Record Number of World Leaders Gather at United Nations Headquarters to Mobilize Political Momentum to Meet Climate Change Challenge

22 September 2009

Record Number of World Leaders Gather at United Nations Headquarters to Mobilize Political Momentum to Meet Climate Change Challenge

22 September 2009
Press Release
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Record Number of World Leaders Gather at United Nations Headquarters

to Mobilize Political Momentum to Meet Climate Change Challenge

Nearly 100 world leaders have accepted United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation to participate in a historic summit on climate change to mobilize political will and strengthen momentum for a fair, effective and ambitious climate deal in Copenhagen.

According to Secretary-General Ban, the purpose of the Summit is to focus minds and generate urgent action at the highest levels.  “This year we have an unprecedented opportunity to prevent climate change from slipping out of control and to jumpstart the transformation to a safer, cleaner, more prosperous green economy that benefits all,” he said.

The participation of leadership at the level of Head of State from all countries -– industrialized and developing nations, and newly emerging economies on the front lines of climate change impacts -- is crucial to realizing this achievement.

The Summit will mark the first United Nations visit for the Presidents of China and the United States, as well as the newly elected Prime Minister of Japan.

World leaders who will address the opening session following the Secretary-General’s address include United States President Barack Obama; President of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed; President of China, Hu Jintao; Prime Minister of Japan, Yukio Hatoyama; President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame; Prime Minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt; President of Costa Rica, Óscar Arias Sánchez; and President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Climate change cuts across all issues -– from energy and food security to trade, finance and international security.  Its effects will fundamentally shape the economic growth, development and security of every country in the world, requiring strategic focus at the highest political level.

The Summit will provide this opportunity by mobilizing the political momentum needed to help the world cross the finish line in Copenhagen, where representatives from 193 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will gather in December to negotiate a climate agreement for the post-2012 period.

“I hope world leaders will leave the Summit ready to give their negotiating teams the green light and specific guidance needed to accelerate progress on the road to Copenhagen,” said the Secretary-General.  “The clock is ticking.  I hope they will publicly commit to sealing a deal in Copenhagen,” he said.

Negotiations on an agreement for the Copenhagen conference have made some progress, but require immediate political impetus if the world is to seal a global climate deal this year.

“Through direct dialogue with their fellow world leaders, we hope Summit participants will come to grips with the urgent need for action, as well as the benefits of transforming their economies along a cleaner energy, low-emissions pathway,” said the Secretary-General.

While not a negotiating session, today’s summit at Headquarters will seek to find a common understanding among the leaders on a path forward.  This understanding will be captured in a Chairman’s summary, to be presented by the Secretary-General at the Summit’s conclusion.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, who is Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will present the scientific basis for action.  Professor Wangari Maathai, recognized for her tree planting and environmental efforts among the poorest communities, will speak for civil society.

Former United States Vice-President Al Gore, who was a co-winner of the Nobel Prize with the IPCC, will address the United Nations Leadership Forum Luncheon.  This forum marks the first time that world leaders and leaders from the business, investor and civil society communities will meet on such a large scale at the United Nations.

Opening the Summit will be two-time Academy Award nominee Djimon Hounsou, who will recite a portion of a speech known as the Pale Blue Dot, written by the late astronomer Carl Sagan.  This will be followed by a film written and narrated by children from around the world who will be facing the effects of climate change caused by the present generation.

The Summit will depart from traditional practice in favour of more time spent in direct discussions between world leaders.  Following the public opening session, Heads of State and Government will meet in smaller round-table discussions.  There will be eight closed round tables throughout the day, each co‑chaired by a Head of State or Government from a developing and developed country.  Statements from national leaders will be available online at the Summit website (

The United Nations will offset participants’ travel by purchasing carbon emission credits from the Clean Development Mechanism, an innovative tool that directs investment in clean technologies to developing countries.  The Summit’s emissions will be offset by investments in a project in a poor semi-arid region in Kolar district, Karnataka state, India, seeking to reduce deforestation and provide clean energy for cooking.

For more information on the Summit, please contact Dan Shepard, tel.:  917 365 8362, e-mail:, or Martina Donlon, tel.:  212 963 6816.

For more information on the Leadership Forum Luncheon, please contact Matthias Stausberg, spokesperson for UN Global Compact, tel.:  917 214 1337 (cell), 917 367 3423 (office), e-mail:

Information on the Summit, available in all six United Nations languages, is posted at

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.