COP21: Ban tells African leaders they have ‘enormous stake’ in success of climate conference

Climate change is a growing cause of displacement in Africa, where some areas have been devastated by drought. Photo: UNHCR/B. Bannon

1 December 2015 – At a gathering of African leaders at the United Nations climate change conference (COP21), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that their continent has an enormous stake in the success of the global event which aims to reach a new universal climate agreement to limit the rise of global temperature.

“Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” Mr. Ban told top government officials at a High-level meeting at the Paris-Le Bourget site of the conference, in the north-east of the French capital.

“Much of its economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base, including rain-fed subsistence agriculture. Disruptions in food or water supplies pose serious risks not only for your economies but also for political stability, particularly in fragile states,” he continued.

Noting that COP21 “got off to a good start yesterday,” the UN chief said the leaders’ personal engagement and ownership will be essential in producing the “ambitious agreement that Africa’s people and the entire world need.”

“Already, your leadership has helped make 2015 a year of opportunity,” he told them. “Many of you were present in Ethiopia in July for the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. Many of you were part of the historic gathering in New York in September for the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs.”

These agendas aim to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.

“Now, here in Paris, governments have the opportunity to secure a global climate change agreement that can pave the way towards a safer, healthier, more prosperous and sustainable future,” Mr. Ban insisted.

He reminded leaders that sustainable energy offers huge economic opportunities: “With the plummeting price of solar and other renewables, many African countries are moving quickly to embrace a greener pathway that still enables them to meet growing energy demand.”

Despite “strong momentum” towards a meaningful agreement, Mr. Ban said key political issues remain unresolved.

“There is a lot of work to do here in Paris, and the stakes are very high, especially for the most vulnerable people and countries,” he underlined. “Science tells us we have only a few years left before the window could close on our ability to prevent severe, pervasive and irreversible climate impacts.”

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