Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Acceptance Speech for the Sustainable Development Leadership Award

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, New Delhi (India), 05 February 2009

Your Excellency Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Director-General of The Energy Research Institute, and Chair of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),

Your Excellency, Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, former President of the Maldives , and recipient of the 2008 Sustainable Development Leadership Award,

Your Excellency, Mr. Pranab Mukherji, Minister of External Affairs of India ,

Your Excellency Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland ,

Your Excellency Mr. Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati ,

Your Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, of the Kingdom of Thailand ,

Your Excellency Mr. Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia ,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am greatly honoured to receive this award.

The sustainable development of societies around the globe has always been central to the work of the United Nations.

From the United Nations Charter -- which commits us to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, to the Millennium Development Goals which are the beacon guiding our current efforts.

Over the years, our understanding of the meaning of sustainable development has evolved.

We also know what we must do to achieve it.

At Stockholm , in 1972, during the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi famously remarked that poverty and unmet human needs are the worst kind of pollution.

Today, we all realize that poverty cannot be overcome if we neglect the environment or deplete our natural capital.

But, since that time, the human population has risen from 3.8 billion to more than 6.7 billion.

Science has shown that we are depleting the planet's natural assets at an unsustainable rate.

Deserts are spreading.

Water scarcity is increasing.

Tropical forests are shrinking.

Our once prolific fisheries are in danger of collapse.

The list is long and growing.

Looming above all these threats, and indeed exacerbating them, is climate change.

In 1972 this was barely a factor in development thinking. Today it is on top of the global agenda.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Over the past years we have seen strong and widespread economic growth. Developing countries have averaged over 5 per cent growth a year. Poverty levels have reduced.

We have made some headway towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

But, such progress is now under threat from several directions: the financial crisis, the threat of a widening recession, the continuing volatility in energy prices the crisis in food security -- and climate change.

We cannot afford to ignore or underestimate this existential threat.

Failure to combat climate change will increase poverty and hardship.

It will destabilize economies, breed insecurity in many countries and undermine our goals for sustainable development.

That is why I have made climate change the priority of my mandate as Secretary-General.

2009 will be the year of climate change!

By presenting me with this award today, you recognize the unique role that the United Nations can and must play in addressing these challenges -- challenges that know no borders and affect all nations and all peoples.

As I humbly accept this award, I would like to make some important comments.

Combating climate change will need all our leadership, all our commitment, all our ingenuity.

This is not going to be easy.

Nonetheless, I want to emphasize that, by facing up to this crisis, we have been given an exciting opportunity to make progress on a wide range of sustainable development issues.

It is an opportunity we must seize.

By pursuing a green economy based on efficient and equitable resource use, we will cut down greenhouse gas emissions and protect essential ecosystems.

At the same time, we will reinvigorate national economies, create employment and livelihood opportunities, improve human well-being and achieve our sustainable development targets.

My colleagues and I throughout the United Nations system have stressed this argument in the past.

We will continue to do so over the coming months as we look forward to the crucial climate change negotiations in Copenhagen .

Bali prepared the framework for the way forward.

In Poznan we took the first steps, and agreed on actions to be taken.

In Copenhagen we must now bring all this all together in an ambitious, comprehensive and ratifiable agreement.

Copenhagen has three main political challenges that must be resolved at the highest political level.

On this will depend the successful outcome for a new agreement.

First, Copenhagen must clarify commitments of developed countries to reduce their emissions, by setting ambitious mid-term targets, with credible baselines.

We must also achieve clarity on what mitigation actions developing countries will be prepared to make.

Secondly, Copenhagen must advance on the issue of financing the mitigation and adaptation needs of developing countries.

Agreement on the Adaptation Fund in Poznan was a good first step.

But this was only a first step.

We must now make all this work.

Thirdly, governments, as well as the UN system must come up with credible solutions for the governance of new funds, and for their implementation response.

Our words must not fall on deaf ears.

I am sure they will not.

I am committed, and shall work tirelessly to engage world Leaders in this.

In my recent contact with President Obama,

I have been assured of his full cooperation to make Copenhagen a success.

He has assured me that climate change is his domestic as well as international priority.

Domestic action by the United States is beginning to unfold.

We also look forward to the leadership role of the United States in the intergovernmental negotiations.

Wherever I look, I see new impulses in addressing the challenges of climate change.

Here in India , in China , in the economies of Europe and North America , in Brazil , and also in many regions in Africa I find a new determination and new initiatives.

This morning, I heard some very positive messages from CEOs of Indian industry about how they plan to respond to these issues.

I see growing commitment from political and business leaders alike to seize the opportunities of green growth.

This is the abiding trend of the times.

So, in accepting this award, I would like to say that I am confident that we can, and we will, rise to this challenge.

Thank you very much.