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Meeting the challenge of climate change

NAIROBI, 27 November, 2000 - Creating a world less dependent on carbon-intensive fossil fuels for its energy supplies, particularly after the collapse of the recent climate negotiations, is one of the greatest challenges facing us this century says Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Toepfer, who was the senior United Nations official at last week's inconclusive World Climate Change Conference in The Hague, said the conference outcome highlighted both the importance and difficulty of making the essential transition to low-carbon economies.

"We must move toward low and zero carbon energy supplies and a much higher degree of energy efficiency," said Toepfer, who believes it was right to suspend the talks in order to resume during the first half of 2001. "It is better to resume the talks later to ensure that we find the right path forward rather than take a hasty step that moves us in the wrong direction," he said.

"It is clear that this was not just an environmental negotiation, but an economic one as well," said Toepfer. "It is perhaps the most complex piece of multilateral diplomacy ever conducted and the chairman's proposal to have, in addition to regular contributions, a multi-million dollar adaptation fund, as part of a new 1 billion dollar package available to developing countries is definitely a step in the right direction."

After two weeks of intensive negotiations in The Hague, ministers and diplomats suspended talks on making the Kyoto Protocol operational and strengthening financial and technical cooperation between developed and developing countries on climate-friendly policies and technologies. However, the conference did make progress towards outlining a package of financial support and technology transfer to help the developing countries, especially the least developed countries and small island developing states, contribute to global action on climate change.

As follow-up to The Hague meeting, UNEP will try to assist developing countries to look in more detail at the conference outcome. UNEP's Governing Council and ministerial forum, meeting in Nairobi from 5 to 9 February 2001, will provide a further opportunity for the world's governments to discuss, and hopefully find common positions on, some of the outstanding climate change issues.

"We were very close to an historic agreement. This was especially due to the extremely committed and active work of Jan Pronk, the conference chairman and environment minister of The Netherlands," said Toepfer. I remain optimistic that with continued hard work and further negotiations we will find a solution and action on the outstanding differences," Toepfer continued. "Future generations will suffer if we fail to adequately deal with the very real threats of climate change today. For the sake of the Earth and all its inhabitants we simply cannot afford not to act."

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For more information please contact: Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman and Director of Communications and Public Information, on tel: +254-2-623292 or Robert Bisset, Office of the Spokesman, on tel: 623084, fax: 623692, email: robert.bisset@unep.org

News Release 2000/133