Secretary-General's press conference at Rio+20
Rio de Janeiro, 20 June 2012
Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
Bom Dia, Bonjour.
I arrived earlier today from Mexico, where I attended the G20 summit meeting on the global economic crisis.
The agenda here at Rio+20 is equally urgent and even more far-reaching.
Rio+20 is an important opportunity to put the world on a sustainable path.
I commend Member States for their commitment to reaching agreement on an outcome document, and I thank President [Dilma] Rousseff for her leadership in the closing stages of the negotiations.
Twenty years ago – in a breakthrough here in Rio – world leaders put sustainable development on the map.
But all the bold words and good intentions have not been enough.
We are on a dangerous road.
We cannot continue to burn and consume our way to prosperity at the expense of the world’s poor and the global environment.
Governments here have recognized this.
They understand that we need Rio+20 to help to define a model for a 21st century economy – a model that rejects the myth that there is a trade-off between prosperity and the environment.
Here in Rio, world leaders must send a signal that they are committed to a sustainable future – a future that lifts people from poverty, generates dynamic and equitable growth, and respects the limits of our planet’s finite resources.
That is the future we want, and it is the transformation we need.
Our challenge here in Rio is to bring that vision to life.
Not just with words, but through actions.
Let us never forget that Rio+20 is about people.
We must offer concrete hope for real improvements in daily lives – for the poor, for women and young people, for future generations.
Already, two achievements stand out.
First, Member States will agree an outcome document that can provide a firm foundation for sustainable development.
I thank President Rousseff for her leadership in making this happen in the final straight.
The outcome document includes clear decisions and strategies on jobs, energy, food security, water, oceans, education, transport and cities.
Governments will also agree to launch and take ownership of a process to establish universal sustainable development goals.
This is important for building on the success of the Millennium Development Goals.
I expect them also to agree on the institutions that will guide us to sustainable development.
The second achievement of Rio is that Governments, corporate leaders, civil society and philanthropists are stepping up with partnerships, funding and ideas.
We are expecting more than 200 commitments that can set us on a course to a sustainable future.
This can become the new business as usual.
I look forward to talking in more detail about the outcome document and the commitments on Friday.
For now, let me highlight one success story in particular.
We have received overwhelming global support for my Sustainable Energy for All initiative with its three global objectives to achieve by 2030: first, universal access to modern energy services to all the people in the world, coupled with a significant scaling up of energy efficiency, and thirdly, doubling the use of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
Energy is the golden thread that connects development, social inclusion and environmental protection.
Today, I can announce that some 100 organizations are making public their specific expressions of support for Sustainable Energy for All.
Businesses and investors have committed more than $50 billion dollars to achieve the initiative’s three objectives.
More than 50 governments are working with us to develop their energy plans and programmes. Others are providing support and resources.
The initiative will enable access to modern energy to more than one billion people during its lifespan. Many more will benefit as more partners come on board.
This shows the power of partnership, the power of the United Nations to spearhead transformational change.
Clearly, while the negotiations are important, the outcome of this conference is so much more than a document.
It is about the extraordinary momentum that has already been generated.
Rio+20 has served as a catalyst for a global movement for change.
This will be one of Rio’s most lasting legacies.
Rio+20 is a milestone. I believe it can also be a tipping point.
My message to world leaders is clear: Sustainable development is an idea whose time has come.
We have a roadmap. Let us follow it.
Let us match words with actions.
Our scarcest resource is time. It is running out.
World leaders must rise above narrow national and group interests.
Now is the time to act as global leaders. Nothing less will do.
More and more in today’s world, the global interest is the national interest.
We must be united for the global common good – united for humanity.
Thank you very much, and I will be happy to take your questions.
Q: Good morning. Many people would point out that this document from Rio+20 is full of good ideas and good promises, but it’s not a binding agreement and therefore countries are not obliged to do what is written in the text. How would you comment on that criticism?
SG: I know that some Member States hoped to have a bolder and more ambitious outcome document. I also hope that we should have a more ambitious outcome document. But you should also understand that the negotiations have been very, very difficult and very slow because of all the conflicting interests and ideas. Some have presented [many] far-reaching and bold actions, while some countries also had their own views and interests. So you should understand that this is the outcome of such a long and very delicate process of negotiation.
As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as convener of this conference, I am encouraged by such a strong commitment of the world leaders. I have been saying that this is not the end. This is the beginning of many more processes [that] will come, and this is to raise and reaffirm a political statement of the world leaders. However good action agendas there may be, if these action agendas are not implemented, not translated into action, this will be only on paper. Therefore, what is more important at this time is that all these outcome documents recommendations should be implemented without any further delay.
Nature does not wait. Nature does not negotiate with human beings. We have limited resources in our planet Earth. Therefore I believe that what Member States have agreed now is very practical and far-reaching. And it is important that world leaders during their three-day-long conference must recommit themselves with a strong political will, so that these action plans will be implemented for humanity to keep this planet Earth environmentally-hospitable and sustainable. And also socioeconomic dimension should [be] fully reflected and implemented. Thank you.
Q: Good morning. You said in the beginning of your speech that we have a real opportunity to put the world on a sustainable path. In what respect can Brazil lead this process, not only in this event, but in the next years?
SG: There is some symbolism why world leaders decided to meet in Rio twenty years after [the Earth Summit]. That is why we are calling this conference the Rio+20 Summit meeting. World leaders in 1992 adopted and produced a very ambitious, good outcome document – Agenda 21.
Unfortunately, we have not realized that time was running out and we have finite resources; we have only one planet Earth. Without knowing that, people have been consuming resources [on their way] to prosperity. That has created serious problems, as you will all agree.
Hopefully, the experts say, and even politicians are saying that, our planet Earth may be standing at a tipping point. Depending upon how we do it, we may fall to the side of prosperity, we may fall to disasters. That is why Rio+20 is very important. They are here – I think more than 120 leaders are here to show their political commitment.
Brazil is a country, by any standard, one of the rising countries, emerging economies. It has huge resources, vast land, huge population. At the same time, while Brazil has a lot of potential, Brazil also has challenges. All the challenges which we are experiencing, Brazil is having. Therefore, we can learn lessons from what Brazil has been doing - both success and failures. In that regard, this Rio+20 Conference will give us a lot of meaning and inspiration. We can [have] inspiration [from] Brazilian successes. I hope that by the time we finish this one, leaders will return to their home countries with renewed commitment, renewed political will, to work together for common good and common prosperity.
Q: You said that the document was not as ambitious as you thought it could be. Do you have any hope that it can change, that the Heads of Government can still make more agreements or commitments to change a little bit the document, to make it stronger?
SG: Why do we have a Summit meeting? Why have I been inviting and urging leaders, Heads of State and Government? They are the ones who can make political decisions, who can make a choice. We have many action agendas. We have limited resources, budget and natural resources, or whatever. Depending upon the political priority they choose, I think the consequences will be hugely different. That is why we are counting on their leadership. That is why I am really asking them to play as global citizens, global leaders. Each and every Head of State and Government is here representing their country. But that era is over. Everything is interconnected. Member States have identified 26 major focuses: climate change, food security, water, energy, gender empowerment, urbanization, cities, transportation, education, biodiversity, marine/oceans – I cannot remember all 26.
However, if you look at these issues, they are all interconnected. For example, if we solve the energy issues, this can work as a golden thread. If we thread all this with energy, we can accelerate our implementation process. If we resolve and address climate change, climate change, as you know very well, has been impacting all aspects of our life. Then food crisis, water scarcity issues, they are all interconnected; that is why we hope that this Conference will be the one where we will look at all these issues in an integrated and more comprehensive way. This action agenda which will be approved by the leaders on Friday contains such a vision and a Roadmap and they bring us a path where we need to move forward, so this Rio+20 is to set in motion all the agendas on which leaders will agree.
I thank you very much.
I always believe in the role and importance of media. You are the connectors between the Governments and the people. After all, we are working for the people. So how to connect world governments, national governments, to the people, I think you can play a very important role. So please, play your own role as media representatives for the common good and common humanity.
Thank you very much.