‘Opportunity to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change is in Your Hands,’ Secretary-General Tells World Leaders at Climate Summit

22 September 2009

‘Opportunity to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change is in Your Hands,’ Secretary-General Tells World Leaders at Climate Summit

22 September 2009
Meetings Coverage
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Summit on Climate Change

AM & PM Meetings

 ‘Opportunity to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change is in Your Hands,’

Secretary-General Tells World Leaders at Climate Summit


Says December Copenhagen Climate Conference Offers ‘New Path’

Towards Successful, Long-term Deal to Limit Global Temperature Rise to Safe Levels

Climate change, the pre-eminent geopolitical and economic issue of the twenty-first century, threatened to rewrite the global equation for development, peace and prosperity, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, as he pressed world leaders to cooperate on a just and scientifically sound solution that strengthened sustainable development and powered green growth for every country.

“There is little time left.  The opportunity and responsibility to avoid catastrophic climate change is in your hands,” Mr. Ban said, closing the day-long Summit on Climate Change, which he convened to mobilize the highest-level political momentum to reach an equitable and ambitious global climate deal at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December.  At that meeting, Governments will aim to reach a global climate framework to enter into force in 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires.

The Secretary-General said the Copenhagen Conference would offer a new path.  “It can catalyse a global economy based on low-emissions growth that can strengthen sustainable development and lift billions out of poverty,” he said, adding that success at that meeting would have positive ripple effects for global cooperation on trade, energy, security and health.

Today’s event, which drew Heads of State and Government from over 100 countries, also featured eight interactive round‑table discussions that focused on transforming economies to enable sustainable, low-emissions growth.  They consisted of 25 participants each and were co-chaired by 16 Heads of State from developed and developing nations.

Summarizing the participants’ discussions and recommendations, Mr. Ban said many leaders had spoken passionately and with grave concern about the devastating impacts of climate change their countries were experiencing.  All supported the urgent need to step up action and raise the financial resources to make that happen.

The message from the Summit was clear -- any deal reached at Copenhagen must be comprehensive and ensure enhanced action to help the most vulnerable adapt to the impacts of climate change, he asserted.  For industrialized nations, ambitious emissions reduction targets were needed, while for developing countries, nationally appropriate mitigation actions had to be undertaken, with necessary support.  Leaders had called for significantly scaling up financial and technological resources and establishing an equitable governance structure.

Based on the participants’ recommendations, the Secretary-General said he planned to set up a high-level panel after the Copenhagen Conference to advise on how to better integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies into development.  The United Nations would assist developing countries in implementing the Copenhagen deal.  He was heartened to hear that a growing number of leaders were prepared to move beyond purely national perspectives to global leadership.

Handing his summary of the Summit to four young people, -- “representatives of the next generation” -- he noted that the document embodied the international community’s collective effort to create a safer, cleaner, more liveable world “for you and your peers”.  Mr. Ban said:  “We must unite in common cause and leave a legacy of hope and healing for you and for this planet, our only home.”

Echoing that thought earlier in the day, R.K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscored that science left no choice for inaction.  Without efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, climate change would likely lead to the disappearance of sea ice by the end of the twenty-first century, an increased frequency of heat waves, among other weather events, and possible extinction of 20 to 30 per cent of the world’s species assessed thus far.  On the flip side, stabilizing the global temperature increase at 2.0 to 2.4 degrees Celsius would cost no more than 3 per cent of global domestic product in 2030.

While heartened that the Group of Eight (G-8) leaders had recognized the broad scientific view of limiting temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius, he said adhering to that limit meant that global emissions had to peak no later than 2015 ‑‑ just six years from now.  If the United Nations did not act in time, those gathered today would be failing in their sacred duty to protect the planet.

Broadly agreeing, Tilman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada, stressed that temperature increases of 2 degrees Celsius would cause the economies and ecosystems of many small island developing States (SIDS) to disappear.  It was imperative that all countries adopt a low-carbon development path that ensured the survival of SIDS, their culture and their people.

Echoing the call for limiting temperature rise to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, he said global emissions should be cut by more than 85 per cent by 2050, and that “Annex I” emissions should drop by at least 45 per cent by 2020.  Further, he called for new, additional and stable financing for adaptation, technology transfer and capacity‑building at a level sufficient to cope with the scale of the problem.

[Annex I countries are those Industrialized Nations and Economies in Transition listed in Annex I of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change].

In the search for solutions,United States President Barack Obama pointed out that developed nations had a responsibility to lead, and would do so by slashing emissions by 2020 and meeting the long-term 2050 goal.  For too long, nations, including the United States, had been too slow to recognize the magnitude of the climate threat.  However, it was a new day and a new era.  “We cannot allow the old divisions that have characterized the climate debate for so many years to block our progress,” he stressed.

The United States had done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than in any other point in its history, he continued.  His Government also had engaged more allies and partners in finding solutions than ever before.  In April, the United States had convened the first of what now had been six meetings of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, and was working through the World Bank to promote renewable energy projects and technologies in the developing world.  Taken together, such steps represented an historic recognition of the gravity of the climate threat.

At the same time, Yokio Hatoyama, Prime Minister of Japan, pointed out that financial assistance and technology transfer alone were not enough to help poor nations meet their financial needs.  His Government was working with world leaders to create a mechanism that both ensured the effective use of public funds and facilitated the flow of private investments to developing countries.

Offering a specific proposal, he said a “Hatoyama Initiative”would, among other things, underscore the need for developed countries’ to contribute substantial new and additional public and private financing to assist developing nations, and emphasize the importance of establishing a framework to promote the transfer of low-carbon technologies in a way that ensured intellectual property rights protection.

While acknowledging international action was indeed needed, Hu Jintao, President of China, said adherence to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities was critical to keeping global cooperation on the right track. Developed nations’ support for developing countries served their long-term interests, and achieving a “win-win” outcome should be the goal of global climate efforts.

He said China had adopted, and was implementing, a national programme that included mandatory targets for reducing energy intensity and increasing renewable energy use in the 2005-2010 period.  In coming years, China would further integrate climate change actions into economic and development plans, work to cut carbon dioxide emissions by a “notable margin” over 2005 levels by 2020, increase forest coverage, enhance use of non-fossil fuels to 15 per cent by 2020, and broadly work to develop a low-carbon economy.

Speaking ahead of the opening plenary session, President of the General Assembly Ali Abdussalam Treki, of Libya, delivered introductory remarks.

Also speaking at the opening plenary session were the Presidents of the Maldives, Rwanda, Sweden, Costa Rica (on behalf of over 100 middle‑income countries) and France.

Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Wangari Muta Maathai spoke on behalf of civil society.

Yugratna Srivastava, of Tarumitra (Friends of Trees), spoke on behalf of the world’s 3 billion children and young people.

Actor Djimon Hounsou addressed the opening plenary, along with several youth representatives.

Also speaking at the closing plenary session was the Prime Minister of Denmark.

The Minister of Environment and Urban Development of the Sudan also spoke.


A high-level meeting on climate change was convened at Headquarters today by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  Expected to address the session are Heads of State and Government and experts on global warming, as well as representatives of youth and civil society.

Opening Plenary Session

Welcoming delegates, General Assembly President ALI ABDUSSALAM TREKI, of Libya, said that only through an exclusive forum, comprised of all the world’s countries, could the challenge of climate change be effectively tackled.  The world needed a new international agreement in Copenhagen, Denmark this December, and United Nations Member States needed to show resolve in reaching that goal.

“We need to come together” to forge an ambitious agreement that reflected shared goals, based on common but differentiated responsibilities, he stressed.  Climate change was accelerating more quickly than previously assumed and those who were least responsible for it were suffering most.  In Africa and small island States, climate change was causing sea levels to rise, among other events, which threatened hard-won progress made in the battle against poverty.  While addressing the threat posed a challenge, the world would pay a higher price if it did not act now.

What was needed was the political will and leadership that transcended short-term economic interests, he said, adding that the Summit would be crucial in providing the political impetus towards an agreement in Copenhagen.  With a view to that goal, he said “the broadest shoulders must bear the heaviest burdens”.  No one could tackle climate change alone.  As Assembly President, he pledged that the 192-member body would play its due role in helping to combat climate change.

Next, actor Djimon Hounsou, two-time Academy award nominee, read an introductory text and recited an excerpted passage from Pale Blue Dot, from astronomer Carl Sagan’s book, while a video showed images of the Earth.  After he spoke, students distributed messages from the young generation to the Heads of State.

Youth representatives then took the floor, stressing that world leaders were not doing enough to protect future generations from the threat of climate change.  “Are you here to just talk, or are you here to take action in Copenhagen?” one speaker asked.  Right now, most were failing future generations as global citizens and as role models.  “You have been talking since before we were born,” another said. “Time is up,” they stressed.

Summit Statements

United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON welcomed world leaders to today’s Summit, calling the event the largest-ever gathering of world leaders on climate change.  “Your presence bears witness to the gravity of the climate challenge,” he said.  “It is a testament to the opportunity Copenhagen offers.”

“You have the power to chart a safer, more sustainable and prosperous course for this and future generations,” he said.  “Now is your moment to act.”

Indeed, greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise and would soon reach critical threshold, he said.  The world’s leading scientists had warned there were less than 10 years to avoid worst-case scenarios projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Noting that he had recently visited the Arctic, Mr. Ban recalled also that just yesterday he had met with leaders from small island States, who had been forceful about how climate change was rewriting their future.  In Africa, climate change threatened to roll back years of development gains.

Calling climate change the pre-eminent geopolitical and economic issue of the twenty-first century, he noted that, while some would say tackling the issue was too expensive, the opposite, in fact, was true.  The world would pay an unacceptable price without action now.

He stressed that the world’s glaciers were now “melting faster than human progress to protect them –- and us”.  There were only 15 negotiating days left until Copenhagen, and negotiators needed guidance from world leaders to resolve core issues.  Instead of demanding concessions from others, he urged asking how to contribute to the greater good.  A successful agreement would mean more prosperity, security and equity.

“We need to build trust step by step,” he said, asking industrialized country leaders in the room to take the first step.  Those from developing countries also had to speed their efforts.

Outlining the signposts for success at Copenhagen –- and beyond -— he said a successful deal must involve all nations working towards a common, long-term goal to limit global temperature rise to a safe level consistent with science.  Ambitious emission reduction targets from industrialized countries were needed by 2020, as were actions by developing countries to limit emissions growth.  Also important would be addressing major greenhouse gas sources -– including deforestation and emissions from shipping and aviation.

Next, a successful deal had to strengthen the world’s ability to cope with inevitable changes, notably by providing support to the most vulnerable to climate change.  Adaptation was not only a moral obligation; it was a political imperative and a smart investment in a more secure future.  It must be given equal priority in the talks, though not at the expense of mitigation.

Continuing, he said a deal had to be backed by money and the means to deliver it, and make available the full range of public and private resources, so that developing nations could pursue low-emissions growth.  It had to provide the framework to unlock private investment, including through carbon markets.  Finally, a successful deal must include an equitable global governance structure that addressed developing country needs.

“The true test of leadership is to take the long view,” he said, adding that a deal in Copenhagen could catalyse the creation of a global low-carbon economy.  Success would have positive ripple effects for cooperation on trade, energy, security and health.  Failure would be “morally inexcusable, economically short-sighted and politically unwise”.  The world could not go down that road.  Now was the moment to act in common cause.

With that, he urged leaders to forge an equitable, scientifically robust deal that boosted sustainable development.  The science demanded it; the world economy needed it.  “The fate of future generations and the hopes and livelihoods of billions today, rest, literally with you.”

R.K. PACHAURI, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said he was speaking for the world’s scientific community, which in November 2007 completed the Panel’s fourth Assessment Report, a collective effort of nearly 4,000 of the world’s best specialists working for more than five years.  The uniqueness of that mammoth exercise was that all Governments of the world approved the report and had full ownership of it contents.

He read out some of the salient features of the report and said that, in the absence of mitigation policies, climate change would likely lead to the possible disappearance of sea ice by the latter part of the twenty-first century; increased frequency of hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation; an increase in tropical cyclone intensity; decreases in water resources in many semi-arid areas; the possible elimination of the Greenland ice sheet and a resulting rise in sea levels; and increased risk of extinction for 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the species assessed, so far.  In Africa, by 2020 between 75 million and 250 million people were estimated to be exposed to water stress due to climate change and in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture would be reduced by up to 50 per cent, he said.  The impacts of climate change would be disproportionately severe in some of the poorest regions and communities in the world.

The mitigation of emissions was essential and the IPCC had assessed its costs as modest.  To limit average temperature increases at 2.0 and 2.4 degrees Celsius, the cost of mitigation by 2030 would not exceed 3 per cent of the global gross domestic product.  In other words, the so-called prosperity expected in 2030 would be postponed by just a few months, he said.  Mitigation carried many co-benefits, such as lower levels of air pollution and associated health benefits, higher energy security, greater employment and stable agriculture production, ensuring greater food security.  It was heartening that the Group of Eight (G-8) leaders had recognized the broad scientific view of limiting increases in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius.  But the panel had had clearly stated that if the temperature increase was to be limited to 2.0 to 2.4 degrees Celsius, global emissions must peak no later than 2015, only six years from now.  And, the 2 degree ceiling, too, would lead to sea-level rise of .4 to 1.4 metres.  That increase, added to the effect of melting snow and ice across the globe, could submerge several small island States and Bangladesh.

Avoiding the impact of climate change through mitigation of emissions would provide calculable benefits, including economic expansion and employment, he said.  If the people gathered today at the United Nations did not act in time, everyone would become leaders and citizens of failed States, because “we would be failing in our sacred duty” to protect this planet.  “Science leaves us with no choice for inaction now,” he said.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States, said the fact that so many countries had gathered today was due to the recognition that the threat from climate change was serious, urgent and growing.  History would judge this generation’s response to that threat.  “If we fail to meet it boldly, swiftly and together, we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe”.

The security and stability of each nation and all peoples were in jeopardy, and the time to reverse that tide was running out.  And yet, he said, the world could reverse it.  As President John F. Kennedy once observed, “Our problems are man-made; therefore, they may be solved by man.”  For too many years, mankind had been slow to respond or even to recognize the magnitude of the climate threat.  That included the United States.  However, it was a new day and a new era.  “I am proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history.”

Outlining the United States’ efforts, he said the Government was making its largest ever investment in renewable energy, doubling the generating capacity from wind and other renewable energy in three years, with the help of loan guarantees and tax credits.  Billions were being invested to cut energy waste in homes, buildings and appliances, and the very first national policy aimed at increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks had been proposed.  The first initiative to start tracking actual greenhouse gas emissions across the country had been announced this week, and the United States would work with the leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20) later this week to move forward on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.  In June, the House of Representatives had passed a climate and energy bill that would make clean energy profitable and reduce emissions, and one Senate committee had already acted on that bill.

But, because no one country could meet the challenge alone, the United States had engaged more allies and partners in finding solutions than ever before, he said.  In April, it had convened the first of what had now been six meetings of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate.  In Trinidad, it had introduced an Energy and Climate Partnership for the Americas.  The United States was also working through the World Bank to promote renewable energy projects and technologies in the developing world and was putting climate at the top of its diplomatic agenda.  Taken together, those steps represented an historical recognition by the American people and their Government of the gravity of the climate threat.  “We are determined to act.  We will meet our responsibility to future generations.”

But, while many countries had already taken bold steps, today’s meeting was not a celebration of progress, he cautioned.  Countries had gathered today because so much more work remained to be done.  That work would not be easy, and as the world moved towards Copenhagen, there should be no illusion that the hardest part of the journey lay ahead.  There, nations would seek sweeping but necessary global change in the midst of a global recession and each one would, therefore, face doubts and difficulties in their capitals.  But, difficulty was no excuse for complacency, nor unease for inaction.  Each country must do what it could to grow its economy without endangering the planet and seize the opportunity to make Copenhagen a significant step in the global fight towards climate change.

“We cannot allow the old divisions that have characterized the climate debate for so many years to block our progress,” he said, stressing that the developed countries that had caused so much of the climate damage in the past had a responsibility to lead.  They would do so by slashing their emissions by 2020 and meeting the long-term 2050 goal.  But, those rapidly developing countries that would produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in coming decades must do their part, as well.  Some had already made strides in developing and deploying clean energy.  Still, they needed to commit to strong measures at home and stand behind those commitments, just as the developed countries must stand behind their own.  The climate challenge could not be met unless all of the world’s largest emitters acted together.

He said efforts to put other developing nations on the sustainable development path should also be energized.  Those nations might not have the same resources to combat climate change as the United States or China, but they had the most immediate stake in a solution.  Indeed, their future was no longer a choice between a growing economy and a cleaner planet.  Rather, their survival depended on both.  It would do little good to alleviate poverty, if crops could not be harvested or water found.

Concluding, he stressed that the planet’s future depended on a global commitment to permanently reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The journey towards that goal would be hard.  But, if the right rules and incentives were put in place, the creative power of the world’s best scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs would be unleashed.  “So, let us begin,” he urged, citing the world’s common purpose:  a world that was safer, cleaner and healthier and a future that was worthy of its children.

MOHAMED NASHEED, President of the Republic of the Maldives, said that, as a small island nation, the Maldives desperately wanted to believe that one day its repeated warnings over the past 20 years concerning the threat of climate change would have an effect.  The country would continue to shout about the dangers of climate change, even though, deep down, it knew that the international community was not really listening.  Today, the Maldives would play its allotted role as the world’s conscience on global warming, but it would allay that role with an equally determined effort to explain why it was in the interest of all nations to move forward.

The solution to the current political deadlock on climate change was very simple, he continued.  Developed nations had to acknowledge their historic responsibility for global warming and accept binding emission reduction targets.  The developing world had to be ready to accept binding emission reduction targets under the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, as long as the rich nations provided the tools, the technology and finance, to reform the developing world’s economic base and pursue carbon-neutral development, he said.

“If it is so simple, then why are we not doing it?” he asked.  The absence of action was caused by three principal reasons.  First, Governments still believed that climate change had to incur an economic cost, or a relative disadvantage.  Yet, the reverse was true, as oil ran out and became more expensive and clean technologies and renewable energy became more efficient.  The second reason was the lack of trust between the countries, especially between developed and developing countries.  But, the threat posed by climate change was so acute and the science so clear that horse-trading and brinkmanship had to be left in the past.  The third reason for the absence of action was that the Kyoto Protocol was primarily about what countries cannot do, rather than what they could do.  A positive agenda focusing on the actions nations could take might provide a better alternative, he said.  That was why the Maldives recently announced its intention to become carbon neutral by 2020, and was creating a national strategy to put the political commitment into practice.

The Maldives was determined to break old habits and would no longer be content to shout about the perils of climate change.  Instead, its acute vulnerability provided a clarity of vision to understand how the problem could be solved and the courage to lead by example.  He asked the assembled world leaders to discard the habits that had led to 20 years of complacency and broken promises on climate change, and seize the historic opportunity waiting in Copenhagen.

HU JINTAO, President of China, said fulfilling respective responsibilities should be at the core of global climate change efforts.  The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities embodied the consensus of the global community and adherence to that principle was critical to keeping international cooperation “on the right track”.  Further, achieving mutual benefit and a win-win outcome should be the goal of global efforts.  Developed nations’ support for developing countries was not just their responsibility ‑‑ it served their long-term interests.

He said promoting common development was also essential, adding that “we should and can only advance efforts to address climate change in the course of development”.  It was imperative to give full consideration to the development stage.  The international community should pay close attention to developing countries’ situation, especially that of small island States, least developed countries, landlocked and African nations.  While ensuring financing and technology held the key to success, he said developed countries should shoulder their responsibility, and provide new, additional and predictable financial support to developing nations that would allow them access to climate-friendly technologies.

Describing national efforts, he said China had adopted, and was implementing, the National Climate Change Programme, which included mandatory national targets for reducing energy intensity and discharge of major pollutants, and increasing renewable energy use for the 2005-2010 period.  In coming years, China would further integrate climate change actions into economic and social development plans, notably by intensifying efforts to conserve energy and improve energy efficiency.   China would work to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product, by “a notable margin” by 2020, from 2005 levels.

He said China would also work to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 15 per cent by 2020.  The Government would “energetically” work to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic metres by 2020, from 2005 levels.  Finally, China would boost efforts to develop a low-carbon economy, and enhance research, development and dissemination of climate-friendly technologies.  In closing, he said China was ready to help build a brighter future for generations to come.

YOKIO HATOYAMA, Prime Minister of Japan, said that with climate change affecting the entire globe, long-term and international efforts were required.  It was imperative for all countries to address the issue under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”.  With the change of Japan’s Government, he would, as Prime Minister, seek to unite those efforts.  It was his view that, based on the discussion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, developed countries should take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Japan should positively commit itself to setting a long-term reduction target.  For its midterm goal, it would aim to reduce emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, as compared to its 1990 level and consistent with what the science called for to halt global warming.

“I am resolved to exercise the political will to deliver on this promise by mobilizing all available policy tools,” he said.  Those would include the introduction of a domestic emission trading mechanism and feed-in tariff for renewable energy.  A global-warming tax would also be considered.

He stressed, however, that Japan’s efforts alone would not halt climate change, even if it set an ambitious reduction target.  It was imperative to establish a fair and effective international framework in which all major economies participated, and Japan’s commitment was premised on an agreement on ambitious targets by all of them.  In establishing its domestic emission trading market, Japan would promote technology information exchanges and hold discussions on the matter, bearing in mind issues of international competitiveness and possible linkages among countries.

For their part, developing countries must aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the same “common but differentiated responsibilities” principle.  This was particularly true of developing countries with large emissions.  Financing, particularly to support adaptation efforts by vulnerable developing countries and small island countries, should be strategically expanded.   Japan was prepared to provide more financial and technical assistance than in the past, in accordance with international negotiations.  But, while critically important, public financial assistance and technology transfer were not enough by themselves to meet the financial needs of developing countries.  Thus, Japan would work with world leaders to create a mechanism that both ensured the effective use of public funds and facilitated the flow of private investments.

In doing so, he said Japan’s assistance to developing countries was based on four principles.  First, developed countries must contribute through substantial, new and additional public and private financing.  Second, rules that facilitated international recognition for developing countries’ emissions reductions must be developed.  Third, in assistance to developing countries, consideration must be given to innovative mechanisms that could be implemented in a predictable manner.  Fourth, a framework should be established to promote the transfer of low-carbon technologies that ensured the protection of intellectual property rights.

Based on this, he proposed a “Hatoyama Initiative”.  While the Kyoto Protocol was a historic milestone in obligating nations to reduce greenhouse gases, its efforts to effect such a reduction would go unrealized unless a new framework was created.  Thus, the “Hatoyama Initiative” was being formulated to ensure success in Copenhagen and to establish a fair and effective new single undertaking.

He went on to say that active measures to address climate change, such as the Green New Deal initiated by United States President Obama, would open new frontiers and create new employment opportunities in fields like clean energy technologies.  With its relatively strong potential for technological development and its considerable financial capacity, Japan was expected to take the lead in the international community in setting its own reduction target.  He had full confidence in the Japanese people and their companies.  Because political leaders also had a responsibility to future generations to create a sustainable society, he urged the international community to work together towards significant achievements in Copenhagen, so the people of the world would be able to say their leaders made crucial decisions for the sake of future generations.

PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, said that, while Africa would likely suffer more severe impacts from climate change than other regions, it had fewer resources to handle the challenge.  Today’s event should not be considered a new round of “the blame game”, as pointing fingers would be in poor taste and counter-productive.  A shared responsibility for mitigation and adaptation strategies was urgently needed, as all nations were facing the climate challenge together.

Discussing the current cap-and-trade process, he said it had not fully integrated the developing world.  Rather, it offered a disincentive for developing nations to adopt a low-carbon emissions path, notably by creating a “leakage” problem.

“We should aim for something entirely different,” he said, describing a scenario that would give developing nations a financial incentive to trade with developed countries that exceeded their carbon quota.  Such a situation would create a financial flow from developed countries for adaptation and mitigation efforts.  Trading that engaged developing countries would meet the challenge proposed by the United Kingdom Prime Minister to generate $100 billion for adaptation and mitigation in the developing world.  That should be the aim of the Copenhagen process.  It would lead to the lowering of emissions, since all countries would have incentives to reduce them.  Far from being a form of aid, it would be a plan for global trade.

In that context, he said Africa had stood on the periphery of the debate, with climate change considered a problem destined to be solved by Western nations.  “This should no longer apply,” he said, whether in terms of participation in discussions or in the adoption of green technologies.  Africa should be as alarmed by the shrinking of the Arctic ice cap to unprecedented levels, as by current droughts ravaging the African continent.

Humankind had inherited a planet with enormous beauty, he said, but the world had adopted viewpoints that were inconsistent with that fact, including the idea that gross domestic product (GDP) growth by itself maximized human well-being.  Nations that operated by self-interest alone failed to understand that environmental resources had limits.  “We have made poor decisions in the past,” he said, but decision makers had the immeasurable ability to rectify them.   Rwanda stood ready to effectively contribute to climate change efforts going forward.  That was Rwanda’s goal at today’s Summit and at the upcoming meeting in Copenhagen.

FREDRIK REINFELDT, Prime Minister of Sweden, said climate change was affecting the conditions of life for everybody in one way or another and each day of inaction meant the consequences would be more severe.  In May, the international Commission on Climate Change and Development, created by the Government of Sweden two years ago on the eve of the High-Level Event on Climate Change in New York, presented its recommendations here at the United Nations.  The Commission proposed a High-Level Task Force to help create a new vision for development, with regard to public policy and global governance.

It was also a fact that developing countries needed to take action, as their social and economic systems were often more vulnerable, and the developed nations needed to help them.  The European Union took an important step last week when it identified the need for a fast start of international public financing, to be used for capacity-building and technical assistance.  The Union estimated that about €5 billion to €7 billion of assistance would be needed in the coming two years, an amount that would need to be adjusted over time.

At the meeting of leaders of the G-8 in Italy this summer, there was agreement on the 2 degree target set by the United Nations.  While that was an important step, all countries needed to realize what was needed to maintain that limit:  global greenhouse gas emissions had to peak no later than 2020 and be reduced by at least 50 per cent by 2050.  Emissions needed to continue to decline thereafter.  Developed countries needed to reduce their emissions by 25 per cent to 40 per cent by 2020, compared to 1990, and in developing countries by 15 per cent to 20 per cent, compared to business as usual, he said.

The Union had pledged to make a 30 per cent reduction by 2020 as part of a global agreement, more than any other nation had offered so for.  The international climate negotiations were at a critical juncture and an ambitious climate policy had significant costs that would result in sacrifices.  Yet, the cost of inaction would be far worse.  For some it would be catastrophic.

There were only 76 days remaining to the Copenhagen meeting, yet the negotiations were moving far too slowly, lacking real progress, and “close to a deadlock”.  The job of global leaders was to break the deadlock and provide clear political guidance to the negotiation process.  There was no other option than a successful outcome in Copenhagen and action was long overdue, he said.

OSCAR ARIAS SANCHEZ, President of Costa Rica, said he was speaking on behalf of over 100 middle-income countries, which were on the brink of the planet’s precipice and deserved an audible voice at the Summit.  The world’s peoples were asking their leaders to exhibit courage and to choose life above any disagreement.  Assigning guilt was not today’s task.  Indeed, everyone had inherited the errors of their predecessors and, if the world community was going to build its possible destiny together, it was necessary to abandon the process of evading responsibility by making accusations and excuses.  He hoped, at the same time, that those who had benefited most from past unsustainable development would change course and offer a helping hand in solidarity.

He said the dilemma the world faced was “brutally simple”.  Developed countries could do a great deal to reduce carbon emissions, but it would not be enough.  Poor countries could do something, but it would not be significant.  Middle-income countries could do plenty, but without clean and inexpensive energy, their economic growth would stagnate.  That situation had produced a stalemate that must be broken -- and quickly.  The world had, at most, eight years. The price of renewable energy should be made affordable for developing countries. Forests must be preserved and owners of private forests compensated, particularly by scaling up mechanisms such as the United Nations Programme for Reducing Carbon Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Forests in Developing Countries (REDD).  Multiple means for transferring technology should be created.  Robust public-private alliances were also needed.

Turning to financing questions, he said greater investments in adaptation technologies were needed, particularly among developing countries that, due to their geographic circumstances, low incomes, dependence on agriculture and weaker infrastructure, were already suffering from increasingly extreme droughts, hurricanes and floods.  International cooperation would be crucial and must also be scaled up.  An international platform against global warming, which allowed for aid, technology and information to be transferred quickly from country to country, should be forged.

Calling it “good news” that the cost of fixing the planet was less than annihilating it, he stressed that solving the problem of global warming would cost only a small fraction of the amount currently spent on the “business of death”.  By using a small fraction of the $13 trillion of military spending estimated over the next 10 years, the entire cost of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions in the world could be covered.  While the most cynical of generals might say the “demented arms race” built a reserve for future emergencies, it was clear that, today, just such an emergency had arrived.  Indeed, the world had, in its military spending, a savings account that must be used to save the world from a real enemy.  That could be done while also preserving the security of the world’s armies; and it should be done since there would be little use for nuclear submarines, armoured helicopters or missiles if the oceans became burning cesspools, the sky a black cloud or the earth a barren desert.

“Today we are called on to change completely,” he concluded, stressing that the world’s ways of life and development had to be rethought.  Little time remained before Copenhagen and no leader should seek refuge in detail to avoid commitment.  What remained to be seen was if the world community had the courage to choose life and, breaking away from the confines of the impending future, start anew.

NICOLAS SARKOZY, President of France, said there were only 87 days left to succeed or fail, and the world knew that it had to limit global warming.  There could be no further debate on that.  For the first time, the world had to decide, not for a country, a region or a continent, but for the entire planet.  The choices were for a catastrophe, or a solution.

The world needed to look at its position, he continued.  The world was on a path of failure if it continued to act as it had so far.  He urged global leaders not to engage in small diplomatic games.  There was no need to inflict a grandiose speech 87 days before Copenhagen.  Proposals for action were necessary.  Four cornerstones would enable success in Copenhagen:  the reduction of global emissions by at least 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050; reducing developed countries emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050; reducing emerging countries’ emissions growth compared to business as usual, with technological and financial assistance for developed countries; and active solidarity with the most vulnerable countries, particularly Africa and the small island States.

The world today lacked resolve and confidence, he said.  So many leaders feared that they had to choose between growth and protection of the environment.  That was natural when countries were faced with poverty and unemployment.   Europe was demonstrating, however, that countries could move from growth marked by high carbon footprints, to growth with reduced emissions.  No country would have to choose between unemployment and a clean environment, he said.

While recognizing the efforts of the Governments of Japan and China to reduce carbon emissions, he said more work needed to be done by all nations.  There was a need to create an effective mechanism to provide financing for countries that required financing and the transfer of technologies.   France and Europe were ready for that.  In France, polluting enterprises were taxed.  No country could stay on the sidelines.   France would help developing countries with financing and carbon technology transfers.  There could not be a situation where part of the world worked to protect the planet and others said, “We simply don’t care”, he said.  Everyone had to work together.

He would like to see a special initiative regarding Africa, as only 17 per cent of Africans had access to energy and an immense potential remained untapped.  President Sarkozy proposed that a single world environment organization be created, one that could manage the outcomes and decisions taken in Copenhagen. There were now more than 60 organizations.  He urged that that be decided in Copenhagen.  He also proposed that the Heads of States that make up the major economies, responsible for 80 per cent of current greenhouse gas emissions, meet in mid-November.  They would meet to transcend the games and table concrete proposals.

France’s conviction was that time was not an ally here, but would stand as a judge.  The world was already living on borrowed time.   France and Europe were resolved to do justice.

On behalf of civil society, Nobel Peace Laureate Professor W. MAATHAI discussed a number of the effects of climate change -- floods in Bangladesh, crop failure in her own country of Kenya -- and said, “Don’t tell us you didn’t know!”  She added that world leaders were being called on “to provide leadership, to act together, to act now and to act differently”, with regard to the effects of climate change.  Insisting that the world leaders had the power to turn things around, she appealed to them to use that power in Copenhagen.  Addressing climate change was not easy; it would take massive political will and would cost money.  For that reason, an accountable institutional mechanism and equitable governance structures were needed to channel resources efficiently, and ensure responsibility, transparency and accountability.

As a Goodwill Ambassador of the Congo forest, and especially the major tropical forests, which were referred to as the lungs of the planet, she knew that reducing deforestation and forest degradation was a viable piece of the puzzle, she added. Even at a personal level, people could all reduce, re-use and recycle. That concept was embraced as mottainai in Japan, also calling for gratitude, respect and efforts to avoid wastage.

Ten weeks before Copenhagen, “We, the Peoples of the World, the people you lead, are here to encourage you, to support you and to urge you to secure, in Copenhagen, a fair, ambitious, binding, life saving, inspiring deal,” she said.  “Your Excellencies, we are all, here, first and foremost, inhabitants on this planet.  Before being leaders, you are someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, and I am very confident, that all of you will personally go to Copenhagen, and for all the 6 billion people on Earth, seal a good deal.”

Speaking on behalf of the world’s 3 billion children and young people, 13-year-old YUGRATNA SRIVASTAVA of Tarumitra (Friends of Trees, in translation) said she did not want future generations to question her generation, as she now was questioning, why there was not more concrete action on climate change today.

She called on world leaders to heed the statement of the TUNZA International Children and Youth Conference, held in the Republic of Korea a month ago, to agree on a more fair, just and action-oriented post-Kyoto agreement and to translate policies into action.  Among the statement’s recommendations were the inclusion of carbon and ecological footprint information in products; adaptation to a green economy and sustainable production; and the development of a multinational climate facility to monitor climate response strategies.

Noting the importance of changing people’s attitudes, she encouraged countries to make environmental education mandatory at all levels of learning and to further development through the creation of affordable eco-friendly technologies that would be made commonly available.  She also asked that the concerns of young people be heeded when making decisions.  In closing, she said she was sure the Copenhagen negotiations would end with decisions for the good of humanity ‑‑ they had to.  “We have the present and the future in our hands.  Let’s act in the present to secure our future.”  A bird could fly, a fish could swim, a leopard could run far faster, “but we humans have been supernaturally gifted with mind… so let us… all use these abilities to save our birthplace.”

Concluding the opening session, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that speakers this morning had underscored that climate change was an issue that transcended national borders.  They had conveyed the immense gravity of climate change and urgent need to take action.  At the same time, they had imbued a sense of hope for effectively tackling the challenge.

“The eyes of the world are on you today,” he said, adding that there was a chance to forge a path to a more sustainable, prosperous future.  In the coming round-table discussions, he urged participants to rise to the challenge and take measures that engendered trust.  Specifically, he urged them to initiate bold, creative thinking on the five issues detailed in the Summit’s background paper, and expressed hope that they would be better equipped at the end of the day to inform global negotiations.

He said the round-table discussions would broadly focus on how to fundamentally transform countries into sustainable, low-emissions economies.  Wishing delegates productive sessions, he said he looked forward to receiving their conclusions at the end of the day, which would form the basis of the Chair’s summary.

The Secretary-General then adjourned the Summit’s opening session.

Closing Plenary Session

TILMAN THOMAS, Prime Minister of Grenada, said that from the perspective of countries whose very survival was at stake, the choices on addressing the global climate change problem were indeed very clear.  The best available science clearly indicated that urgent, decisive and ambitious global action was needed and that all countries must cooperate and collaborate.  Despite statements to the contrary, the desired and most ethical course of action, which included agreements on an ambitious long-term target, would not unduly burden the global economy.  The cost of inaction, or of an inadequate level of ambition, far exceeded that of the course of action which guaranteed the survival of major ecosystems, economies and people.  The science on the subject was also compelling. 

For example, he said temperature increases of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would cause the total destruction of the world’s coral reefs, major ecosystems and thus the source of life, dependent goods and services.  It would dramatically cut ecosystems’ ability to adapt.  It was argued that, in many cases, the world was already at the tipping point with the distinct possibility of irreversible catastrophic effects.

Further, temperature increases of 2 degrees Celsius would cause many of the economies of small island developing States (SIDS) and island ecosystems to disappear.  “Climate refugee status is not an option,” he said, stressing that the choice was a clear, ethical one.  It was imperative that all countries, in accordance with common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, to adopt a low-carbon development pathway that ensured the survival of small island developing States, their culture and their people.

He repeated the call of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) for long-term stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at well below 350 parts per million, which would limit global average surface temperature increases to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  In addition, he repeated AOSIS’ call that global greenhouse gas emissions should peak by 2015, decline significantly thereafter and be reduced by more than 85 per cent by 2050; that “Annex I” emissions be reduced by at least 45 per cent by 2020 and at least 95 per cent of 1990 carbon dioxide levels by 2050; and that non-annex States’ emissions demonstrate significant deviations from baseline over comparable periods of time.

Further, he called for new, additional, stable and predictable financing for adaptation, technology transfer and capacity-building at the level sufficient to cope with the scale of the problem with direct and simplified access.  Those calls, he said, were reiterated at the just-concluded AOSIS summit and formed the basis of the AOSIS declaration adopted on Monday.

AHMAD BABIKER NAHER, Minister of Environment and Urban Development of the Sudan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the global nature of climate change called for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities, respective capabilities and national circumstances.  In that regard, he reiterated that the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol remained the central multilateral framework for cooperative action to address climate change.

Developing countries that were the least responsible for climate change suffered the most from its adverse impacts, but were the least equipped to cope with it, he continued.  Therefore, those countries were the most concerned about Copenhagen’s success, which should be measured mainly by the extent to which all parties to the nearly-universally agreed, science-based, legally binding Convention, would fulfil their commitments in accordance with the principles and obligations they had all agreed upon.

Further, he said success would also be measured by the willingness of all developed countries to undertake ambitious targets, in the second and subsequent commitment periods, given their historical responsibilities.  And finally, success would be measured by the level of assistance given by the international community to developing countries to address the consequences of climate change, particularly through new, additional and predictable financial resources, capacity-building, and access to, development of and transfer of technology.

The Group of 77 reaffirmed that responses to climate change should be coordinated with social and economic development in an integrated manner, with a view to avoiding an adverse impact on the latter, taking into account the legitimate priority needs of developing countries, in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, he said.

He said the Group urged Annex I countries to undertake serious steps to show their willingness in addressing the root causes of climate change.  They must particularly change their unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, and meet the cost of adaptation of developing countries, particularly the urgent and medium-term needs to adapt to the unavoidable level of climate change described in the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC.

His delegation was seriously concerned by the slow progress in deciding the second and subsequent commitment periods under the Kyoto Protocol and the delay shown by Annex I countries in pledging their individual and aggregated greenhouse gas reduction targets.  The Group of 77 was concerned that the current targets proposed by Annex I countries were far below the level of ambition required to adequately address climate change and its devastating impacts on developing countries.

“What we have seen so far from developed countries does not bode well for Copenhagen, a situation that must be rectified if a successful conclusion is ever to be reached,” he said.  Developed countries should, therefore, step up to their responsibilities, adopt more ambitious commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide the necessary financial and technological support for developing countries.

He sincerely hoped that today’s events would help to generate the sort of political will from Annex I countries that was required for an agreement to be reached in Copenhagen, he said.  Developing countries were committed to the Convention and the Bali Action Plan and would further undertake nationally appropriate mitigation actions in the context of sustainable development, supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building from developed countries, in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner, as stipulated in the Bali Action Plan.  The Group strongly urged the Annex I parties to the UNFCCC to fulfil their clearly stated commitments and obligations.

LARS LØKKE RASMUSSEN, Prime Minister of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the host country of the December Copenhagen summit, formally known as the Fifteenth Session of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that at that session, leaders had a choice to make:  They could either seize the moment or lose it.  They had a responsibility to future generations to seal a deal and deliver a viable solution to one of the world’s greatest challenges. 

Leaders must provide a fundamental response to climate change, initiate a strong global cooperation to transform the world economy, and promote low-carbon economic growth and sustainable development, he said.  Success depended on the ability to reach an agreement consistent with science that limited global temperature rise to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius.

Any agreement reached in Copenhagen must also be based on equity and it must support, not delay, the fight against poverty, he said.  It should be practical, promote the vision of sustainable development and send a clear signal to industry to engage in the transition to a low-carbon economy.  Many countries had developed far-reaching national emissions reduction policies and low-carbon development plans.  Others were following suit.  That was encouraging, but the figures still did not add up.  More must be done.

To that end, he said that, jointly, nations could achieve more than the sum of their individual contributions.  That was why a global agreement was needed.  It should be ambitious, binding, correspond to the 2 degrees Celsius scenario and constitute the overall political framework for future global efforts against climate change based on five key elements.

Listing those elements, he said industrialized countries must commit to substantial reduction targets, with the goal of 80 per cent reduction by 2050 and near-term and long-term binding reduction targets.  Developing countries should commit to domestic action based on domestic need, and they should be asked to provide projections for future emissions patterns.  Developed countries should commit to finance overseas mitigation and adaptation efforts, as well as expedite international research on green technology and disseminate it worldwide.

In addition, a measurement reporting and verification system based on transparency and mutual trust should be part of the agreement to ensure the process’ credibility.  It could involve collecting and registering information to document countries’ individual efforts.  That would be an important confidence builder and it would create an important direct link between funding and action.  Concluding a political agreement of that magnitude required full engagement at the highest political level.  Success would depend critically on the continued engagement of Heads of State and Government. 

Presenting his summary of the day’s proceedings, Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said that the Summit had signalled the determination of world leaders to address climate change and reach a substantive deal in Copenhagen.  All the participants had supported the urgent need to step up action and raise the financial resources to make that happen.

He said the message from the Summit was clear:  the Copenhagen deal must be comprehensive and ensure enhanced action to assist the most vulnerable and the poorest to adapt to the impacts of climate change; ambitious emissions reduction targets for industrialized countries; nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries with the necessary support; significantly scaled-up financial and technological resources; and a equitable governance structure.

Many leaders had underlined that a climate change response should be placed in the broader context of sustainable development, he continued.  They had stressed the need to shift their economies onto low-emission paths and build climate-resilient societies.  Further, he had heard a clear recognition that action on climate change could be consistent with developing country priorities for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

He had also heard broad support for setting a long-term goal to keep the global temperature increase to a safe level.  Many had referred to the need for a 2 degree limit, while, for the most vulnerable, a safe level meant staying below 1.5 degrees centigrade.  The leaders had acknowledged the scientific imperative to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050 to meet that goal.  He added that at the Leadership Forum Lunch today, global business leaders had committed to make the radical transformations needed to address climate change given regulatory certainty was provided by an international agreement.

Continuing, he said the leaders had emphasized that climate change threatened their economic viability, social development and even territorial integrity.  The poorest and most vulnerable suffered most.  The participants had acknowledged that current adaptation efforts were inadequate and adaptation should be given higher priority.  It was necessary to create synergies with development priorities including food and water, security and disaster risk reduction.  Many had called for a significant increase in international funding for adaptation efforts, especially in least developed countries and small island developing States.

“All of you expressed a willingness to contribute your fair share to reducing global emissions subject to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities,” he said.  Developed country leaders had acknowledged that they must lead.  Many had referred to the need to reduce developed country emissions by 25 to 40 per cent from the 1990 levels by 2020.  The 2020 targets currently proposed by developed countries were inadequate.  Many had indicated that they could do more in the context of an international agreement, and he urged leaders of other developed countries to also raise their targets.

He went on to say that many developing countries already had ambitious national plans to implement energy efficiency, renewable energy and other policies in their own initiative.  Leaders of developing countries had expressed a willingness to undertake additional mitigation actions with requisite international technology and financial support.  A Copenhagen deal must find an efficient and effective way to implement such arrangements.  There was clear agreement that protection of forests must be part of that deal.  Leaders had also noted that emissions by international aviation and shipping were growing rapidly and must be addressed in Copenhagen.

Leaders had recognized that finance was key to a Copenhagen deal, he said.  A substantial amount of finance would be needed to support adaptation and mitigation action in developing countries.  Those funds needed to be new, predictable and additional to existing finance.  Many leaders had called for a mechanism to ensure sustained streams of public funding at the required level.  At the same time, leaders had acknowledged that private sources of finance also needed to be tapped, including through the carbon markets.

Technology, as well as capacity-building, was essential to address climate change.  Only through significant advances in technology could the transformation to a climate-resilient, low-emissions future become a reality.  He had heard leaders call for a mechanism to ensure suitable technologies, both for mitigation and adaptation, were available to developing countries.  Developed country leaders had stated they were ready to fast-track substantial funds in Copenhagen to developing countries for immediate adaptation action and for mitigation and adaptation planning.

Effective institutional arrangements must be part of the Copenhagen deal, he continued.  To that end, leaders during today’s events had stressed that such arrangements must be transparent, inclusive, efficient and effective.  They had also recognized the need for an equitable governance structure with balanced representation and respect for developing countries’ priorities.  Leaders had recognized that international finance on the scale and pace required demanded current institutional arrangement to be reformed to ensure transparency, efficient and effective disbursement.  They wanted robust measurement, reporting and verification of the finance provided and the results achieved.

Based on the participants’ recommendations, the Secretary-General intended to set up a high-level panel after the Copenhagen Conference to advise on how to better integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation into development.  The United Nations system assisted developing countries with implementation of the Copenhagen deal.  He was heartened to hear that a growing number of leaders were prepared to move beyond purely national perspectives to global leadership.

“Your words have been heard around the world,” he said in conclusion. “Let your actions now be seen.  There is little time left.  The opportunity and responsibility to avoid catastrophic climate change is in your hands.”

Handing the Chair’s summary of the Summit to four young people -- “the representatives of the next generation” -- Secretary-General Ban said the document represented the international community’s collective efforts to create a safer, cleaner, more liveable world “for you and your peers”.

“We have an obligation to young people everywhere to set aside our differences, and act with courage and vision in meeting the climate challenge,” he said.  “We must unite in common cause and leave a legacy of hope and healing for you and for this planet, our only home.  This is my most fervent wish for you and for all future generations.  We must start right here, today.”

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