17 November 2007
I am delighted to join you for the release of the synthesis report of the IPCC fourth assessment.
Let me commend all members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on this landmark achievement. And on behalf of the entire United Nations family, let me congratulate, once again, Dr. Pachauri, all former chairs of the IPCC, and the thousands of scientists who have worked tirelessly for the Panel, on receiving this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Let me also congratulate the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization for their vision to create the IPCC and their ongoing efforts to support its work.
I come to you humbled after seeing some of the most precious treasures of our planet -- treasures that are being threatened by humanity’s own hand.
Antarctica, the Torres del Paine glaciers, the Amazon -- all humanity must assume responsibility for these jewels, on behalf of succeeding generations.
In Antarctica, the message was chillingly simple: the continent’s glaciers are melting. I saw the heart-bursting beauty of ice shelves that have already started to break up. I was told that if large quantities of Antarctica’s ice were to melt, sea levels could rise catastrophically.
In the Amazon, I saw how the rainforest -- the “lungs of the earth” -- is being suffocated. Brazil is making serious strides in fighting deforestation and promoting sustainable forest management. But the Government fears that global warming is already undercutting these efforts. If the Panel’s most severe projection comes true, much of the Amazon rainforest will transform into savannah.
In Punta Arenas, Chile, near the centre of the famous “ozone hole” in the earth’s atmosphere, children wore protective clothing against ultraviolet radiation. There are days when parents don’t let them play outside, or even go to school.
These scenes are as frightening as a science fiction movie. But they are even more terrifying, because they are real.
Slowing -- and reversing -- these threats are the defining challenge of our age. The world looks to our climate brain trust to educate, inform and guide us.
One of our guideposts is the synthesis report you are releasing today. It distils key findings from the thousands of pages of the working group reports. It gives policymakers an easy-to-use guide.
And it contains one overarching message for all of us: that there are real and affordable ways to deal with climate change.
I have been heartened by how Governments have embraced the Panel’s scientific findings so far. Their support has set the stage for decisive action and informed policymaking on this vital issue. As this report make clear, concerted and sustained action now can still avoid some of the most catastrophic scenarios under your forecasts.
Our sights are now set on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali next month. It is the opportunity to provide political answers to these scientific findings.
This report will be formally presented to the Conference in Bali. Already, it has set the stage for a real breakthrough -- an agreement to launch negotiations for a comprehensive climate change deal that all nations can embrace.
The Bali Conference should also map out the agenda for these negotiations, as well as their timeframe -- I hope in an agreement to conclude negotiations by 2009. Leaders were clear at the High-Level Event on Climate Change at the United Nations in September: we cannot afford to leave Bali without such a breakthrough.
One crucial aspect of the Panel’s assessment is that climate change will affect developing countries the most. Those who are most vulnerable are also the most at risk from this threat. Melting glaciers will trigger mountain floods and lead to water shortages in South Asia and South America. Rising sea levels could inundate small island developing States. Reduced rainfall will aggravate water and food insecurity in Africa.
In fact, changing weather and temperature patterns can potentially push developing countries back into the poverty trap, and undo much of the progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
We cannot let this happen. Our response to climate change, in Bali and beyond, will not be effective if it sacrifices the poverty eradication and development aspirations of developing countries.
That is why industrialized countries need to continue to take the lead in climate change abatement. But at the same time, we cannot ignore the reality that if developing countries fail to join the effort, there can be no viable solution.
In Bali, let us not point fingers or apportion blame. Rather, let us find common ground. Let us recognize that the effects of climate change affect us all. And that they have become so severe and so sweeping that only urgent, global action will do. We are all in this together. We must work together.
Any grand bargain must include incentives to help developing countries move towards mitigation and adaptation. It needs to assist developing countries in three ways:
-- It needs to provide for better funding for clean energy technologies;
-- It needs to spur financial flows for adaptation; and
-- It needs to enhance research and development cooperation, as well as transfer of clean technologies, particularly for energy supply and adaptation.
These are the challenges that lie ahead. In two weeks, the Bali Conference will test our resolve to deliver on them.
The United Nations should lead by example by moving itself towards carbon neutrality in its operations worldwide. Already, parts of the United Nations system have begun and our upcoming renovation of the United Nations Headquarters in New York should dramatically advance this important agenda.
Today, the world’s scientists have spoken, clearly and with one voice. In Bali, I expect the world’s policymakers to do the same. Together, we can do even more than address climate change -- we can transform a necessity into virtue. We can pursue new and improved ways to produce, consume and discard. We can promote environmentally friendly industries that spur development and job creation even as they reduce emissions. We can usher in a new era of global partnership, one that helps lift all boats on the rising tide of climate-friendly development.
The synthesis report has answered many of our policy questions. Now, starting in Bali, it is up to the rest of us to transform those answers into action. We must save all the treasures of our planet, for the sake of succeeding generations.