Ban Ki-Moon's Provides Cautious Optimism for a Positive Outcome at UN Climate Conference

It's a bit disarming when the Secretary General of the United Nations steps off the stage to shake your hand. Ban Ki-moon just held his first press briefing here at the UN climate conference in Lima (COP 20). Following the briefing, he came directly to the front row and acknowledged several of us fortunate enough to have scored up-front seating.

[From left: UN Special Adviser on Climate Change Robert Orr, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres]

Ban opened the session with apologies for canceling his briefing scheduled for an earlier time slot this morning. For a world leader who has extraordinary responsibilities, he exudes a genuine, gentle personality. His intellect and temperament likely serve him well in the negotiating room.

Ban said that in his many speeches, he is emphasizing the same message, "Science has not only spoken, it is shouting from the rooftop...we must take action now on climate change...the more we delay, the more we must pay."

He emphasized that he carries a message of "urgency and hope." He reiterated five key points from his Opening Plenary Address:

• COP 20 in Lima "must deliver a balanced, well-structured, and coherent draft text for the 2015 Agreement that provides a clear and solid foundation for negotiations next year." He encouraged all Parties, "in particular all major economies to developed countries, to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by the first quarter of 2015."

• There needs to be tangible progress in solidifying climate finance. He called on all countries to make ambitious commitments to the Green Climate Fund. He emphasized that there must be a "clearly defined pathway for achieving the goal of 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 in support for developing countries.

• "Adaptation support and resilience building for the most vulnerable" must be prioritized, "especially for the least developed countries and small island states."

• He urged, "cooperation on a more comprehensive range of actions by all actors, including the private sector, civil society, cities, and other sub-national actors.

• He pressed "those countries that have not yet done so to swiftly ratify the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which established its second commitment period."

Fielding questions after his statement, Ban stated that in reaching emissions goals at COP 21 in Paris next year, we must be advised by the science, in particular the IPCC Assessment Reports. Further, he stated that there should be some formalization of the paper distributed by the COP 20 Chairman as a draft text.

Ban stated, "This is my eighth COP as Secretary General." He alluded to the lack of progress in the previous 19 COP's. Here, "I see signs of cooperation." He expressed cautious optimism with the recent US-China agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.

By the end of this week when COP 20 comes to a close, we will see if his optimism is warranted.