In Abu Dhabi, UN chief warns still 'too many sitting on the fence', urges bold leadership on climate change

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits Shams solar power plant in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

5 May 2014 – With the ominous and costly impacts of climate change profoundly evident, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today that too many stakeholders are still “sitting on the fence”, and he challenged participants at a climate conference in Abu Dhabi to help him build persuasive political arguments to convince policymakers that the time for bold action is now.

“Climate change is an issue for all. I need you all to help us push back against sceptics and entrenched interests,” said the United Nations chief, wrapping up the “informative and inspiring” two-day “Abu Dhabi Ascent”, which heChange is in the air. I challenge you to be part of that change – to be at the head of the race. co-hosted with the United Arab Emirates Government to build commitment ahead of his Climate Summit, set for 23 September in New York.

More than 1,000 participants, including 100 Government ministers, gathered in Abu Dhabi for the event, which opened yesterday, to chart new routes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening climate resilience.

The “Ascent” was the first international meeting to draw on the conclusions of the recent reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found its the consequences are already being felt, and that while present action is insufficient, there are still pathways towards a low carbon future that could minimize climate change impacts. Action now, said the report, is necessary in order to avoid much higher costs in the future.

“Now the hard work begins. In the coming months, I will count on the wisdom and initiative of all actors. Those who are prepared to lead can expect considerable returns,” the Secretary-General said, explaining that the business opportunities of the low-carbon economy are great and the social and environmental benefits for countries in all regions are yet to be realized.

“Now is the time for visionaries and those who are prepared to act to step forward. I am urging all to raise the level of ambition, he continued, and while Governments have to lead, business and finance, voters and consumers have a significant role to play.

Appealing to the participants to help craft the political arguments that will persuade leaders and policy makers in all areas of Government that now is the time for bold action, Mr. Ban said: “Too many are sitting on the fence, waiting for others to lead.”

He also called for the building of new alliances that will move climate action from the marketplace of ideas to the commercial marketplace.

“Change is in the air. I challenge you to be part of that change – to be at the head of the race,” declared the Secretary-General, warning that any Government or major business that doesn’t have a climate strategy is in trouble. “Don’t get left behind. Don’t be on the losing side of history.”

He encouraged the participants to take inspiration from what they have learned at the Ascent “so we can continue to climb” emphasizing that they should develop their own action portfolios, and build coalitions based on concrete deliverable.

“Empower and motivate your national leaders to bring bold announcements to the Climate Summit in September. That is how we will support progress at the climate talks in Lima this year so we may have a meaningful agreement in Paris in 2015,” he said.

As part of his activities in the afternoon, Mr. Ban toured the Shams 1 solar power plant to get un up-close look at the type of renewable resources that can help power an overhaul of the world's energy supply.

Shams 1 is the largest solar power facility in the Middle East and the second largest in the world. The 100 megawatt plant, which can provide electricity for 20,000 households, is just over a year old, and its owners have deemed it a commercial success.

Touring the facility by bus, stopping on occasion to get a closer look at the rows of parabolic solar collectors, the UN chief said: “By harnessing the power of the sun, the United Arab Emirates is cutting greenhouse gas emissions, generating jobs and a laying the foundation for low-carbon economic progress."


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'The race is on, it's time to lead', UN chief tells Abu Dhabi climate change event

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