UN wants climate summit to avoid negotiations over global pact

The United Nations wants world leaders to avoid negotiating over next year’s international climate agreement when they meet next week to talk about climate change.

Bob Orr, the U.N.’s assistant secretary-general for policy coordination, said U.N. leaders have learned that it is best to separate negotiations from a summit like the New York City one.

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“We are trying to discourage a negotiating dynamic, but rather a leadership dynamic, that we want to see leaders stepping up,” Orr said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who organized the summit, is asking countries and private companies to come to it prepared to make bold commitments to fight climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But Ban set up the summit to be separate from the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, in which leaders have committed to writing an international pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions next year in Paris.

Orr said the structure came about after a 2009 climate change meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, in which the U.N. brought in world leaders — not just negotiators — to hammer out an agreement.

“You can’t just superimpose leaders on a negotiation and expect things to come out much differently than they would have otherwise,” he said.

But if national leaders, including the more than 120 heads of state who will participate, can assert their leadership and make commitments more than a year before the Paris meeting, Orr thinks it will work better.

“They can actually assert their leadership before the negotiators have to go into the room to ink the deal,” he said.

Orr also downplayed the fact that some major countries, including China, India, Canada and Australia, are not sending their heads of state to next week’s summit.

China, for example, is sending one of its top leaders.

“The fact that China is sending vice premier Zhang Gaoli, who is the senior Chinese official responsible for Chinese climate policy, both domestically and internationally, but who is also responsible in the politburo for all financing in China, makes him the right person,” he said.