– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

11 February 2019

Your Excellency, Dr. Thani Al-Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates,

Votre Excellence, Monsieur Laurent Fabius, Président du Conseil constitutionnel,

Excellencies, Colleagues, Dear Friends,

Sabah Al Kheir

It is my great pleasure to address this Climate Change Forum at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

I find it most pertinent for Climate Change to be at the forefront of discussions on shaping the future, because – let’s get straight to the point: for millions of people around the world, there can be no future without effective, coordinated, and ambitious climate action.

Over 2 million people were displaced by climate-related natural disasters last year, with costs of 500 billion dollars. What future are we looking at if 200 million people lose their homes by 2050? These are real projections.

Climate Change affects every country and person in the world without distinction: rich or poor, optimist or pessimist. It affects you. It affects your children, and it affects the health of your children.

Yet, just as Climate Change affects us all, it may provide an opportunity to connect us all.


I represent the 193 Member States of the United Nations General Assembly. The United Nations was born precisely as an instrument to prevent global threats. It was to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, and to give peace a firmer footing through international cooperation, international law, fundamental human rights, and better standards of living.

In plenary yesterday I listed just a few of the many successes of multilateralism and the United Nations over the past 73 years. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement are undoubtedly among the most unifying and important outcomes of this multilateralism. I have the privilege to share this panel with Laurent Fabius, one of the architects of the Paris Agreement. We spent many hours working together towards that, and I thank you for your contribution to multilateralism.

The importance of these agreements stems from both their aspiration, and their importance for people around the world.

Yesterday I also stated that multilateral responses to transboundary threats such a climate change can only come from collective action. The place for it to happen is the multilateral system in its main home, the United Nations. From that standpoint I would like to address two issues of critical importance, and how to go forward:

The first point : Global challenges need universal solutions.

The latest IPCC report highlighted international cooperation as a critical enabler for climate targets, particularly for developing countries. It is possible to limit warming, so long as we are able to work quickly and collectively. Yet, today we are witnessing a growing appetite for isolation and nationalism, which can only aggravate this threat and its devastating effects. What we need is more cooperation in all aspects, including on climate finance, to make the transition feasible. We need Governments to lead by example, starting with how we work within the UN. We must adapt to remain relevant. The first step should be to hold ourselves accountable to both present and future generations, and for youth to be at the table.  As stated by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, environmental preservation is:

“a duty, and, if we fail, our children, rightly, will reproach us for squandering an essential part of their inheritance, and of our heritage.”

A stable climate system is an intergenerational asset, requiring multilateral, multisectoral, multigenerational attention and action.

Climate Change affects every country and person in the world without distinction: rich or poor, optimist or pessimist. It affects you. It affects your children, and it affects the health of your children.

Yet, just as Climate Change affects us all, it may provide an opportunity to connect us all.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

The Second point: Opportunities are only sustainable when they are shared. At present, the climate bill is uneven. The bulk of emissions come from bigger countries, while the most vulnerable suffer from the gravest consequences. This is particularly the case for Small Island Developing States.

We need climate justice.

To achieve that, we must accelerate current efforts. The UNEP Emissions Gap Report says very clearly that we need five times the level of Nationally Determined Contributions. NDCs should be seen as a floor, rather than a ceiling, and we must push for more ambitious outcomes. 

We must also leverage technological advancements to scale up impactful solutions, and ensure that they reach those most in need FIRST. Efforts on mitigation HAVE TO come with adaptation and resilience building.

Of not, we run the risk of regressing on any progress made in poverty eradication and broader development.

I am inspired by the remarkable progress in Renewable Energy deployment here in the UAE, which has made the business case for low carbon technologies. We must now work as an international community to unlock the 26 trillion dollars of net economic gains projected by 2030 at the global level. We need investments, capacity building and knowledge sharing to achieve this.

Excellencies, and dear friends, before we start the panel this morning, I would stress that Climate Action and Multilateralism today are mutually dependent. Climate Action needs Multilateralism to achieve the speed and scale necessary; while multilateralism relies on our ability to deliver on agreements, and to remain credible in front of the people we represent.

Together, they can be harnessed to form a new dawn, that is, the future we all want and deserve.

I look forward to the discussions this morning, and to driving forward action, all together.

Shukran, thank you.