03 September 2009
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media, it is a great pleasure to see you again. As you know, I am just coming back from my visit to the Arctic.
The Copenhagen climate change conference is less than three months away. Indeed it is closer than that.
We have only fifteen negotiating days left. We are very much pressured by this time. We have to resolve some of the most complex issues within fifteen days.
I travelled to the Polar ice rim to see for myself some of the visible impacts of climate change.
I saw the remains of a glacier that just a few years ago was a majestic mass of ice. It has collapsed. It was very troubling.
I travelled nine hours north from the world's northernmost settlement by ship to reach the ice rim.
In just a few years time a ship may be able to sail unimpeded all the way to the North Pole. I had to use an icebreaker.
At current rates, scientists predict the Arctic could be virtually ice-free by 2030.
On the day I reached the ice rim, the first ever commercial vessel was traversing the Northeast Passage.
The receding ice is opening opportunities for exploitation of Arctic resources. If not managed carefully, this competition could lead to overfishing, pollution from mining and oil exploration, and even international disputes over territorial claims.
We need cooperation, not competition.
I also heard first-hand from representatives of the indigenous peoples of the north how climate change and other environmental change is affecting their lives.
Above all I talked to scientists with decades of Arctic experience, and heard their sobering findings.
It has been said that the Arctic is our barometer – the canary in the coal mine. But it is much more than that.
Changes in the Arctic are accelerating global climate change.
Instead of reflecting heat, the Arctic is absorbing it as the sea ice diminishes, thus speeding up global warming.
Methane, trapped in permafrost and on the sea bed, is escaping into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Increased melt from the Greenland ice-cap threatens to raise sea levels and alter the flow of the Gulf Stream that keeps Europe warm.
Our foot is stuck on the gas pedal. We have to pull it off.
It is essential that we act on what the science tells us.
In two weeks, the United Nations will convene a climate change summit in New York.
I expect candid and constructive discussions. I expect serious bridge building. I expect strong outcomes.
I am telling people today, and I will tell world leaders in New York, that we must seize the moment.
Scientists have been accused for years of scaremongering. But the real scaremongers are those who say we cannot afford climate action – that it will hold back economic growth.
I said already this morning, they are wrong, and am saying it again, they are wrong.
Climate change could spell widespread economic disaster.
The answer lies in green growth – sustainable growth.
We have to cut emissions. And we have to adapt to changes already on us.
Developed countries must set ambitious emission targets.
Developing countries also need to act to slow the growth of their emissions.
And the most vulnerable – especially the least developed countries and low-lying small islands nations – need help to adapt.
I went to the Arctic to inject much-needed urgency into the climate change debate.
I went to the Arctic to raise again political leadership among the leaders of the world.
I will continue to speak out on this issue until we seal a deal. A deal that will be comprehensive, balanced and equitable and fair for the future of human beings.
Thank you very much.