COP21: UN chief says ‘today is about action by all sectors of society’

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio meet on the margins of the UN climate change conference in Paris, France. 5 December 2015. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

5 December 2015 – As the United Nations climate change conference (COP21) marked 'Action Day' with dozens of events happening throughout its sprawling venue in the north-east of Paris, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the purpose of the occasion was to highlight solutions the world “so urgently” needs.

“Today, as never before, the stars are aligned in favour of strong, concerted action on climate change,” Mr. Ban told non-state actors and top governments officials, including French President François Hollande, in his remarks wrapping up the day.

“The pace of climate action is quickening. Governments, cities, the private sector, investors, and the public at large increasingly understand the grave risks posed by climate change,” he added, noting “tangible benefits” to be gained by early action, including economic growth, new markets, job creation, cleaner air and improved health.

Climate negotiators have been in Paris since the opening of the conference last Monday, seeking to adopt a new, universal climate change agreement, expected to set the international policy framework needed to scale up climate action by all sectors of society.

Earlier today, the Secretary-General had a busy schedule meeting with a delegation of United States' Senators on the state of the discussions so far at the conference, as well as French and international parliamentarians at the country's National Assembly, to whom he highlighted the key role they play in supporting an effective national and global response to climate change.

Prior to this, Mr. Ban attended an event focused on the Arctic, where he has been several times during his almost ten-year tenure as leader of the world body.

“[The Secretary-General] has been using his Office to remind the world that our planet is changing at an unprecedented rate” Bob Orr, a UN Special Advisor on climate change, told the UN News Centre in an interview.

“He has been to every part of the globe that shows how quickly things are changing. At the Arctic event today, the head of the Norwegian Polar Institution noted that this past month of November, the average temperature in the Arctic was six to eight degrees centigrade above what it has traditionally been. This shows a level of change which is staggering and scary,” Mr. Orr warned.

Paying a visit to COP21 today on “Action Day” was American actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who became a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change one year ago. The Secretary-General and Mr. DiCaprio met this afternoon and discussed the importance of acting now to protect future generations.

“Nature does not negotiate with human beings,” the UN chief told Mr. DiCaprio. “As human beings who have caused the climate change phenomenon, we just have to adapt to the Nature—we do not have any negotiating power with [it].”

In response, Mr. DiCaprio crossed his fingers and held them up. “We're all like this about Paris,” he said.

Finally, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the organizer of the conference – said “Action Day” announced the submission of a new draft agreement that will feed negotiations continuing next week.

“One more step in writing of history,” said a message tweeted by Christiana Figueres.

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