Reiterating Importance of Political Will to Seal Climate Deal, Secretary-General Calls for 'Outside the Box' Leadership in Remarks at Global Environment Forum

11 August 2009
SG/SM/12408-ENV/DEV/1063

Reiterating Importance of Political Will to Seal Climate Deal, Secretary-General Calls for 'Outside the Box' Leadership in Remarks at Global Environment Forum

11 August 2009
Secretary-General
SG/SM/12408 ENV/DEV/1063
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

reiterating importance of political will to seal climate deal, Secretary-General

calls for ‘outside-the-box’ leadership in remarks at global environment forum

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Global Environment Forum in Incheon, Republic of Korea, today, 11 August:

It is a great privilege for me to participate in this Global Environment Forum.  Let me begin by offering my sincere congratulations to Mayor Ahn and the citizens of the Metropolitan City of Incheon.

This Environment Forum as well as the Global Fair and Festival 2009 are showing true global vision -- vision that underlines the importance of local government and cities in coping with the challenges of the twenty-first century.

As you know, Incheon is famous as the gateway to Korea.  But here today, I am especially proud as United Nations Secretary-General –- and a Korean citizen -– to be able to say that Incheon is also a gateway to our common future.  The very fact that this most important Forum meets here today testifies to that.

The Songdo Convensia is one of the world's most green convention centres.  And it is located in one of the world's most eco-friendly cities.  Songdo is remarkable not only for what it has become but for what it used to be.  People who grew up here remember the smokestacks and toxic fumes.  In a few short decades, these have given way to clean buildings and clear skies.  We are here today to recognize the connections between us and deal with a common problem.  Of this, too, Songdo is a symbol and key.

I understand that Songdo modelled itself on the Swedish sister city of Hammarby Sjöstad.  That city, too, used to be an industrial site before it transformed itself through eco-friendly development.  These two cities –- one in Europe, the other in Asia –- show visionary civic leadership.  They understand that we have a choice:  adapt or perish.

It is that simple.

Other cities around the world are taking this enlightened approach.  Reykjavik in Iceland, Curitiba in Brazil… Kampala in Uganda… Sydney in Australia.  Whenever I visit these places, I am impressed.  People everywhere are accepting that we must all live cleaner, greener, more sustainable lives.  This is our future.

I must admit that, as a Korean, Songdo occupies a special place in my heart.  It helps show how Korea has emerged as a world leader on greening the economy.  Some 80 per cent of Korea's $38 billion national stimulus package is dedicated to green growth -- the highest percentage in the world.  Nearly a million green jobs will be created in the coming four years.

This represents a fundamental shift in Korea's approach to building national prosperity.  I applaud this progress.  I commend the visionary leadership of President Lee Myung-bak of Korea.  But Korea must do more.  The world is looking to Korea for leadership.  This powerful emerging economy can serve as a bridge between developed and developing countries.  But to do this, Korea must set ambitious goals for reducing its own emissions.

I understand that the Korean Government is now seriously considering amending the midterm target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  As the Minister of Environment said, the Korean Government is now is considering three options.  As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I urge you to aim high -– be more ambitious commensurate with your economic development.

Korea long inspired others with its comeback spirit of renewal.  After the Second World War, it arose to become one of the world's strongest economies.  Songdo was an industrial wasteland, but it transformed itself into one of the world's greenest cities.  Korea should now go further.  It should make itself a model of international engagement on climate change.  Climate change, as all previous speakers have already stated, is the fundamental threat to humankind.  It exacerbates all of the problems we face:  poverty, disease, hunger and insecurity.  It impedes progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. It deepens the food and energy crises.  That is the harsh reality.

But there is an upside:  if we combat climate change with a sustainable, low-emissions approach, just like we see around us in Songdo, we can change the way countries develop.  We can foster a green economy and green growth.  We can fight hunger and poverty while protecting the environment.

The downside is equally dramatic.  If we fail to act, climate change will intensify droughts, floods and other natural disasters.  Water shortages will affect hundreds of millions of people.  Malnutrition will engulf large parts of the developing world.  Tensions will worsen.  Social unrest –- even violence -– could follow.

The damage to national economies will be enormous.  The human suffering will be incalculable.  We have the power to change course.  But we must do it now.  As we move toward Copenhagen in December, we must “seal a deal” on climate change that secures our common future.  I'm glad that the Chairman of the Forum and many other speakers have used my campaign slogan, “seal the deal” in Copenhagen.  I won't charge them royalties.  Please use this “seal the deal” as widely as possible, as much as you can. We must seal the deal in Copenhagen for the future of humanity.

We have just four months.  Four months to secure the future of our planet.  Any agreement must be fair, effective, equitable and comprehensive, and based on science.  And it must help vulnerable nations adapt to climate change.

The science is clear.  We know what to do and we know how to do it.  Songdo shows us the way.  What is needed is the political will.  We have the capacity.  We have finance.  We have the technology.  The largest thing lacking is political will.  That is what I will convey to some meetings focused on climate change.  I have invited all the leaders of the world, including President Lee.

Two years ago, only a handful of world leaders could talk about climate change.  Today, leaders of all the world, all the countries on every continent, are aware of the threats we face now.  This is great progress, for we need leadership of the very highest order.  Awareness is the first step.  The challenge now is to act.

Since my first day as Secretary-General, I have spoken out about the grave climate change threat.  My words, at times, have been blunt.  When the leaders of the G-8 agreed in July to keep the global temperature increase within 2° C by the year 2050, that was welcomed and I welcome that statement.  But I also said again, it was not enough.

But leaders have agreed to cut green house gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.  That is welcomed again.  But that must be accompanied by the ambitious midterm target by 2020, as science tells us to do.  There I said, while I applaud their commitment, that is not enough.  I called for matching these long-term goals with ambitious midterm emission reduction targets.

Let me be clear about what we need to do.  There are four points [of] very important key political issues.  First, industrialized countries must lead by committing to binding midterm reduction targets on the order of 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels.  Unfortunately, the midterm emission targets announced so far are not close enough to this range.  This must change.  That is why I am urging at this time that the Korean Government should take more ambitious targets.

Second, developing countries need to take nationally appropriate mitigation actions in order to reduce the growth in their emissions substantially below business as usual.  Their actions must be measurable, reportable and verifiable.  Third, developed countries must provide sufficient, measurable, reportable and verifiable financial and technological support to developing countries.  This will allow developing countries to pursue their mitigation efforts as part of their sustainable green growth strategies and to adapt to accelerating climate impacts.

Significant resources will be needed from both public and private sources.  Developing countries, especially the most vulnerable, will collectively need billions of dollars in public financing for adaptation.  I am talking here about new money -- not repackaged official development assistance.  This is one of the most important issues which we are going to discuss on 22 September in New York, and this year again at the G20 Summit meeting in Pittsburgh on 24 September.

Fourth, we need an equitable and accountable mechanism for distributing these financial and technological resources, taking into account the views of all countries in decision-making.  Accomplishing all of this requires tough decisions. It will take flexibility and hard work to negotiate the most difficult issues.  Trust between developed and developing countries is essential.  When Governments succeed in sealing a deal in Copenhagen, we will have shown the spirit of international solidarity.  We will have shown leadership -– political will.

The city of Incheon has a remarkable history.  Here, in 1950, the Korean War came to a famous turning point, following a daring landing by United Nations

forces.  Against all the odds, the operation succeeded.  Courage and leadership turned the tide.

Today, we need to turn a different tide –- the tide of climate change.  We need bold “outside-the-box” thinking.  We need your support and cooperation.  You can shape the international debate and influence important decisions.  You can encourage countries to work together.

I promise you my best effort as Secretary-General of the United Nations -- my best effort to push, pull and cajole national leaders into acting in our common global interest.  Together, we truly can turn the tide, once again, here in Incheon.

I need your support, your commitment, and your leadership.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.