Statements home | Search results | Full text

Print this article

Email this article

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

General Assembly

11 February 2008

Remarks to the General Assembly High-Level Thematic Debate: “Addressing Climate Change: the United Nations and the world at work”

Allow me to begin by adding my voice to all who pray for the full and speedy recovery of Timor-Leste’s President, Jose Ramos-Horta, after the brutal and unspeakable attack he suffered yesterday. We stand in solidarity with the Government and people of Timor-Leste, in the hope that peace and stability will prevail, and thank Australia for its swift contribution to this end.

We meet at a crucial juncture in our collective efforts to address climate change. If 2007 was the year when climate change rose to the top of the global agenda, 2008 is the time we must take concerted action.

As a result of the remarkable efforts of last year, the international community is armed with a powerful combination of authoritative and compelling science, a far-reaching and rising tide of public concern, and powerful declarations of political will voiced at the Bali Climate Change Conference.

Now, the international community is compelled to come together and forge a comprehensive agreement. And the United Nations is called on to ensure we can implement existing mandates, as well as future ones.

As substantiated in the overview report before you, every part of the United Nations system is committed to supporting Member States as an effective, inclusive and credible partner in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

My gratitude goes to the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Srgjan Kerim, for convening this timely debate. Over these two days, you will discuss how the United Nations system can most effectively work with Member States, the private sector and civil society in addressing climate change. In this way, you will also help sustain the unprecedented momentum that propelled the climate change agenda forward so dramatically last year.

This momentum was generated in large part by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which made clear that climate change is already happening and accelerating. The Panel spelled out that the costs of inaction would far exceed the costs of action, while setting out the economic rationale and opportunities for action. And the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report highlighted the devastating effects climate change is already having on the poorest and most vulnerable, making the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals more challenging.

At the Bali Conference, the eyes of the world were on us. The Conference delivered what it set out to do: important progress on adaptation, technology and deforestation; and agreement by all countries to launch negotiations on a new international climate change agreement by the end of 2009.

Now the real work begins. The challenge is huge. We have less than two years to craft an agreement on action that measures up to what the science tells us. It will have to map out emission limitation commitments; agree on essential action to adapt to the impacts of climate change; and mobilize the necessary financing and technological innovation.

Developed countries need to take a clear lead, but success is possible only if all countries act. The more ambitious the commitments by developed countries, the more actions we can expect from developing countries. The more developing countries engage, the more ambitiously the developed countries will commit. This is the cycle we must embark on.

I have made it a personal priority to work with Member States in ensuring the United Nations system is up to the challenge. My overview report represents a first step, and reflects our commitment to strengthening and coordinating our work into a common approach.

The substance of the report stemmed from discussions in the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, which I chair, and is the outcome of consultations among all relevant United Nations system entities. It will help guide us as we prepare to take on additional mandates and tasks expected to result from the negotiations for a framework after 2012.

Our aim is to develop a coordination structure with key clusters of activity and specific lead agencies. How can the United Nations contribute to the stimulation of financial flows needed for adaptation, mitigation and climate-resilient development? How can the United Nations system provide the support developing countries need to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change? Answers to these and other questions will help us to focus on what the United Nations can and needs to deliver.

On several occasions in the past year, I have spoken of a silver lining that comes with the dark clouds of climate change. By that I mean the opportunity to come together in a global, collective, inclusive and low-carbon approach to growth and development. Climate change is our opportunity to advance sustainable development; encourage new kinds of cleaner technologies, industries and jobs; and integrate climate change risks into national policies and practices.

This will require all partners to join forces -- Governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, civil society and individuals around the world.

We have moved climate change up to the top of the agenda, where it belongs; we cannot now let those who depend on us down. We cannot fail succeeding generations who will endure the consequences of our actions; we cannot turn away from the most vulnerable, who already face the consequences of climate change today.

A deal in Copenhagen, on time, and in full, is my priority and that of all the funds, programmes and agencies of the United Nations family. It is also our collective obligation. I look forward to working with all of you on this journey.