Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks at the annual student observance of World Environment Day

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 01 June 2007

Dear young friends from all around the world. I am very pleased to see all of you today.

I am very glad to be among you this morning, here in New York and video linked around the world. Around me I can see the next generation of scientists, business people, politicians, journalists, artists and civil society activists. In all of you, I can see the future of the United Nations, and of our world.

Your energy and enthusiasm makes me hopeful about this future. But, this optimism is tempered by the serious challenges we face today, particularly on the growing and grave implications of climate change.

We have all heard a lot about the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing our world to get warmer. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are higher than at any time for the past 600,000 years, and the rate of increase is accelerating.

The most dramatic evidence of climate change is found in the polar regions. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. Retreating sea ice is reducing habitat for vulnerable Arctic species. This has profound implications for the region’s people and ecosystems.

But this year’s World Environment Day theme -- Melting Ice: A Hot Topic? -- is not just a polar issue; it reflects the impact that climate change is having in all regions. As sea levels rise, inhabitants of low-lying islands and coastal cities throughout the world face inundation. As glaciers retreat, water supplies become at risk. And, for the one third of the world’s population living in drylands, especially those in Africa, changing weather patterns threaten to exacerbate desertification, drought and food insecurity.

We cannot go on this way for long. We cannot continue with “business as usual”. We need to take joint action on a global scale to address climate change. There are many policy and technological options available to address the impending crisis, but we need the political will to seize them.

Developed countries can do much more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage energy efficiency. They can also support clean development in fast-growing economies and adaptation measures in countries facing the greatest hardships from climate change. For their part, developing countries need to be more engaged in addressing climate change, while safeguarding socio-economic growth and poverty eradication.

On this World Environment Day, I ask you to join the fight against climate change. If we do not act, the true cost of our failure will be borne by succeeding generations, starting with yours.

That would be an unconscionable legacy; one which we must all join hands to avert. So thank you, young friends, for stepping forward to take up this challenge. Being among all of you today, I feel confident that we will ultimately succeed, and leave a better planet Earth for all who are to follow in the future.