U.N. chief weighs in on climate talk expectations

As negotiations for a global climate change convention entered their final stages in Copenhagen, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sat down with Times Foreign Editor Bruce Wallace to discuss the prospects for a deal, and whether rich nations are looking to curb the United Nations’ role in overseeing the billions of dollars that may be transferred from the developed to the developing world.

Ban said he expected to see a final, legally binding agreement signed by the middle of next year.

Is a political deal in Copenhagen still possible?

We need to have a very strong, robust, binding political deal that will have an immediate operational effect. This is not going to be a political declaration, just for the sake of declaration. It is going to be a binding political deal, which will lead to a legally binding treaty next year.

I’m a perfectionist -- sort of. Everybody wants to have a perfect deal.

But if we insist on agreeing to everything upfront, all the nitty-gritty in Copenhagen, then it may lead us nowhere, to no agreement at all.

There has been talk of reducing the U.N.'s role in future climate change policy and allowing Western-led institutions to oversee how the developing world spends any money it receives from developed countries. Can there be a deal that excludes the U.N.?

How can you scrap the role of the United Nations? The United Nations has global reach.

The United Nations will be there and should be involved in this implementation process.

One of the principles agreed upon is that all commitments should be reportable, measurable and verifiable. This is what has been agreed by both developed and developing countries.

We will establish a global governance structure to monitor and manage the implementation of this. Experts from both worlds should participate.

Do developed countries owe a carbon debt to developing countries?

Developed countries have political and moral responsibilities, therefore they have to do more, first of all by coming out with ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and they should be prepared to provide financial support.

We have pretty good agreement on short-term, fast-track financial support in the order of $10 billion for the coming three years. When we agree on a politically binding agreement, this will have immediate operational effect, including financial support from next year.

Does President Obama’s decision to attend this week mean a deal is likely?

The U.S. has had very serious, in-depth bilateral engagement with China and India.

And I believe that the fact that President Obama has agreed to participate himself may suggest that the U.S. has some better understandings on what China and India will do. He has been instrumental in changing the political dynamics of this debate.