General Assembly Concludes Two-Day Climate Change Event with Speakers Urging Sustained Political Momentum for Robust Actions to Mitigate Impacts

30 June 2015
GA/11660

General Assembly Concludes Two-Day Climate Change Event with Speakers Urging Sustained Political Momentum for Robust Actions to Mitigate Impacts

Sixty-ninth Session, High-level Event on Climate Change,
AM Meeting

Global, concerted action was immediately needed to halt greenhouse gas emissions, put a price tag on carbon and catalyse green growth, the General Assembly heard today, concluding its High-level Event on Climate Change.

Ministers, high-level officials and representatives of more than 60 Member States delivered statements over the two-day gathering, which also heard from experts from international organizations, civil society and the public and private sectors during interactive discussions on mobilizing stakeholders and a political momentum for ambitious actions on mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation.  (See Press Release GA/11658.)

Throughout the day today, many speakers emphasized the need to adopt a strong binding agreement at the forthcoming twenty-first Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Some delegates, including representatives from Cyprus, Morocco and Uruguay, explained what their countries were already doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change realities.

Other speakers offered suggestions to countries looking for cleaner, greener options, with some asking for assistance to develop new technologies with that goal in mind.  Echoing a common view, Viet Nam’s representative said all nations must do their part, with developing countries shaping ambitious targets and action plans, and developed nations, which largely produced greenhouse gas emissions, providing assistance to support adaptation needs.

Delegates also raised national and regional concerns, with some underscoring the need for the new global climate agreement to prioritize poverty eradication.  On a similar note, some said predictable financing for adaptation efforts must also be assured.

Another strong message throughout the morning was the need for the world to work collectively now to create a bold plan of protecting the planet and its people to ensure the well-being of current and future generations.  In that vein, many speakers pledged their support for the upcoming Paris conference in December and for the Financing for Development Conference, in Addis Ababa in July.

The Assembly also heard from heads of United Nations agencies, who raised concerns related to existing and emerging challenges, food security and the gender perspective with regard to climate change.

Among them was Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), who said that millions of women tackled climate change challenges, with many facing discriminatory circumstances.  Women were responsible for gathering water, food and fuel for their households, although many were not recognized as equal citizens; they faced inequalities limited their access to financing and basic rights.

Even so, women were making strides in finding solutions and were increasingly being included in “COP” discussions and decisions, she said.  As such, she requested that the new climate agreement prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment as a guiding principle and that it include, among other things, mechanisms that ensured the incorporation of gender equality.

On climate change challenges, Paul Egerton, speaking on behalf of Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, said the organization’s efforts included disaster risk reduction and water and food security.  With the creation of the Green Climate Fund, further steps were being taken to enhance resilience of vulnerable States from the impacts of extreme weather.  The Fund, among other things, supported efforts that recognized as essential the establishment of systems to promote knowledge and warning of climate and weather, with a view to minimizing the impacts.

With regard to food security, Martin Frick, Director of the Climate Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said agriculture was at the centre of human development.  The new sustainable development goals reflected that, including the need to lift millions out of poverty and hunger.  However, those challenges were exacerbated by climate change factors.  Since climate finance was at the heart of the political process in the lead-up to Paris, FAO was now preparing large-scale programmes for the Green Climate Fund.  The new agreement must address food issues and simultaneously tackle poverty and climate change.

In closing remarks, Sam Kutesa (Uganda), President of the General Assembly, thanked participants that echoed bold calls for action.  Climate challenges affected all countries, he said, lauding the contributions of representatives from all regions in highlighting concerns, such as rising sea-levels, and laying out their mitigation efforts.  “Going forward,” he said, “I urge you to maintain the momentum to work towards a legally binding agreement.”

Also speaking today were representatives of Thailand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Cuba, Argentina, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Bolivia, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Finland, Turkey, Russian Federation and Venezuela. 

Representatives of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, International Organization for Migration, and the Global Connections for Women also spoke.

Statements

VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), delivering a statement on behalf of DAPONG RATANASUWAN, Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, said all countries — large and small — had a shared responsibility and a role to play in combating climate change.  The country’s mitigation efforts were demonstrated through the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions.  Thailand believed that adaptation must also be an integral part of efforts to combat climate change, he said, adding that cooperation between countries, as well as public-private partnership was an essential component of sustainable development. Technology transfer and capacity-building support were crucial for developing countries to meet their targets.

LOURDES O. YPARRAGUIRRE (Philippines), noting that her country ranked third among those most vulnerable to climate change, said budget priorities identified adaptation measures and disaster risk reduction and management as priority areas.  To fully mobilize political momentum, it was important to forge active partnerships between developed and developing countries, as well as between developing countries.  The “Manila Call to Action on Climate Change” issued by the Philippines and France called for assistance to the most vulnerable countries to transition to resilient territories and low-carbon economies.  That could be achieved through better access to finance and technology, increased South-South Cooperation and enhanced support for institutional, private sector and knowledge capacities.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said that last year’s climate summit was instrumental in mobilizing political momentum, adding that his country has announced a 37 per cent mitigation target.  To translate political momentum into a successful outcome at Paris, all parties needed to submit their national commitment documents.  Political leadership in climate finance must build trust between developing and developed countries, and was essential to reaching the new global climate regime.  The Green Capital Fund should be enhanced at the Paris conference, he said, pledging his country’s cooperation in the effort to combat climate change.

SILVIANA GARCÍA (Uruguay) said a global far-reaching binding agreement was needed.  Her country strongly supported adaptation strategies to climate change.  Uruguay had a population of 3 million, but it fed more than 28 million people with its food exports.  It was important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ensure a sustainable future, she said, adding that renewable energy and the industrial sectors were also critical areas to develop.

TANIERIS DIEGUEZ LAO (Cuba) said a global agreement should contribute to the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  Climate change affected the health of the planet and all of its inhabitants.  A binding agreement should thus ensure that emissions were reduced and that developing countries were assisted in their efforts to implement the Convention.

NICHOLAS EMILIOU (Cyprus) said his country had taken action to reduce emissions in an effort to do its part towards sustainable development.  The European Union had a climate policy with ambitious targets for its member States and, on an international level, it was a lead donor in assisting countries with their own efforts.  “Time is of essence,” he said, adding that it was critical to agree on a binding instrument to ensure that global warming remained in check.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said the scale of the climate change challenge required concerted global action without losing sight of development imperatives.  Developed countries needed to take the lead, including through the transfer of financial and technological resources, which would contribute to the attainment of the sustainable development goals in developing countries.  The Paris agreement must increase the scope of the climate framework, and respect, in particular, the principle of shared but differentiated responsibility.  On the Green Climate Fund, she urged donors to fulfil commitments commensurate with needs.  Argentina was among leading promoters of biofuels, she said, stressing the urgency of energy efficiency as a means of promoting long-term sustainability.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the international community needed to act with greater vigour on the principle of shared but differentiated responsibility to enable countries to contribute to combating climate change based on their capacities.  Morocco had embarked on a green investment plan through which economic development was being pursued in all its essential dimensions.  The country had integrated the environment in all development programmes, including renewable energy, and had been actively contributing to international and regional activities.  Developing countries needed greater financial assistance to transition to a green economy, he said.

MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan) said the need to elaborate a comprehensive regional plan for adaptation to climate change in Central Asia — where water resources were a key factor in achieving sustainable development — had long ago become urgent.  It was essential to review the existing practices of water resources management to ensure adaptation to climate change and to sustaining economic and social development.  Per capita emission of greenhouse gases in Tajikistan was 10 times lower than the average world index, he said, adding that wide use of renewable energy, including hydroelectricity, would continue to reduce emissions and promote social and economic development.

DO HUNG VIET (Viet Nam) said political commitment was crucial, especially with the upcoming Financing for Development Conference and the Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Framework Convention in December.  All nations must do their part, and developing countries should be ambitious in their targets and actions.  Developed countries, which had largely contributed to emissions, should provide assistance to support adaptation needs.

MUHAMMAD ANSHOR (Indonesia) said climate change was the world’s greatest challenge and an agreement must be reached on how to move forward.  Such an accord should be ambitious and flexible to adjust to changing circumstances.  It should also have poverty eradication as its overriding priority and should include a sharp focus on adaptation efforts.

AKAN RAKHMETULLIN (Kazakhstan) said his country had already made commitments to reduce emissions and launched its own strategy towards a low-carbon economy.  He called for the development of principles to guide further steps forward in that regard.  Energy consumption targets were moving Kazakhstan onto a new climate trajectory.  Exchanging experiences was essential to assist countries in advancing their own strategies.

Mr. CASTRO (Costa Rica) said his country had launched sustainable development policies long before the issue had acquired international importance.  Over the decades, the country had introduced and implemented appropriate policies and programmes through the mobilization of both domestic and international resources.  Costa Rica, which aimed to be carbon-neutral by 2021, had drawn up nationally appropriate mitigation plans.  The international community should go further in its efforts to combat climate change through an integrated approach by setting clear global mitigation targets.  Non-governmental stakeholders should be mobilized in the campaign, which would require regular dialogue.  The international community must not side-line middle-income countries in the transfer of financial and technological resources.

Mr. BARLOCHER (Switzerland) said global action must start now and should include establishing domestic climate policy and setting emission reduction targets, introducing new technologies and developing a green carbon-neutral economy.  He encouraged all Governments to announce bold and meaningful targets and to collectively engage towards an effective climate change regime.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said that, since the Copenhagen Conference, developing countries had doubled their efforts to combat climate change. The main difficulty was the lack of political resolve on the part of those most capable of acting. The Paris agreement must ratify the principles of the UNFCCC. Developing countries were making greater voluntary contributions, he said, while urging the developed countries to step up their participation. All elements of climate change, including poverty eradication, must be addressed in a balanced and transparent way. A mechanism of climate resilience and sustainable development aimed at helping developing countries must be supported.

KHALID M. OSMAN SID AHMED MOHAMMED ALI (Sudan), reiterating its commitment to combat climate change in line with the UNFCCC, said his country had implemented plans across different sectors to meet its commitments.  Countries that had contributed the most to climate change must do the most, he said, and stressed cooperation at the national, regional and international levels.  Prevention measures must be undertaken to safeguard vulnerable populations, including through mobilizing adequate financial resources. Technology transfer and capacity-building were key to achieving meaningful change.

ILDAR SHIGABUTDINOV (Uzbekistan) said sustainable sharing of transboundary rivers in accordance with international law was crucial for Central Asia’s development.  The construction of large hydroelectric projects without proper assessment would not only be detrimental to environmental sustainability of the region, but also aggravate political tensions.  In that context, a number of countries had wisely refused large and grandiose projects in favour of small-scale initiatives.

ANDALIB ELIAS (Bangladesh) said his country was among the most densely populated, least developed and most affected by rising sea-levels.  Bangladesh had invested in resilience and adapting to climate change.  However, partners had yet to fulfil their promises.  Mass migration due to climate change would be a global issue and must be addressed with fair solutions.

KAI SAUER (Finland) said planetary boundaries must be respected in order to maintain decent human life and well-being.  Transition to low-carbon societies and economies was also a must.  Putting a price on carbon was among the factors that would lead to a successful transition.  Women were on the frontlines of climate change challenges and often had the solutions regarding the best tools to tackle them.  As such, Finland supported gender equality in climate discussions.

MEHMET EMIN BIRPINAR (Turkey) said tackling climate change offered great economic opportunities, driving development and catalysing green growth.  As such, the global agreement must include principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, and must strike a balance between mitigation and adaptation.  The Paris agreement should also reflect current circumstances with the capability of addressing the needs for combating climate change through the use of the best available data.

ALEXANDER SVIRIDOV (Russian Federation) said that, regardless of the timeframe of a new Paris agreement, his country would continue to abide by its climate change commitments under previous arrangements.  The new goal was to ensure further reduction of emissions through, among other things, the development of renewable energy.  The Russian Federation was ready to share its strong knowledge and expertise with others on the basis of mutual respect and shared responsibility.

Mr. PINTO DAMIANI (Venezuela) said that Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change came at a very crucial moment and had contributed to accelerating political momentum in advance of the Paris conference.  The basic principle for developing countries under the UNFCCC was shared but differentiated responsibilities.  However, some positions articulated in the climate change debate went against that.  The vision of a green economy was ambiguous and did not enjoy the consensus of all countries.  There was a need to ensure that developing countries contributed to combating climate change on a voluntary basis and according to their capabilities.

NARINDER KAKAR, representative of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said his organization would like to see the adoption of an ambitious and balanced agreement in Paris.  Such an agreement should, among other things, ensure the avoidance of double counting of emissions and assure gender equality and empowerment.  Efforts to address deforestation would help adaptation and mitigation efforts, while also building resilient communities.  Specific ecosystem-based mitigation efforts, including reclamation of degraded land and sequestration, could be integrated at national, regional and international levels.

CHRIS RICHTER, representative of the International Organization for Migration, underscored the need to address human mobility in the climate change agenda.  On the road to Paris, greater awareness of that linkage was needed.  Millions of people were living in areas affected by or were vulnerable to climate change, he said, adding that well-managed migration could be a key response.  Partnerships should be pursued more vigorously to harness migrants’ potential.

LILIAN AJAYI, representative of Global Connections for Women, said she came as the voice of women and girls of Africa, who were suffering from the adverse impact of climate change.  Four million women died in Africa each year because of unsafe cooking conditions resulting from deforestation.  Countless girls were forced to walk miles to gather water, thereby exposing themselves to sexual exploitation.  Those were only a few instances of how climate change impacted daily lives.  The action plan emerging from Paris must address the concerns of those women and girls.

For information media. Not an official record.