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Posted on on December 21st, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

UN Stumbles by Degrees in Nopenhagen, Stealing the Deal?

By Matthew Russell Lee of the Inner City Press.

UNITED NATIONS, December 17 — In the months leading to the Copenhagen climate talks, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon veered back and forth between reading out specific statements on how the deal should be sealed and saying it is up to member states, the UN is just the venue.

Then he and his advisors including Janos Pasztor and top humanitarian John Holmes announced that $10 billion for adaptation — or reparations — to developing countries would be enough, or “a good start.”

Inner City Press asked each of these three about the African Union’s much higher figure and threat to walk out. Each was to varying degrees dismissive.

Now with the Danish police pepper spraying demonstrators in the street, along with a crowd of UN accredited but excluded reporters, representatives of non governmental organizations and even some UN personnel, the mainstream media coverage turns negative and Ban urges poor countries to stop pointing fingers.

He also, at least according to them, has inappropriately accepted not only the developed countries’ $10 billion figure, but now their two degree Celsius temperature rise cap, versus the 1.5 degree figure.


UN’s Ban at Bella Center, excluded and pepper spray and 0.5 degrees not shown

In New York, Inner City Press has asked Ban’s spokesman about each of these. On December 15, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: I just want to follow up on Copenhagen. Do you have any, a large number of us have received the complaints of people who were there, who went yesterday and were unable, both journalists and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and even some UN staff, were unable to get into the building. And they seemed to say that the UN accredited 45,000 people, even though only 15,000 could fit in the building. If that’s true, why would the UN have done that?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Two things, the figure I’ve heard is not 45,000 but 34,000. That’s still a lot of people, absolutely.

Inner City Press: The same question.

Spokesperson: Yes, the same question. As I understand it, and as we’ve heard from Copenhagen, they have a system to try to rotate the number of people going into the building, because, obviously, they’re over capacity. Part of it is also, it’s not just NGOs, it’s journalists as well. There are large numbers. And as I’ve said here before, it clearly demonstrates the considerable interest there is in this event and in having access to this event. As for why there was an over-accreditation, I would refer you to the organizers, actually the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], who are actually on the ground organizing this, and they have a media team there who I’m sure could help you with that.

On December 16, Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky answered

I was asked yesterday about the delays in accessing the Bella Centre in Copenhagen, that’s obviously where the UN Conference on Climate Change is taking place. The United Nations regrets the long delays today for people wishing to gain access or pick up accreditation, and is doing all it can to alleviate further delays.

And more than 45,000 people did indeed apply to attend the Conference. And an overwhelming number of those who applied actually arrived on Monday. This is what caused the congestion in the area outside the UN venue, which is under the control of the Danish police, and also long delays at the UN accreditation counters.

The access to the venue for NGOs will continue to be controlled by the quota system that I mentioned to allow balanced access by various NGO groups. And the NGO representatives are given over half of the capacity of the Bella Centre, and that’s more than ever for a climate change conference. As of tomorrow, only NGO organizations that have the secondary badges will be able to enter the Bella Centre. And the Danish Government and the Danish NGO Network are organizing an alternative venue for NGOs who can’t get into the Bella Centre over the next two days.

Inner City Press asked two more questions:

Inner City Press: I want to ask you about two things that the Secretary-General said in Copenhagen; maybe you can clarify them. One was, he said that the goal is to cap temperature rise at 2° C, and small island States and other participants, Member States of the United Nations, had set their goal at 1.5° C. So, I guess they’re wondering where he came up with the 2° C number. Maybe you can clarify if that really is what he thinks should happen? And also he was quoted as saying that Kenya should lobby to make UNEP [the United Nations Environment Programme] in Nairobi the global environmental agency. You, know, France has a separate proposal that created a new agency. I’m wondering, does that indicate that he doesn’t support France’s proposal or what does it indicate?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Okay, on the first one, on the temperature rise, he’s made public comments on this, which we distributed this morning. The bottom line is that he has said if it’s possible to get to 1.5° C, that’s great. But if it’s not, then it’s important to have a deal that everybody can sign up to. That’s what he’s said. But I would refer you to his remarks so that you could read them in detail. On the UNEP idea, I will need to follow up on that.

Inner City Press: Just one follow-up on that, because in his press conference before he went on the trip, I think he was asked, somebody said, “What ideas are you taking to Copenhagen?” And he said that’s not his role. It’s up to the Member States to negotiate. So, I’m just wondering, I think that’s why people have this question about coming out with a 2° C number. It seems like more than leaving it up to Member States. Do you see what I’m saying? That seems to be inconsistent with what he said before he left.

Spokesperson: I don’t see any inconsistency there. He’s been consistent in saying that, yes, he has an honest broker role, but he also has firm convictions, strong convictions, about what is happening with climate change and his role in ensuring that everybody can come to the table and sign a deal. I would refer you to the remarks he made this morning, which are fairly explicit about the numbers.

And and Ban’s number is now two degrees Celsius, a figure never agreed to by developing countries. They think the UN is or is supposed to be their venue. But not anymore, it seems.


As UN Flies 700 Staff to Copenhagen, Coup Leader Set to Speak, Major Emitter Excluded.

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 10 — In the run up to the Copenhagen climate change conference, Inner City Press on December 4 asked UN climateer Janos Pasztor how many UN system staff, officials and consultants would be traveling to Denmark, with what carbon footprint. Pasztor said it wouldn’t be known until the conference began.

On December 10, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky finally answered the question, or part of it. He said that the Copenhagen conference has among its participants 477 people from the UN Secretariat and 309 from 19 specialized agencies and related organizations. That is, 786 people from the UN. But does this include consultants? And what is the carbon footprint and will it be offset?

Nesirky did however answer two questions Inner City Press asked on December 10, after an ill attended noon briefing held at the same time as a media stakeout by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice. Inner City Press asked if Ban Ki-moon is aware of the request that the coup leader of Madagascar not be allowed to participate in the Copenhagen conference, just as he was barred from speaking before the General Assembly in September.

Nesirky answered, “As for Madagascar, it is scheduled to speak on next Wednesday 16 December, sometime after 6 p.m., so they seem to have been invited.” But what about the request that, as at the UN General Debate in September, they be disinvited?

On December 8, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon

Inner City Press: Has Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, has he indicated to you – we’ve heard that you’ve spoken to him weekly by videoconference – he represents the African Union. Is the $10 billion enough? They threatened to walk out if not sufficient funds were committed. What’s you stance on how that issue’s going to play out?

SG: As you know I, together with Prime Minister [Lars Løkke] Rasmussen [of Denmark], have been engaging in weekly videoconferences with major stakeholders on climate change – particularly the representatives of the most vulnerable countries, including the African Union and small island developing countries. We are going to continue to do that, as we did in Trinidad and Tobago. Now the idea of short-term fast-track financial support is supported by developing countries. We had a very in-depth discussion on this issue during our Commonwealth summit meeting in Trinidad and Tobago. As you know the 53-Member State Commonwealth adopted a consensus declaration where this financial support – fast-track support – was agreed by all the Member States, including a provision that 10% of this $10 billion will be provided to small island developing countries.

So the Commonweath agreed — but has the African Union? Inner City Press asked Ban’s top humanitarian John Holmes on December 10, but he said he hadn’t been involved in setting the $10 billion figure. So who was?


UN’s Ban pre-signs Deal, coup leader coming, major emitter not shown

Inner City Press also asking about the block on participation by Taiwan, which is a major industrial emitter. Nesirky answered only that “Taiwan is not a party to the UNFCCC.” But why not? Would the UN want a major source of emission like Taiwan to participate?

The answer, of course, in China, a senior diplomat of which told Inner City Press a good joke on Thursday. He noted that U.S.’ Susan Rice had been harsh against Iran in that morning’s Council meeting. She has to play to the electorate, he said, just as Iran’s teetered regime tries to strengthen its power by being ever more hard-line. The Chinese diplomat said, “This is the problem with democracy.” And then he laughed.

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