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31 Mar, 2008

UN Climate Change Talks Begin In Bangkok

The UN Bangkok Climate Change talks got underway on Monday, the first major UN-sponsored meeting on climate change after the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali in December 2007.

In this dispatch :








Bangkok, 31 March 2008, (UN Information Services) – The UN Bangkok Climate Change talks got underway on Monday, the first major UN-sponsored meeting on climate change after the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali in December 2007.

At Bali, Parties agreed to step up international efforts to combat climate change and to launch formal negotiations to come to a long-term international agreement in Copenhagen by the end of 2009. The Bangkok meeting is designed to both map out a work programme that will lead to that agreement and to advance work on the rules through which emission reduction targets of developed countries can be met.

The meeting opened with warnings that the clock is ticking down to prepare an agreement in time to enter into force when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2013.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) pointed out that three months had already elapsed since the Bali conference and that a draft of a future agreement would need to be ready well before Copenhagen. “This leaves us with around one and a half years – a very short time-frame within which to complete negotiations on one of the most complex international agreements that history has ever seen,” said the UN’s top climate change official. “But I am confident that it can be done if the work is broken down into manageable, bite-sized chunks,” he added.

Delegates from 163 countries are attending the Bangkok Climate Change Talks 2008, which has so far attracted a total of around 1200 participants, including government representatives, participants from business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions.

At the Dec 2007 Climate Change Conference in Bali, parties to the UNFCCC decided on both the time-line and the main elements of a stronger climate change deal, including a shared long-term vision and enhanced action on mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance. A new Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) was mandated in Bali to lead the work and is meeting for the first time in Bangkok. Its main task is to spell out the next steps needed to come to the envisaged agreement.

Parties meeting in Bangkok this week will need to decide which topics require separate workshops in the course of 2008 and possibly 2009, and which areas of work need input from the business sector, international organisations or other stakeholders. Parties will furthermore need to establish and what support they require from the Bonn-based UN Climate Change Secretariat.

“There is already broad consensus among Parties on the importance of completing this work before political agreement is reached on a post-2012 deal in Copenhagen” said Harald Dovland, Chair of the group. “Much of the technical work can be done before we meet in Denmark next year.” The tools that the working group will analyse in Bangkok include emissions trading and the “project based mechanisms”.

For example, the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism already allows developed countries to meet part of their emission reduction commitments by investing in sustainable development projects in developing countries. Other tools are land use, land-use change and forestry; greenhouse gases, sectors and source categories to be covered, along with possible approaches targeting sectoral emissions, for example from the steel or cement sectors.

The next UN meeting involving negotiations under both working groups will take place in June in Bonn this year, followed by a third meeting in August and a fourth at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan in December.

ABOUT THE UNFCCC: With 192 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has to date 178 member Parties. Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

On the one hand, the Bangkok Climate Change Talks are expected to establish a clear work programme for a negotiation process on strengthened international action against climate change, established under the Bali Roadmap. On the other hand, talks on further commitments for Kyoto Protocol Parties will include considering the possible tools available to industrialised countries to reach future emission reductions.

The two processes are set to culminate in a strengthened and effective international climate change deal, to be clinched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

“The challenge is to design a future agreement that will significantly step up action on adaptation, successfully halt the increase in global emissions within the next 10-15 years, dramatically cut back emissions by 2050, and do so in a way that is economically viable and politically equitable worldwide,” said Yvo de Boer.



Langkawi/Bangkok, 19 March 2008 – Asia Pacific countries are pacing ahead in meeting their commitments to end production and consumption of chemicals that harm the Earth’s protective ozone layer, years ahead of internationally-agreed deadlines.

“Their actions prove that when there is political will and the right enabling conditions, the countries in this region can meet and even exceed their treaty commitments, which provides inspiration for the implementation of other environmental agreements,” said Rajendra Shende, Chief, OzonAction Branch, UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, during the Meeting of National Ozone Units of 22 countries in South Asia and South East Asia and the Pacific Network in Langkawi, Malaysia, which concluded today. East Timor, one of the last four countries which have not ratified the Protocol, participated for the first time.

Under the Montreal Protocol for Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, Asia Pacific countries agreed to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride (CTC) by 2010, and methyl chloroform and methyl bromide by 2015. Financial assistance was provided by the Multilateral Fund to cost-effectively phase out these ozone depleting chemicals. National Ozone Officers gathered at the meeting to discuss current issues, future strategies, action plans and reviewed where countries in the region stand in meeting the treaty obligations

At least five countries – Sri Lanka, Maldives China, Indonesia, and Fiji – have phased out CFCs, nearly two years ahead of the 2010 deadline. Sri Lanka and Maldives recently joined ranks with China, Indonesia, and Fiji in announcing early phase out of CFCs in their countries. Last year, China shut down five of its six remaining CFC plants, while Indonesia imposed a ban on the import of CFCs into the country in January 2008. Fiji phased out its use of CFC as early as 2000. In addition, 14 countries in the region have phased out CTCs and 13 countries have phased out halons ahead of the 2010 schedule.

“I am confident that the early phase-out of these countries will serve as an example for other developing countries in the region and will motivate them to strengthen their regulations and control of the use of ODS to reach the phase-out deadlines proscribed by the treaty,” said Mr. Mokhtarud-din-Bin-Husain, Senior Principal, Assistant Director of the Ministry of Agriculture of Malaysia. The meeting was hosted by the Department of Environment, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Malaysia.

Completing the phase out of CFCs in developing countries is by far the most important next step in protecting the ozone layer. Other challenges highlighted were the need for countries to speed up in meeting their obligations, dealing with methyl bromide exempted under the Montreal Protocol, stocks of ozone depleting chemicals in existing equipment (called “banks” of these chemicals), a growing black market for illegal CFCs and the freeze on production of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in 2013 and phaseout in 2030. While HCFCs are ozone-depleting chemicals, their high global warming potential means that their freeze and elimination under the Montreal Protocol will also garner significant benefits in climate change protection

The most significant and inspiring achievement comes from the Beijing Olympic Games to be held later in 2008. All the venues of Olympic games and events will not use CFCs and HCFCs, making it first “ozone friendly” Olympics of the modern times .

Asian countries are also moving ahead in early phase out of other ozone depletion substances like methyl chloroform and methyl bromide, due for phase out in 2015. Afghanistan, Bhutan, Brunei, DPR Korea, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam have already ceased production and consumption of methyl chloroform, while Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, DPR Korea, India, Lao PDR, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea have phased out methyl bromide, used for soil and post-harvest fumigation.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of a number of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion. The treaty was opened for signature on September 16, 1987 and entered into force on January 1, 1989. Since then, it has undergone five revisions, in 1990 (London), 1992 (Copenhagen), 1995 (Vienna), 1997 (Montreal), and 1999 (Beijing). Due to its widespread adoption and implementation it has been hailed as an example of exceptional international cooperation “Perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date…”

About the Compliance Assistance Programme (CAP) of UNEP DTIE: UNEP as an Implementing Agency of the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol has a unique regionalized programme that delivers compliance assistance services to countries to assist them meet the international commitments under the Protocol. The compliance regime requires countries to: achieve and sustain compliance, promote a greater sense of country ownership and implement the agreed Executive Committee framework for strategic planning.

UNEP through the Compliance Assistance Programme (CAP) has moved from project management approach to a direct implementation initiative through its specialized staff. Consistent with the above approach the Regional Office for Asia and Pacific (ROAP) CAP team has developed to be the centre for policy advice, compliance guidance and conduct training to refrigeration technicians, customs officers and other relevant stakeholders on compliance issues, promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation and promote high-level awareness by utilizing UNEP’s staff.

OzonAction Programme: www.unep.fr/ozonaction

Multilateral Fund: www.multilateral fund.org

Ozone Secretariat: www.ozone.unep.org



Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), today called on developed countries to help meet the technological and financial needs of developing countries facing the challenge of climate change.

“The challenge for the region’s developing countries is whether they can switch to a less polluting pattern of production while maintaining the growth and development they require,” Heyzer told the opening session of the UN Climate Change Talks in Bangkok. “We need global solidarity based upon genuine North-South and South-South partnerships of governments, as developing countries cannot do this alone.”

Heyzer noted that for the Asia-Pacific region, climate change is no longer a distant threat. “It is a reality and a sign of what lies ahead,” she said. “For many of our Pacific island states, it is a looming question of their survival or extinction.” She said that with technological and financial support from developed countries, the region can find cost-effective ways to address climate change.

“Countries in the region need to focus their actions in terms of cleaner technologies, industries and jobs,” Heyzer said. “Rather than focusing on the quantity of growth, countries need to incorporate quality dimensions that reflect inclusiveness of development and the adverse consequences of climate change.” She added that this is a new paradigm that can support the proactive participation of developing countries in climate action, with adequate support from developed countries.

Echoing comments by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Bangkok on his way to Bali last December, Heyzer said that the climate crisis could be turned into a new opportunity for the next green revolution – based on cleaner technology and a low-carbon economy that advances sustainable development; and encourages new kinds of cleaner technologies, industries and jobs.

“In this, we need partnerships between public and private sector as well as civil society to bring about a paradigm shift not only in policies but in behaviour,” Heyzer said. “It is time to build solidarity, and it is time to re-commit to a global partnership for sustainable development.”



VIENTIANE, Laos (31 March 2008) – China Premier Wen Jiabao, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, Thailand Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda officially opened the Route 3 highway in Lao PDR today, the last remaining stretch of road in an overland route joining Singapore and Beijing.

Before construction commenced on the new route, the highway was closed four months each year during the rainy season, limiting communities’ access to basic social services, and impeding trade and employment opportunities in the region.

Now that the new route is complete, the highway will be open year-round, and the driving time from Bangkok to Kunming will only take a little over one full day. “Revitalizing this ancient trade route and stimulating new business between these Mekong neighbors will bring more jobs and greater prosperity to the region,” said President Kuroda.

“Improved road networks in Lao PDR will also give families in the area easier access to health clinics, and give children better access to school,” he added. Route 3 mirrors ancient “back door” trade routes that linked Southeast Asia to southern branches of the Silk Road in the 13th century. As late as the 1800s, caravan traders were carrying raw cotton and other commodities northwards in exchange for silk, tea, furs and other goods. In Lao PDR, Route 3 passes by the ancient village of Khou Vieng, a former trading post from the 16th century.

The north-south road network from Kunming to Bangkok has been under development by Mekong nations and ADB for more than a decade. In addition to enhancing business and employment opportunities for Lao PDR, Thailand, and the PRC, the new route is expected to expand the number of tourists visiting all three countries each year.

The total cost of Route 3 in Lao PDR is $97 million. ADB, the Government of Thailand, and PRC each contributed $30 million to the project, with Lao PDR contributing the remaining $7 million.



Vientiane, (28 March 2008) – Putting a collective 3,500 kilometers behind them, young people from across the Mekong region arrived in Vientiane Friday in three caravans to attend the first ever Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Youth Forum.

The Forum begins Sunday as part of activities associated with the Third GMS Summit, and brings together 37 young people representing the six countries sharing the Mekong River to deliver a regional youth message to the prime ministers and other high-ranking officials attending the Summit.

The youth will ask their leaders for greater focus on educational opportunities and skills development, more support for health programs and access to health care, and better protection for the environment.

“The GMS youth message highlights issues that are important to young people in this dynamic region,” said Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice President C. Lawrence Greenwood, Jr. “Young people are the region’s next generation of leaders, decision makers, teachers, thinkers and workers. Getting them involved now will pave the way for a closer Mekong community, leading to greater regional cooperation in the future,” he added.

On 22 March, the youth delegates set off on the three caravan trips along the region’s North-South, East-West, and Southern economic corridors, experiencing firsthand “the 3 Cs” of connectivity, competitiveness, and community.

“I will never forget the caravan experience or the friends I’ve made,” said Ms. Bounphady Insisienmay of Vientiane, Chairperson of the GMS Youth Forum. The five-day road journeys began in Kunming, People’s Republic of China, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, following the major transport corridors that now link these countries. The road to Vientiane has been long, both literally and figuratively. In the second half of 2007, more than 250 young people aged 18–30 participated in national youth consultations in each GMS country. Six national youth messages were the result.

Smaller youth delegations from each country convened in Bangkok in January 2008. They exchanged views and shared experiences, finding they had much in common. The national youth messages were consolidated into a regional youth message. “It is both an honor and a unique opportunity to be able to present our collective message to the prime ministers of six countries,” Ms. Insisienmay added.

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