Secretary-General Underscores China’s Potential to Influence Climate Change Negotiations, during Launch of ‘Green Lights’ Programme

24 July 2009

Secretary-General Underscores China’s Potential to Influence Climate Change Negotiations, during Launch of ‘Green Lights’ Programme

24 July 2009
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General underscores china’s potential to influence climate change

negotiations during launch of ‘green lights’ programme


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks on climate change at the “Green Lights” programme launch in Beijing, today, 24 July:

This is my third visit as the Secretary-General of the United Nations during the past two-and-a-half years.  I am pleased to be back in your country again.  I would like to thank the Government of China, and all of you, for your warm welcome and excellent arrangements.

It is a particular pleasure to join you in celebrating this ambitious project to promote energy-saving lighting, which could cut China’s energy consumption by 8 per cent.  I commend the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Finance and my United Nations colleagues for bringing this programme to maturity.

First, it highlights one of the many ways in which ordinary people and businesses can reduce energy use and cut greenhouse gases.  Second, it underscores the essential role that Governments can –- and must –- play in promoting the green economy.  Third, it highlights the importance of China and its necessary leadership role in the global fight against climate change.

China has long been the world’s fastest-growing major economy.  It is also a leading emitter of greenhouse gases, and one of the countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.  Thus China’s progress on achieving sustainable economic and energy policies simultaneously is crucial not just for the citizens of China, but also for the citizens of the whole world.

Your approach to climate change can demonstrate to the world that China is ready to take up a global leadership role in the twenty-first century.  By investing in green economy and green growth, your country has an opportunity to leapfrog over decades of traditional development based on high polluting fuels.

The key is prioritizing clean energy, which China has already begun to do, creating new jobs, spurring innovation, and ushering in a new era of global prosperity.  In so doing, China can serve as the vanguard of tomorrow’s economy, and today.  China can be a model not only for developing nations, but for the whole world.

Those who embark on this path will reap rewards.  They will be winners in the global marketplace.  They will be winners at home as the whole of society benefits.

Today China is a global power.  And with global power comes global responsibilities.  Without China, there can be no success this year on a new global climate framework.  But with China, there is an enormous potential for the world to seal the deal in Copenhagen.  A global deal for global gain.  A fair, effective, science-based, ambitious and equitable deal can benefit all countries.

On 22 September, I will convene a Summit of world leaders to look at the challenges –- and the opportunities –- we face in the run-up to Copenhagen.  The science is clear.  Many of the solutions already exist, as we recognize here today.  We also know the cost of inaction will dwarf any price tag for actions taken today.

What is needed is more national and international leadership from Heads of State and Government.  We will also need trust.  Trust between developing and developed nations is essential if countries are to reach an agreed outcome in Copenhagen.  To move forward, we must be guided by the Bali Consensus, the principle of equity, and the demands of science.

Science tells us that emissions -- as well as impacts -- are global.  They enter our atmosphere and form part of our common carbon space.  We must find ways of sharing this space equitably, taking into account past, present and future responsibilities.

Climate change is accelerating much faster than one expects.  That means all countries need to do more, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Earlier this month, in Italy, the G-8 leaders agreed to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.  I applauded this.  But I also said that was not enough.  To be credible, we need to match ambitious long-term goals with equally ambitious mid-term targets, with clear baselines.  I will repeat this call in September.  I will also emphasize that major developing economies have a critical role to play in the negotiations:  Brazil, India, Mexico, South Africa and, most importantly, China.

Major emerging economies, including China, have taken great strides.  I am impressed by China’s efforts.  In the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency, for example, remarkable progress is already being made in China.  I urge you to build on this progress, including through energy and carbon intensity targets.

Strong signals from China on mitigation actions, announced before Copenhagen, will help push the negotiating process forward.  They can also direct responsibility to other key countries to do more.  I applaud the efforts you have made to date.  You have devoted a sizable portion of your national stimulus spending to renewable energy and green economic growth.  You have become a world leader in wind and solar technology.

Your dynamic renewable energy sector is worth nearly $17 billion and employs close to one million workers.  This is already impressive, but the future holds an even greater opportunity.  China has extraordinary potential for wind and solar energy.  Thanks to wind and solar energy, China could further reduce its dependence on coal, which accounts for 85 per cent of its carbon emissions.  Imagine the benefits to China.  And imagine the benefits to the world if other countries followed China’s example.

This is no pipe dream.  It is today’s reality.  Just last week, China and the United States announced plans for a joint clean energy research centre to focus on clean coal and green buildings and vehicles.  We need to see more such initiatives.  Cooperation in sharing green technologies must be an important part of a Copenhagen deal.

We need to see partnerships that demonstrate a low-emissions future is possible –- now.  We need a new model that enables developing countries to leapfrog the energy technologies of yesteryear.  China has an opportunity to blaze a new trail for the world.  It has the vision and leadership to create a new clean-energy path to prosperity.  It can lead the rest of the world into an ambitious climate deal.  If you realize this achievement, you will secure China’s place at the forefront of the twenty-first century.

The glaciers of the Himalayas are melting.  If this continues, livelihoods of a billion people will change across Asia.  Three hundred million of them will be in China.  Water shortages are already real and serious, in northern China and Mongolia, where I travel next.  If this continues, the Gobi Desert will become more vast … the Yellow River will continue to shrink … crop yields will drop by a third in the second half of the twenty-first century, according to scientists.

I could cite more statistics from many countries.  Climate change is a challenge to all humanity.  It threatens our Millennium Development Goals.  It is a health crisis, an energy crisis, a food crisis and a security crisis.

However, it also represents an opportunity –- to all of us to do development differently.  To foster sustainable, low-emission, green development.  This is why it must be the priority of every Government.  And why we at the United Nations have made it a top priority since my very first day as Secretary-General.  If we have learned anything from the crises of the past year, it is that our fates are interrelated.  Climate change is just one of a new generation of challenges that we must meet, together.

Your far-sighted Premier Wen Jiabao spoke at the World Economic Forum earlier this year.  He said:  “Issues such as climate change, environmental degradation, diseases, natural disasters, energy, resources and food security, as well as the spread of terrorism bear on the very survival of mankind.  No country can be insulated from these challenges or meet them on its own.  The international community should intensify cooperation and respond together.” 

I take great heart from these words.

We stand at a historical crossroads.  What is at stake is nothing less than the future of our planet and civilization as we know it.  Inaction is inexcusable.  I am urging all leaders of the world to do what they can and must to seal a deal in Copenhagen this December.  What I am asking all countries, including China, is in their national interest, and it is also the global public interest.  For at the end of the day, as Premier Wen aptly put it, they are one and the same.

Thank you very much for your commitment.

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