clean energy projects overseas to offset their carbon emissions with reductions in developing countries, as they are not on track to meet their targets. “So I think countries are still trying very hard to meet their *carbon emission reduction* target,” he said. “*But* I also think the targets of industrialized countries are not ambitious enough. We need more ambitious targets from them.”
Although Copenhagen did not produce a binding agreement, de Boer felt optimistic after the meeting concluded with rich countries promising to pay developing nations US$30 billion of “climate aid” over the next three years, increasing to $100 billion a year from 2020. “They also set a two degree temperature increase maximum as the goal. So I think, in a political sense, there was a real achievement in Copenhagen, and I think the nations of the world now want to capitalize on that and turn it into a real agreement.”
Both rich and developing countries, he said, intend to lower their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “I mean, look at countries like Indonesia, which used to be a major oil producer but is now worried about an energy crisis and energy security. “It is in the economic interest of Indonesia to make its economy more efficient. Even if there is no climate change, Indonesia still wants to make its economy more efficient reduce the cost of oil imports.”
When asked about his replacement, de Boer said it would be good if the next UN climate chief came from a developing country like Indonesia, as he or she would better understand the concerns of other developing countries. “I think that would be good . Indonesia has some very intelligent and eligible people who have worked on this issue for many years.
“Indonesia is a very interesting country. It is one of the major *GHG* emitters of the world, a country with many islands and a country with a lot of forests. In that sense, Indonesia is familiar with the issue from many different perspectives and has very knowledgeable people.” Indonesia would certainly have good candidates, he went on, but it certainly wasn’t his place to say who would be suitable. “It’s now up to the UN secretary general to find the suitable person.” De Boer will be joining the consultancy group KPMG as global adviser on Climate and Sustainability. “I also hope I will be working with a number of universities. I like working with students. That would be fun.”
Source: The Jakarta Post – March 3, 2010
By Desy Nurhayati and Stevie