UNGA General Debate 2014 Addresses Climate Change, Renewable Energy, SLM
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As the UN General Assembly (UNGA) General Debate 2014 entered its second week, speakers continued to reflect on the challenges of climate change.

Delegates addressed climate change impacts, climate financing and the role of renewable energy and climate smart agriculture (CSA) in tackling climate change.

unga6929 September 2014: As the UN General Assembly (UNGA) General Debate 2014 entered its second week, speakers continued to reflect on the challenges of climate change. Delegates addressed climate change impacts, climate financing and the role of renewable energy and climate smart agriculture (CSA) in tackling climate change.

Speakers described the climate change impacts their countries are experiencing, including Erlan Abdyldayev, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, Domingos Simões Pereira, Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau, Wunna Maung Lwin, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, and Mohlabi Kenneth Tsekoa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lesotho. Nickolas Steele, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Grenada, highlighted the impact of climate change and natural disasters on the economy of his country, noting Hurricane Ivan alone resulted in damages worth 200% of its GDP. Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, and Camillo Gonsalves, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, also described losses and damages from climate change. Albert Del Rosario, Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, said change and natural disasters significantly impacted its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) achievements. Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, Prime Minister of Swaziland, said climate change has impacted his country’s food security.

Several commended UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit. Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, said it had made concrete commitments on sustainable, climate sensitive development and called on all countries to “make proportionate commitments.” Gonsalves said the Summit’s “tangible results were less than encouraging,” saying the numbers do not add up to what is required to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. He described the new resources raised and pledges for adapting financing as “akin to having a bake sale to settle the national debt.”

Many speakers supported reaching a legally binding global agreement on climate change, including Gabriel Arcanjo Ferreira Da Costa, Prime Minister of Sao Tome and Principe, Jean-Paul Adam, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Seychelles, Mårten Grunditz, Permanent Representative of Sweden, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, Phandu Skelemani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Botswana, and Lwin. Hor also emphasized addressing climate change based on common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). Gonsalves expressed concern that the agreement will not be ambitious enough and will not include sufficient adaptation financing.

Many addressed climate financing, including the role of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Adam reiterated the importance of fulfilling commitments for the GCF’s full operationalization and recommended ensuring that the most vulnerable, particularly SIDS and African countries, have access to resources as quickly as possible. Tsekoa expressed concern that funds to mitigate and adapt to climate change are difficult to access, saying the global climate finance architecture is complex and recommending simplifying accessibility of funds. Noting the links between climate change and the high indebtedness of small Caribbean islands, Steele called for concessional financing, particularly for SIDS, and operationalizing the GCF with a window for islands.

Adam requested SIDS be allocated a permanent seat on the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate change of the UNFCCC.

Rosario stressed disaster risk reduction (DRR) and management to address climate change impacts, describing its efforts to build back better. Steele highlighted DRM policies and instruments as critical in adapting to climate change.

Speakers also recognized the role of renewable energy in addressing climate change. Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, recommended ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modem energy for all, and called for increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. He also described Iceland’s efforts to scale up geothermal production, inviting Member States to join its Global Geothermal Alliance. Steele described island States as “the most cost effectives places for renewables” and welcomed SIDS DOCK, the work of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative. McCully stressed that sustainable development in the Pacific cannot happen without renewable energy. He described significant progress among Pacific countries towards increasing the share of renewable energy in their energy mix, noting that New Zealand has committed over US$100 million to this process.

Steele called for increased support for CSA, saying it can deliver triple wins for improved livelihoods, climate resilience and carbon emission reductions. Charles Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, described Ireland’s work in Africa on climate change impacts, particularly on smallholder agriculture, and informed it had joined the Alliance for CSA that was announced at the UN Climate Summit. Dlamini stressed the challenges it faces in achieving food security and reiterated its calls for adequate financial resources, technical assistance and transfer of environmentally sound technologies to achieve its development goals.

Flanagan recommended achieving a land-degradation neutral world, describing the relationship between climate change and desertification and drought, and emphasizing sustainable land management (SLM) as critical to mitigate and adapt to climate change and achieve food and water security. [UNGA General Debate 29 September 2014] [UN Press Release on Caribbean Statements] [UN Press Release on Vanuatu]


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