Secretary-General's remarks upon receiving Honorary Degree from the University of Malta
Valletta, Malta, 22 April 2009Your Excellency Dr. George Abela, President of Malta, Your Excellency Mr. Lawrence Gonzi, Prime Minister of Malta, Honorable Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Ms. Dolores Cristina, Professor Rizzo Naudi, Chancellor of the University, Professor Camilleri, Rector of the University,
Distinguished members of the faculty, Distinguished guests, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to express my tremendous gratitude for this ceremony and for the honoris causa you have just bestowed on me.
I take this as another sign of your enduring commitment to the United Nations.
Indeed I know that through this honorary degree, you are also paying tribute to all of us at the world Organization and our global mission of peace, human rights, and development. Thank you for this recognition.
I also draw great encouragement from your decision to award this degree in the name of climate change. This is a quintessentially global threat -- one that pays no heed to the borders drawn by humans.
No issue better demonstrates the need for global solidarity.
No issue is more essential to our survival as a species.
And no issue is more fundamental to long-term security and sustainable prosperity.
Since the moment I took office, I have sought to mobilize a great global movement to address this global threat.
I need not remind you, the citizens of an island state, of the grave consequences we face if present trends continue.
You know as well as anyone that the impacts of climate change are already upon us with greater force and frequency than had been anticipated.
Glaciers are shrinking twice as fast more rapidly than had been forecast by scientists. Polar ice-melt is happening more quickly. So, too, is the warming and acidification of the oceans.
The pace is such that scientists are already reassessing the worst-case scenarios they outlined just two years ago.
Of course, there have been important gains in the fight against climate change. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol are landmark instruments, with near-universal representation and legitimacy.
Global awareness has grown, too. Rare is the person who does not know about global warming and its terrifying potential.
I commend Malta for taking a leading role from the start. It was at your initiative more than two decades ago that the United Nations General Assembly took up the issue at the political level, as a matter of common concern to all nations.
Malta is also taking the rare and welcome step of voluntarily seeking to hold itself to a higher standard for emissions than might otherwise be required of it. I hope other countries will follow that fine example.
And of course, [my friend and] your native son Michael Zammit Cutajar is serving as chair of one of the key negotiating groups in the UN process that we hope will produce a bold new climate agreement in December in Copenhagen.
Success is by no means assured. It is still not clear that states are willing to do what is necessary. Leadership at the highest level is needed now if we are to protect the planet, save lives, and build a more sustainable global economy for all
To seal a deal in Copenhagen, we need commitments on ambitious, mid-term mitigation targets for industrialized countries. These targets will help instill confidence that industrialized countries are willing to take the lead in solving a problem for which they bear greatest historical responsibility.
We also need nationally appropriate mitigation action by developing countries, beyond what they are already doing.
We need clarity on financing.
There needs to be an efficient institutional mechanism with an equitable, accountable governance structure for delivering financial and technological support to developing countries as they pursue mitigation efforts.
And finally, it is essential to have clarity on financing for adaptation, as well as a framework.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have heard some ask how the world can afford to tackle climate change at a time of budget constraints and austerity. I say precisely the opposite: how can we afford not to?
At a time when the global economy is sputtering, we need growth.
At a time when unemployment in many nations is rising, we need new jobs.
And at a time when poverty threatens to overtake hundreds of millions of people, especially in the least developed world, we need the promise of prosperity.
This possibility is at our finger-tips, in the form of green growth.
If we are to spend vast sums on stimulus packages, we must be smart about it and ensure that those packages steer us in this new direction.
The most forward-looking CEOs know this. That's one reason why businesspeople in so many parts of the world are demanding clear and consistent policies on climate change. They want Copenhagen to send the signals that will unleash investment in green technologies and clean energy.
It is increasingly clear that in dealing with the climate crisis, we deal with the economic crisis. We can address two challenges at once, in an integrated fashion, the way we must.
That is the path to sustainable growth in an age of austerity. Spending wisely today pays clear social and economic dividends both now and in the future.
The United Nations will do its utmost to help Member States along this path, and is fully committed to supporting countries as they implement both existing and future climate agreements.
The science demands it. The world economy needs it. The livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people depend on it.
But we must act quickly. The window of opportunity is closing. The cost of inaction is escalating.
This challenge will test our maturity as nations and as a global community.
Leadership at the highest level is needed from all countries, powerful or poor, to seal a deal in Copenhagen.
It is governments that are responsible for meeting the climate challenge. And it is governments that will be held accountable by their citizens and the world for their actions – or inaction.
As always, the United Nations stands ready to assist as they undertake this most serious of challenges.
I look forward to continuing to work with you in this effort. Thank you again for the honour you have given me today.
Statements on 22 April 2009
- New York, 22 April 2009 - Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the release of abductees in West Africa
- New York, 22 April 2009 - Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Burundi
- Valletta, Malta, 22 April 2009 - Secretary-General's remarks to the House of Representatives in Malta