‘Climate change knows no national borders,’ Ban says, urging consensus-building ahead of Paris conference

In Nepal, mountain infrastructure such as hydropower plants, roads, bridges and communication systems are at risk with climate change and more variability in water runoff. Photo: UNEP GRID Arendal/Lawrence Hislop

4 November 2015 – With the “deadline” for concluding a universal climate agreement just four weeks away, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today warned that despite months of talks and critical pledges on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, key issues still remain in play – on equity and differentiation, on finance and ambition – requiring world leaders to give clear guidance to their negotiators to seek compromise and reach a fair, universal deal at the upcoming UN climate conference in Paris.

“Climate change carries no passport and knows no national borders. Countries must work toward the common interest, beyond narrow national interests,” declared Mr. Ban in a briefing to an informal meeting of the General Assembly on the ongoing preparations for the 21st Conference of States Parties to the UN Framework convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP21, to be held in the French capital from 30 November to 11 December.

Telling UN Member States that while he is optimistic that after months of talks and rising calls “from all sectors” that their Governments will conclude a meaningful agreement in Paris, some key issues have proven too challenging for negotiators to resolve on their own, including on equity and differentiation, finance and ambition.

“I will be very actively engaging with Heads of State and Government over the next four weeks to help them unlock these issues. Ultimate responsibility for success in Paris rests firmly in their hands,” said the Secretary-General, pledging to urge world leaders to tell their negotiators that now is the time for compromise and consensus building.

Indeed, he continued, bridges must be built to span the traditional divides between developed and developing countries. “A meaningful agreement must be universal and fair. It must address urgency. And it must strengthen opportunity ¬– not just for some, but for all people in the world.”

The UN chief said that for Paris to be a success, it must deliver on several key fronts: “The agreement must be durable and flexible. It must be rooted in solidarity. And it must be credible in its response to the urgency of climate change, including by providing the financial and other means to support this response.”

Welcoming the recent agreement between the Presidents of China and France in Beijing that they have agreed to have a 5 year review process, Mr. Ban said a Paris agreement must not lock in a level of mitigation ambition that undermines the below-2 degrees goal. “There can be no backsliding. Current ambition must be the floor, not the ceiling, for future efforts.”

On resources, he said an agreement must provide for credible means of implementation, including climate financing. Developed countries must keep their pledge to provide $100 billion a year by 2020. All concerned – both developed and developing countries – must be part of a consultative, politically credible process for defining the $100 billion trajectory.

“I call on developed countries to make public finance pledges before Paris that balance both adaptation and mitigation needs. This is essential for building the trust that is needed to secure a meaningful, universal agreement,” the Secretary-General explained, adding that developed countries must also take the lead in, and enhance their support for, financing post-2020.

Overall, he said that an agreement in Paris must mark a decisive and irreversible turning point in the world’s collective response to the climate challenge. “The impacts of climate change are rapidly increasing. The world’s collective ambition must increase, too. Action must be fuelled by a sense of urgency as well as opportunity. We must ensure that all countries are part of the solution, and that the benefits of low-carbon, climate-resilient growth are realized by all.”

Mr. Ban said that he would continue to do everything in his power to help shepherd a meaningful global agreement. “I will call on your leaders to own this agreement, and to closely guide your ministers and negotiators. I will continue to encourage the path of compromise for the common good.”

“Alongside an agreement, I will also continue to work with the COP Presidents and the UNFCCC Executive Secretary to advance the Lima-Paris Action Agenda,” which, he said, builds on the many, successful partnerships that were showcased at the Climate Summit he convened last year.

“At this time, solutions are what we urgently need. By working together, we can and we will reach a meaningful, universal climate agreement in Paris,” the Secretary-General concluded.

In his remarks to the briefing, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft noted that only two months ago, world leaders adopted the revolutionary 2030 Agenda which followed the agreement of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Both the meeting in Lima, and in particular, the conference in Paris are directly linked to deliver on those commitments.

“According to the World Meteorological Organization, our world has just experienced the hottest January-September on record. It is high time for the international community to take decisive action on climate change and COP 21 in Paris is our last chance to do so,” he said, underscoring that success in Paris means agreeing ambitious actions to address mitigation as well as other key issues related to adaptation, finance, technology, capacity building and transparency.

He said that the last negotiating session in Bonn produced a balanced draft agreement, as a basis for the final consultations in Paris. “Parties must now build on this positive and constructive spirit in order to reach consensus on an ambitious and universally binding agreement in Paris.”

“If leadership and enlightened self-interest lead to concrete agreements in the negotiations themselves, then Paris will not just help secure the rights of future generations, it will be the first major step towards delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.

Thereafter, continued, the Assembly President, it will be up-to all actors to take swift and decisive action for implementation and on 11-12 April, I will hold a high-level thematic debate to catalyze early progress on sustainable development, finance and climate commitments and I look forward to the active engagement of all stakeholders in that meeting.

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