Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks to the High-Level Segment of the 15th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 09 May 2007

Your Excellency, Minister Al-Attiyah, Chairman of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Distinguished Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Participants,

I am delighted to welcome you to the High Level Segment of the 15th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

On this occasion, we also celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Our Common Future”, the paradigm-shifting report that introduced the concept of sustainable development, and which continues to provide a foundation for the Commission's work.

The world's commitment to sustainable development, as expressed in particular in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Programme of Action, is of great importance. I would like to take this opportunity, in my first engagement with the Commission, to assure you of my support in your work to advance progress across the sustainable development agenda.

The Commission focuses this year on a number of timely and important issues, including energy, industrial development, air pollution and climate change.

Energy is a complex issue with links to the others on this session's agenda. Energy use provides people with everyday necessities and comforts, and is fuel for prosperity. But we often overlook the impact on air pollution and climate change. And many people around the world lack access to modern energy services.

About 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity, and 2.4 billion do not have modern energy services for cooking and heating. The Commission's stress on improving access to energy is thus most welcome. CSD partnerships have taken some action in this area. The private sector has a crucial role to play, and I am pleased to note the business community's participation through the “Business Action for Energy” initiative.

We must do more to use and develop renewable energy sources. Greater energy efficiency is also vital. So are cleaner energy technologies ? including advanced fossil fuel and renewable energy technologies ? which can create jobs, boost industrial development, reduce air pollution and help to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Indeed, climate change is rightly another of your main concerns. This is a matter of urgency that requires sustained, concerted and high-level attention. It has a broad impact not just on the environment but also on economic and social development, and needs to be considered in the context of sustainable development. It should be a concern to all countries, rich or poor.

At long last, the issue is rising on the international agenda. The recent report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasizes that the science on climate change is very clear, that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and that this is happening because of human activities.

The report states that average temperatures will rise around 3 degrees Celsius in this century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at their current pace. This will bring serious economic and social impacts, including on coastal regions, agricultural patterns, food security, the availability of fresh water and the spread of disease. Among the most vulnerable are many developing countries, including least developed countries and small island developing states.

The world urgently needs to step up action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Industrialized countries need to make deeper emission reductions. There needs to be further engagement of developing countries, as well as incentives for them to limit their emissions while safeguarding economic growth and poverty eradication. An enhanced carbon market, with a longer-term horizon, could help to ensure cost-effective implementation in meeting mitigation commitments, and in mobilizing the resources needed to provide incentives to developing countries.

At the same time, adaptation to impacts is a global necessity. Many countries – especially the most vulnerable developing countries – need assistance in improving their capacity to adapt. There also needs to be a major push to generate new technologies for combating climate change, to make existing renewable technologies economically viable, and to promote a rapid diffusion of technology.

For mitigation and adaptation alike, as well as technological research and development, significant additional financial resources will be required.

I have put climate change at the top of my own agenda, and I am consulting widely with Governments and other key stakeholders to better understand their views. Last week, I appointed three special envoys to assist me in this effort and to explore prospects for advancing a multilateral solution in the context of the UN Framework Convention process.

I sincerely hope that you will closely and fully cooperate with my Special Envoys in addressing this important and most serious issue in our lifetime.

I hope that we will see a major breakthrough in Bali in December, when the Conference of Parties next meets. We need a global response to climate change that is in line with the latest scientific findings, and is compatible with the long-term investment planning needs of business. We have to treat all aspects of the problem in an integrated and balanced way. And we need to significantly step up action on all fronts in order to avert some of the most catastrophic IPCC forecasts.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,

Closely linked to climate change and energy is the issue of industrial development. Over the past several decades, industrial development has been central to the growth and poverty reduction achieved in many Asian countries. And it remains a leading aspiration of other developing countries.

To help people realize those hopes, we must create an international policy environment that is open to flows of goods, services and technology. At the domestic level, prospects can be improved by a stable investment climate, in which the government provides efficient infrastructure and supporting services, invests in human resources, and encourages entrepreneurship and risk taking.

Air pollution is an unhappy byproduct of industrial development and energy use, and so should have a clear place in your minds at this session. But let us also recognize that notable achievements have been made in confronting this problem.

We have seen, for instance, international cooperation on ozone depletion, regional cooperation on sulphur dioxide reduction, and international assistance in eliminating lead from gasoline, including in sub-Saharan Africa. International monitoring systems have been established. In addition, efforts to promote energy efficiency, mass transport systems and cleaner technologies, fuels and vehicles, have also yielded benefits.

Nonetheless, air pollution remains a serious problem in many developing countries, especially in rapidly growing urban areas. I hope that the achievements in this area can point the way toward further progress.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished participants,

Energy, climate change, industrial development and air pollution are critical items on the international agenda. Addressing them in unison creates many win-win opportunities and is crucial for sustainable development.

The United Nations system has taken steps to respond to these challenges in an integrated and coherent way. But we must do more to bring the collective expertise of the UN system to bear. We need to mainstream energy and climate issues more deeply into our programmes and activities, and to strengthen inter-agency cooperation on specific activities.

In the area of energy in particular, I am determined to lead the system in reinforcing the coherence of our actions at all levels, and to better utilize to this end the potential of UN-Energy. Stronger inter-agency collaboration is essential to support an effective response by the international community to growing energy interdependence. It is also vital for fostering regional and sub-regional energy cooperation and strengthening our country-level action. I encourage this Commission, in its outcome, to challenge the Chief Executives Board to ensure that the inter-agency system delivers on these three fronts and mounts a concerted response to the decisions to be taken at this session.

I look forward to those decisions, and to working together to ensure further progress in achieving sustainable development goals.

Thank you very much for your attention.