Vienna, Austria, 19 August 2016–OPEC Secretary General, HE Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, recently received HE Ali El Mhamdi, Morocco’s Ambassador/Permanent Representative in Vienna, Austria, during which the officials discussed the COP 22 climate change talks due to be hosted by the African Kingdom in November.
HE El-Mhamdi, who was accompanied at the OPEC Secretariat by Ms. Maryem Haddaoui, Counsellor, began the meeting by congratulating HE Barkindo on his recent appointment as Secretary General.
He stated that on behalf of his government and personally he wanted to extend his warmest congratulations and to offer HE Barkindo his best wishes for every success in his new post.
“I feel that OPEC is in the best of hands. We are facing challenging times and we need experience, and we need a high profile, both of which you have,” he said.
HE El-Mhamdi said that apart from wanting to wish HE Barkindo well in his new responsibilities, his visit was also in connection with the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP 22) meeting to be held in Morocco on 7-18 November 2016.
“It is a tremendous event for us and I have been instructed by my government to conduct an outreach campaign for OPEC as I know already that the Organization will again be involved in the talks,” he affirmed.
“My request is for the Organization to be as visible as possible and I ask that OPEC’s participation be the best possible. It is great for my country to be able to extend this invitation,” he added.
In thanking the Ambassador for his kind words and support, HE Barkindo pointed out that the climate change meetings were a priority for OPEC since the Organization had been involved in the negotiations since the establishment of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee by the United Nations General Assembly in 1991.
It was this Committee that negotiated the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The Treaty entered into force in March 1994 and was presented to the first Conference of the Parties (COP1) meeting in Berlin, in 1995.
“The convention was the bible of our negotiations,” commented Barkindo, adding that it led to the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997 and entered into force in February 2005.
“All this was made possible because of the active and constructive participation of all developing countries and OPEC,” he maintained.
Barkindo pointed out that he had been Vice President at COP 1 in Berlin, working alongside former research scientist Angela Merkel, the current German Chancellor.
“I actually attended and negotiated as Vice Present on several occasions from COP 1 in Berlin to COP 15 in Copenhagen. So you can see that these negotiations are very personal to me.”
He was obviously delighted that the Paris Agreement, seen as a major breakthrough in the climate change debate, was reached at COP 21 in Paris in 2015.
Turning to Morocco and the host of COP 22, HE Barkindo said he not only considered the Kingdom dear as an African nation, but also as a key developing country that had participated very closely in crafting the convention as well as the Kyoto Treaty in Japan.
“I know the position of Morocco very well and it is similar to most developing countries and OPEC,” he stated.
HE Barkindo reiterated that OPEC had been actively involved in all the COP meetings and the Secretary General regularly participated in the high-level segment of the discussions, held towards the end of each conference.
“We intend to continue with this tradition in Marrakesh. Our experts and officials will have a meeting room there and they will convene meetings for OPEC Member Countries and other developing states. It is very important for the OPEC Secretariat to be in Marrakesh and I personally look forward to attending the high-level segment,” he stated.
He stressed that Morocco was already an important contributor to the climate change negotiations having convened an earlier meeting in Marrakesh, which he attended, and at which the Marrakesh Accord, a very important agreement in the process after Kyoto, was agreed upon.
HE Barkindo told his guests that with the likely attendance of some 200 countries, COP22 would be a heavy responsibility. But he was confident that Morocco, with its long and proud history, and Marrakesh, with all its experience of hosting previous high-level international meetings, would prove the ideal setting for the talks.
“All OPEC delegates will be supportive of the efforts of the Moroccan Presidency at COP 22,” he assured.
Also addressing the meeting, Ms. Haddaoui observed that in connection with COP 22 the Moroccan Presidency was working very closely with the French Presidency that hosted COP 21 in 2015, in order to maintain the same high standards set by the French authorities.
“It is very important ahead of COP 22 that we know the expectations of OPEC and its Member Countries and to make sure that all countries’ views, visions and points of view are considered. We therefore look forward to keeping very close contacts with OPEC to enable us to get a better understanding of what the Organization requires. Hopefully this is just the first in a series of meetings on the subject,” she said.
Ms. Haddaoui presented the Secretary General with up-to-date information from the Moroccan Presidency concerning all aspects of COP 22, listing its priorities, its vision, its overall aims and objectives, in addition to the organizational aspects and general information.
She also pointed to the website of COP 22 which offered valuable information about all the meetings due to be held in the lead up to the main conference.
HE Barkindo invited his visitors to attend OPEC’s customary pre-COP Coordination Meeting in October, adding that this would be attended by COP negotiators from OPEC Member Countries who would benefit from the views of officials representing the Moroccan Presidency.