The Director-General started his speech by highlighting that over the past 30 years, UNESCO has actively contributed to building the global knowledge base on climate change. “Our contributions in the areas of oceanography, hydrology and the ecological and earth sciences are well recognized and form part of the overall UN response.” He stated that “there are also other aspects of climate change – in particular its human dimensions – that urgently need attention, and where this Organization can play a lead role.”
Mr Matsuura recalled that in February 2007 UNESCO hosted the final scientific synthesis meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one of the co-recipients of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. The report from this meeting outlines the strongest case yet for the adverse effects of global warming, as caused largely by human activities.
“The cost of inaction will exceed the cost of taking early action, probably by several orders of magnitude. We have a moral imperative to respond, and now,” declared the Director-General. He assured the delegates and observers that “as a member of the Chief Executives Board and its High-Level Committee on Programmes, UNESCO is participating fully in the development of this UN interagency approach for addressing climate change.”
Mr Matsuura noted that a series of consultative meetings on UN system cooperation on climate change identified four thematic areas of action: mitigation, adaptation, technology innovation and transfer, and finance mechanisms. He went on to explain that UNESCO and other agencies have argued that the strategy would be incomplete without two additional areas for action: scientific research and climate monitoring. “These two areas, which would help to improve our understanding of the effects of climate change, have since been explicitly acknowledged as integral to the UN’s action on climate change,” he added.
The Director-General highlighted that he had set up in June an Intersectoral Task Force on Global Climate Change, under his direct authority to ensure that UNESCO is in the best position to provide input to UN-led efforts in these fields. He explained that the Task Force was charged with evaluating the Organization’s climate-related programmes and activities, and developing an integrated House-wide strategy based on UNESCO’s comparative advantages and proven expertise. He also noted that this included the work of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, “which has over 40 years experience in the area of global weather and climate observation and prediction systems, including tsunami warning systems.”
Mr Matsuura went on to state that “many of UNESCO’s climate-related activities are directly aimed at tackling […] broader, interdisciplinary questions. This includes our work in biodiversity conservation and the protection of World Heritage, as well as in natural disaster mitigation. It also includes our work within the framework of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, for which UNESCO is the lead agency. UNESCO’s contributions to the Decade engage all five sectors, which are working together to promote all aspects of education for sustainable development, including climate change.”
The Director-General underlined the fact that the International Year of Planet Earth, to be celebrated in 2008, provided UNESCO, lead agency for the year, with an ideal opportunity to highlight the breadth of its activities in climate change, as part of its broader work to promote sustainable development.
In outlining the draft intersectoral UNESCO strategy on global climate change, Mr Matsuura stated that UNESCO would assist Member States to build and maintain a requisite knowledge base; adapt to the impacts of climate change; mitigate its causes; and achieve sustainable development. He explained that this work would be done on the basis of five main pillars of action: scientific research, assessment and monitoring; education; capacity-building; support to policy planning and national development; and effective public information and public awareness-raising.
The Director-General also emphasized that he was committed “to practice what we preach with respect to the institutional changes that must be made to meet the challenges of climate change,” notably by “reducing energy and paper waste, and making full use of UNESCO’s five video conferencing facilities to reduce our carbon footprint from staff travel.” In this regard he noted that he had initiated an audit of the Organization’s on-site energy use and conservation measures.
Following Mr Matsuura’s remarks, permanent delegates had the opportunity to provide their views and inputs on the draft strategy. A revised draft strategy will be presented to the Executive Board at its 179th session.
Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 173-2007 - Publication Date: 14-11-2007