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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


Secretary-General's remarks to press in Vatican City [scroll down for Q+A]

Vatican City, 28 April 2015

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here.

This morning I met with His Holiness Pope Francis and we discussed various issues of this world, including and particularly climate change and sustainable development, migration and many other issues. 

I am grateful for his invitation, and applaud his humanitarian vision.

During our conversation, Pope Francis spoke of his commitment to making the world a better place for all.

We shared our shock at the recent grievous loss of life in the Mediterranean.

Yesterday, I visited the Italian naval ship San Giusto with Prime Minister Renzi and European Union High Representative Mogherini.

We were briefed on the Mare Sicuro operation and the impact of migration.

These migrants, many of whom are refugees, are desperate for a better future.

We need to strengthen search and rescue capacity and stop the criminals who exploit the most vulnerable. 

We need to address the root causes of migration and find ways to share responsibility for resettling those who make the perilous journey.

That includes increasing safe and regular channels for migration.

I welcome the measures announced by European Heads of State and Government last week.

They are an important first step towards collective European action – which is the only approach that can work for a problem of such a large and trans-national nature.  But we know that more needs to be done in a comprehensive and collective way. The United Nations and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are ready to work with European Union leaders.

Let me now turn to the subject of this workshop.

Climate change and sustainable development also demand collective action.

The faith leaders gathered here today are united in reminding us that addressing climate change is an urgent moral imperative.

Caring for the planet and caring for those who suffer from climate impacts, especially the poor and most vulnerable is a moral responsibility.

All people of faith and conscience can agree on this.

Today’s gathering also included eminent scientists.

Religion and science are aligned in emphasizing the need for action. A need for global action.

Science tells us that climate change is occurring now and approaching much faster than one may think, and that human activities are the principal cause.

We are at a critical tipping point.

Collectively, the world must stem and then reverse the rise in global emissions.

We have only a handful of years before the window of opportunity closes forever, or we risk the “increasing likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible” climate impacts.

Soon, I hope Pope Francis will add his voice in his upcoming encyclical on climate change and sustainable development.

The encyclical will come at a critical time. 

World leaders will gather at the United Nations in September to adopt new Sustainable Development Goals – known as SDGs.

I am honored that Pope Francis has accepted my invitation to address the General Assembly on this occasion on September 25th.

In December, governments will meet in Paris to forge a collective response to climate change.

I will meet with President Hollande tomorrow in Paris.  Climate change will be at the top of our agenda. I will also meet Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius

I am calling on governments to forge an agreement that is universal, equitable and ambitious. 

All countries must be part of the solution if we are to keep global temperature rise below the safety threshold of 2 degrees Celsius.

I urge countries to prepare ambitious national climate targets and to submit them as soon as possible.

Finance will be critical.

Developed countries need to set out a clear trajectory for achieving the goal of $100 billion per year by 2020 to support developing countries.

The Green Climate Fund must start disbursing funds before we meet in Paris.

This afternoon, in Paris, I am going to address the members of the OECD. I will urge them as leaders of developed world they should be ready to take necessary global action.

I encourage the government of Italy and all other governments to convert their pledges to the Green Climate Fund to any agreement by the deadline of April 30th.  This will contribute in a major way to making the Fund operational.

We also need strong policy incentives to drive low-carbon growth, including a price on carbon.

Adaptation and resilience efforts must be strengthened and supported, especially in the small island states and least developed countries.

I wish to remind world leaders:  Your citizens, the world’s faith communities, and future generations, will hold you accountable.

The moral case for action is clear. 

We are the first generation that can end poverty, and the last generation that can act to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Again, I thank His Holiness Pope Francis for his spiritual and moral leadership for world peace, human rights and sustainable development.

Thank you.

Q: [On climate change]

A: First of all, I told His Holiness that I am looking forward to his encyclical as soon as possible. I was told that it may be sometime in June but I am not aware of what it will contain. It is not my responsibility and it is in the hands of His Holiness but I am very encouraged that His Holiness is very committed and he assured me that he will work with the United Nations, world leaders, scientists and faith leaders to help be realized for humanity.  And about this responsibility, who needs to address this one?  This is an issue of our global, all humanity, it is an issue of our times, a defining issue of our times. Developed countries should be more responsible while we believe that every country, everybody in this world should bear their responsibility. Considering all historical responsibilities are caused mostly by the developed world, it is only natural that with their resources and capacity, they should bear. And there was a firm pledge by the developed world in 2009 during the Copenhagen Summit meeting that they will provide financial and technological resources in the amount of 100 billion dollars by 2020 and 100 billion dollars per year after 2020. I sincerely hope that they will provide the trajectory and how they are going to mobilize this money, so that the developing world can take necessary mitigation action and adaptation of policies.

Q:  [On Paris Summit being a turning point]

A:  Yes, I think that Paris will be a turning point.  It is not the end point because it is a beginning point. Then while we expect the world leaders will adopt an ambitious global climate change agreement which will be the first time that we will have a universal climate agreement.  But I expect the international community will have to build up on that while implementing this agreement. All the preparations have been moving towards the right direction, particularly since the September summit meeting which I convened last year in New York.  After that, there was a very historic announcement by the United States and China to cut the greenhouse gas emission. And the European Union has taken very important initiatives by committing themselves to cut greenhouse emission by 40% by 2030, with considerable amount of investment in renewable energy. Then, this Lima meeting in Peru last December was also an important one.  Then after that, there was a continuing, encouraging development of commitment by the Member States.  I hope that the Member States will accelerate the negotiation on this draft text, which has been distributed to the Member States. We must have this global agreement in December in Paris.

Q: [About the encyclical]

A: I am not in any position to comment anything about encyclical, which should be issued by His Holiness the Pope. The fact that His Holiness has convened a meeting with scientists and faith leaders today, with my participation, I told you that science and religion are aligned in terms of climate change issues.  And science has made it plainly clear that climate change is happening. It is happening because of human behaviour. It is only natural that it is a human being who has to change his behaviour or pattern. It is not the nature, we cannot negotiate with nature - nature does not work for us. I am telling the world leaders and business communities that there is a very small window of opportunity to change this course. I am sure that this encyclical will have a profound impact in the discussions of climate change, and I am also hopeful that his address to the joint Congress in the United States and his address in the Special Summit session of the United Nations General Assembly will have a profound impact. I count on his moral voice and moral leadership.

Q: [On faith leaders’ role against climate change]

A: I don’t think that religious leaders or faith leaders should be scientists. I am not a scientist either. But what it clear, but what is important is their moral commitment, and for political leaders, their moral will. That is important to mobilize the will of the people and to lead the people.  It requires that not only scientists, the economists, every citizen and every one of you should be part of this process. There, I think that faith leaders can play an important role. And business leaders can also play very substantively important role. I was very much encouraged when I convened the Summit meeting.  Now who are this business community? They are very committed they are on board. And with all civil society on board, we have a very strong tripartite partnership established -- government leaders, business communities, and civil societies. Now we want faith leaders and their moral voices and then, I think we can make it happen. We have to do this for our future generations, for our planet earth, which is the only planet we, as human beings, are living in.

Q:  [On control of population number]

A: I have not discussed this matter this morning but I know how sensitive this one is.  What is important in this family issue is that it is the health of the women that should be the primary concern as a human being. The United Nations is very much concerned about that aspect.  That is why I have initiated that Every Woman, Every Child initiative. We are getting global support on this issue.  This ideological issue, I am not here to discuss it. Since you raised this population [issue], what is important in addressing climate change is that now, the population is increasing, and it will affect our resources and capacity.  Depending on how you adapt your behavior and how you change your behaviour, we can make a huge impact in climate change discussions. Thank you.

Q: [On current humanitarian crisis, including in the Mediterranean]

A: Of course, we have experienced many tragic situations, we have many tens of thousands of people killed.  I think we can easily think about the situation in Syria during the last four years. At least more than 220,000 people have been killed, many tens of thousands or millions of people have become refugees or are affected.  At least four million people have become refugees. Then we have seen the genocide in Rwanda. I said that this [the crisis in the Mediterranean] is one of the worst humanitarian crisis because many hundreds of people or thousands of people were just drowned to death in the sea. These are the most vulnerable people who were risking their lives because either way they thought that they may be prosecuted or they may die.  In such a case, they risked their lives to find, even the slimmest possibility of opportunity that they might get. It really humbles us and saddens us and that is why I was raising my voice that this should be addressed in a collective way and a more comprehensive way. I know that we have to arrest all these criminals, human traffickers, we have to make a stand on this one. And at the same time, we have to address the root causes of why they have to risk their lives -- the political instability, the lack of livelihood and lack of opportunities, and persecutions and marginalization in their own societies. At the same time, we have to proceed with the political solution in parallel.  I am asking my Special Envoy in Libya to accelerate this process. But this may be just a basic framework, guidelines of our work. At the same time, I talked to the Prime Minister and I am telling European leaders that in addressing this crisis, the priority should be given to protecting human rights and dignity and saving human lives. Therefore, there should be first and foremost, a robust search-and-rescue established. I am encouraged by the Heads of States and the European Union who will strengthen this rescue and search, as well as financial support.  But everybody knows that much more needs to be done, that’s why I am here. I am going to continue to discuss this matter with the European leaders.

Q:  [On encyclical and potential influence on US climate change policies]

A: We are not in the shaming or calling names in any country. This is a global crisis, a global issue that requires, demands a global action.  2015 is a year for global action and that’s why I’m here. I’ve been discussing this issue with the political leaders and business community leaders and NGOs. Now, the reason I am coming to [the] Pope is that now, I need, I need moral support and spiritual support, as well as the support of religious leaders. It is not only climate change. Last week, I have convened the General Assembly high-level thematic debate on countering extremism. To counter extremism, we may need some very effective military actions. But before that, we need to address the root causes, we need to have a strong engagement and support of faith leaders and educators to teach their followers and their students what is the real meaning of reconciliation and tolerance, and peace and harmony, living together, respecting each other.  So, in all these current issues, be it climate change or terrorism, extremism, and sustainable development, we may now need the faith leaders’ strong engagement and their leadership.  That’s why I’m here.

Q:  [On military action against human traffickers]

A: During my interview with a newspaper, I said that targeting these boats or destroying these boats is not the appropriate way, is not a good way. Of course there are some traffickers who use all these boats.  They are engaged in criminal activities. We have to arrest them, we have to take a stand on this one. We can look at the current and economic situations in those countries, they do not have many means of maintaining their living and fishing may be one of the very important sources to sustain their livelihoods.  And if you just destroy all these boats, which could be used in transporting migrants, then you might end up affecting just the general capacity of those people, who after all, do not have much means and capacity.  Addressing the root causes of this issue may take longer time, but it is the way to address it comprehensively.  We need a good governance, political stability, and providing livelihoods, providing socio-economic opportunities. When I met President Renzi yesterday, we talked about the European Union’s active participation and leadership during the time of addressing piracy, pirates in Somalia, off the coast of Somalia. At that time, the European Union mobilized operation Atlantis, mobilizing ships, I think that helped. We are working on the political process in Somalia, and that has reduced significantly the piracy in the sea, off the coast of Somalia. It may take time. Sometimes, one may think an easy and effective way is to mobilize military means. In every case, in every conflict, military means may be effective in some cases but there is no alternative to political solution, no alternative to the resolution by peaceful means through dialogue. That’s a firm policy and position of the United Nations. We have learned all this through our experiences dealing with many conflict issues. Thank you.

Off-the-Cuff on 28 April 2015