Secretary-General’s remarks at press encounter following General Assembly High-level Event on Climate Change
New York, 29 June 2015
Mr. President [of the General Assembly], Ministers from Peru and France, Ladies and Gentlemen of the media. Good morning. Thank you for your support.
I would like to, first of all, thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this very important high-level thematic debate of the General Assembly on climate change. We are just a little over five months away from the Paris meetings, and this meeting is – in addition to galvanizing the already strong political awareness and leadership role -- we just wanted to check where we are standing and what we should do.
As I said in my earlier remarks to the General Assembly, the negotiation pace is so slow, far too slow. I said it is moving at a snail’s pace. We have only ten official working days for negotiation. That, we have to overcome. In that regard I would like to highly commend the leadership of the Ministers Manuel Pulgar-Vidal of Peru and Laurent Fabius of France for their leadership in implementing the Lima-Paris action agenda. And as Secretary-General I will continue to exercise all my power to make this happen.
As I said this morning, it seems to me that the stars are aligned more than ever before. The governments, business CEOs, civil society, and faith groups, communities, they are all as one now. It is a matter of our political will and diplomatic skill, how to reconverge all the wishes and expectations of the international community in one single universal ambitious agreement in Paris. That is our goal.
The main purpose of this gathering today I hope will really answer the expectations of the international community. I have been meeting so many [from the] business community and religious leaders, including His Holiness Pope Francis, who has given such very valuable moral and spiritual strength to our continuing efforts.
2015 is a year for global action. As we usher in a new era of sustainable development, this climate change agreement should guide us for the coming at least 15-20 years.
Those twin priorities - our sustainable development agenda with a set of Sustainable Development Goals, and climate change - these are the most important priorities for humanity and for our planet earth. I will continue to do that. I really count on Member States and all the international community.
As a way of galvanizing and raising awareness on the urgency of this, I am going to visit Norway in early July and with the Foreign Minister of Norway I will try to visit the North Pole again, for the second time, to see how this climate change is affecting our planet earth, particularly in the North Pole. Thank you very much for this opportunity.
Q: I know environment is not the first concern regarding the Middle East, but there are serious environmental consequences – in Yemen with water shortage; in Egypt, Israel and unprecedented storm weather in Iraq. My question is for Mr. Ban Ki-moon. Will there be any special initiative by the United Nations to allocate funds to support the local governments in the Middle East to deal with the consequences of environmental changes, especially it is getting more serious in Iraq and in part of the north African countries.
SG: Yes, I agree with your point. When we look very closely at the root causes – there are many issues of course - political instability is caused by the lack of good governance and social injustice. But if you look at the other aspects - abject poverty and also environmental degradation really affect political and social instability, because it affects immediately the job opportunities and economic situation. Therefore, it is important that the benefits of what we will achieve through a climate change agreement will have to help mostly the Least Developed Countries and countries in conflict. We have to address all issues in a comprehensive way. In that regard, the situation in Yemen, we are very much concerned about the dire humanitarian situation that is impacted by the long spell of drought and also in addition, on top of political instability. So, it is critically important that we have to be successful in Paris to have a climate change agreement applicable to all the countries in the world. Thank you.
Q: You have mentioned today and on other occasions your praise and support for Pope Francis’ statements regarding climate change. However, in one portion of his encyclical, he criticized certain market-based solutions like cap and trade. You have in the past supported that, so I wonder if you could comment on whether you continue to support more market-based solutions than apparently Pope Francis does? Thank you.
SG: What I understand, having read this Papal Encyclical, he was showing his strong commitment as leader of this religious community that the global economic and social development is very much affected and a lot of things to do with current environmental degradation. Therefore he was saying, he was suggesting that the international community, led by the United Nations, should address this issue as soon as possible. He has been rendering his spiritual and moral support. He is not addressing any detailed packages or ideas as you just said – cap and trade or whatever – that is up to the Member States now who will continue to negotiate. When we are able to agree on a climate change agreement, universal and ambitious one in Paris, I think the Member States will all discuss this more in detail. As Secretary-General, I am always ready and available to provide our secretarial and logistical support, and political support, as we move on to Paris.
Q: Because it is the day of the election in Burundi, I have to ask this, where does it stand for the international community for an election that is taking place without any observers, what can be done? What is the next step forward?
SG: Let me briefly answer your question about the current situation in Burundi. Yesterday, all day long, I have been speaking to some African leaders in the region, including President Kikwete of Tanzania who is acting as President of the East African Community. I have also spoken to AU Chairperson Madame Zuma, as well as President Zuma of South Africa. They are the leaders who have been constantly engaging in this. I have been expressing my serious concern that while all the opposition political parties have boycotted - and even the Vice-President and the Parliamentary speakers – they have all condemned and criticized President Nkurunziza and left their country because of their serious concern. While UNDP and the United Nations have withdrawn our electoral support there, our United Nations observation team is now observing this election process. Now it seems that the election has been continuing. I reiterated my appeal to all Burundian political leaders to consider the wider interest of the people of their country and to resolve political issues through dialogue in order to preserve peace and strengthen national reconciliation. I also emphasize the responsibility of the Government of Burundi to ensure that the elections take place in a secure environment and also to guarantee the safety and security of UN observers, so that they can perform their mandated responsibilities free from intimidation and harassment. This is mandated by the Security Council. This is what I can tell you at this time. I am very closely observing and watching and coordinating and consulting with African leaders. Thank you.
Off-the-Cuff on 29 June 2015