Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
High–level Thematic Debate
“Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work”
12 February 2008
We thank you for convening this Thematic Debate on one of the major concerns of mankind today. Last September world leaders sent an unambiguous political message to the delegations at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Bali, guiding them to ambitiously seek a common ground to deal with the threats caused by global warming. The Bali Action Plan - with its four equally important building blocks - mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing - must lead to a comprehensive global agreement in December 2009 in Copenhagen.
The difference in views on approaches to the threat of worldwide climate disturbances is understandable. It reflects gaps in social conditions and industrial development between the wealthiest and the poorest nations. The most vulnerable, including the Small Island Developing States and the Least Developed Countries, which will be hardest hit, are least responsible for causing climate change. We must accept the fact that securing a safe future for mankind is the common responsibility of all nations. It is obvious that the economic costs of doing so must be shared according to means.
It is important to note, as others have done, that financing of climate change adaptation and investments in mitigating technologies can not - and must not - in any way undermine development cooperation aimed at obtaining the Millennium Development Goals.
In the Background Paper for this Thematic Discussion you put forward some highly relevant and important questions about the role of the United Nations in addressing climate change.
And the UN has indeed an important role to play, and so have we all, individually and collectively. National governments and local authorities have legislative and enforcement roles and regional groups of states should foster very close cross-border cooperation.
We welcome the initiatives of groups of world leaders, like the G-8 and the Major Economies’ Meetings on Energy Security and Climate Change. Their efforts are a valuable contribution towards a common binding United Nations agreement. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the only viable forum, both for reaching and enforcing a worldwide consensus on actions for addressing climate change in a comprehensive way. The General Assembly, however, is an appropriate forum for giving political guidance, as this thematic debate should demonstrate.
The role of the United Nations institutions in supporting and financing necessary actions is vital. The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation are instrumental in bringing about and supporting partnership actions worldwide and are helpful in designing and implementing innovative financing mechanisms.
The transfer of technology is one of the crucial elements in addressing climate change. Governments should facilitate investments by the private sector in new clean energy technology in developing countries and countries in transition, especially with legislation providing security of investments and by avoiding burdening new technologies with undue taxation.
By encouraging the private sector to invest in clean energy technologies in developing countries, a whole new world of opportunities for future technological innovation may be opened. It is estimated that by the year 2030 up to seven trillion dollars worth of clean energy investments may have been made, paving the way for a carbon neutral future. It is unquestionably the role of the United Nations to ensure that this new industrial revolution does not pass the doors of those countries where new investments and technological knowhow is most needed.
Currently over 80% of all primary energy used in Iceland is renewable, which is the highest ratio of renewable energy use in the world. Iceland is proud to be at the forefront of developing the most advanced technology to harvest one of the cleanest and safest renewable energy resource in the world. Geothermal power is potentially accessible in some ways in over 90 countries in the world. It is estimated that new geothermal power projects could increase installed capacity by 50 percent or more in the next five years worldwide, as the number of countries with geothermal power operations will double to over 40.
For almost 30 years the Icelandic government has operated and funded the United Nations University Geothermal Training Programme, training hundreds of young professionals, both men and women from 40 developing countries. These professionals have later become instrumental in the buildup of geothermal energy projects in their home countries. This is one kind of technological transfer that we believe is helpful and which should be expanded in the years to come.