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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 7th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Back from the Bangkok meeting, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, will be passing through New York on Thursday April 10, 2008.

He will be summing up before the ten members of world media, a fracture of the 90 members of the UN Correspondence Association, that will be present in the building at that time, the outcomes of last week’s United Nations Climate Change Talks in Bangkok, the first major UN climate change meeting this year.

The Press Briefing will be held in room S-226 at the UN headquarters in New York – the second floor, the UN Secretariat Building where floors 2-4 are partly turned over to the press accredited with the UN.   The briefing will take place on: Thursday,   April 10, 2008, at 12:30 p.m.
In Bangkok, delegates from 162 countries gathered to map out their work programme leading to a long-term international climate change agreement in Copenhagen by the end of 2009. The Bangkok meeting had its hot and cold times; the opinions about the results verry vary. The UN declared roses, but others see only positioning towards the precipice. We trust that Mr. de Boer wants to present his point of view, and he needs thus more attention then the dried up UN press corps is allowed to provide him with.
The briefing will be webcast and in Manhattan you can watch it on UNTV, Channel 78.

Mr. de Boer is also available for interviews and media opportunities – the problem is that the UN Department of Information Control allows him to do all of this only in relation to those the Department selected for accreditation to the UN. We know that Mr. de Boer, in order to succeed in his job, must have wider access to the public. The fact that UNFCCC will allow for a webcast, and UNTV, unless it cuts of the program because of some activity at the UN Security Council that is deemed by DPI as more important – is also a possibility for some to get his input. But this does not make for a vibrant press coverage. Media is about asking questions – not just a conduit of information from the UN tub to the gasping mouth of the uninformed. Our website is full of examples of what I am talking here about. The last time we wrote about this it was in the context of the Japanese preparations for media contact at this year’s upcoming G8, that by the way, will have a lot to do also with our interest in climate change policy.

In short – what Mr. de Boer needs to do is to have a press conference also outside the UN confines – a place where every correspondent active in New York, every blogger interested in the subject, can come – listen, ask, be informed, and tell then his readers, listeners, watchers – this because the subject of climate change is of interest not just to the governing elites of 192 UN Member Governments, but to every Joe and Jane who will be in the end those that pay for inaction of the few – and watch what I am saying – it is these folks that need the information in order to help them impact policy.

Just watch this simple fact: The New York Times has an excellent experienced scientist/blogger – Andy Revkin – who covers climate change. But when there will be the April 10th briefing, Mr. de Boer will be lucky to see in the room Mr. Warren Hoge, who has the regular UN beat for the paper. Andy willl not be there, because he is not the regular NYT UN accredited reporter. So the readers of the NYT will at best find a note that Mr. Boer made a presentation in New York, and they will have lost the chance to find out what could have been a news breaking answer to a good question from Andy. Needless to say that less famous bloggers have no back up whatsoever – and today news are spread by the blogs!
Background:
At the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali last year, countries agreed to step up international efforts to combat climate change and to launch formal negotiations to come to an agreement on long-term cooperative action. They decided on the ambitious time-line to conclude negotiations by the end of 2009 and identified the main elements for discussion, including a shared-long term vision and enhanced action on adaptation, mitigation, technology and finance. The new working group that was mandated in Bali to lead the work has met in Bangkok for the first time with the intention of spelling out the steps needed to come to the envisaged agreement.

Furthermore, talks in Bangkok advanced work on the rules through which emission reduction targets of developed countries can be met.   This work was taken up by an already existing working group in which discussions take place on further commitments for Annex I countries under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Problem is how and when will the developing countries join above effort. Clearly, they cannot be asked to carry the brunt of the responsibility even though they are the growing new polluters on the bloc. On the other hand, governments like the US, Japan, Germany, these days say that there is a need to expand the responsibility also to the major economies of the front-runners among the now developing countries – China, India, Brazil. But what about the Small Island States, The Least Developed States, the Naurus and Bangladesh of this world? They stood up to speak for themselves at Bangkok because of the long existing truth that the G77 does not back their needs. After all, it is not the economic loss of the oil exporters that the submerging islands should be asked to worry about.

Bubbles float all over the UN – plain talk is what is needed. I know that Mr. de Boer knows that and we want the opportunity to ask him direct questions that are not monitored by the UN Secretariat political appointees.Will Mr. de Boer stand up to this challenge and have please a press briefing outside the UN?

How does Mr. de Boer expect to handle in December 2008, at this Conference of the Parties to UNFCCC and the meeting of the members to the Kyoto Protocol, when in November there was a Presidential election in the US   and the man in the White House has really just a few more days – not the years needed for him to be a serious player in the negotiations?

Above is a question that will not be asked at the UN – But for the Planet’s sake – there must be somewhere space to allow such a question – or really lots of travel just produces lots of emissions.

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