Secretary-General Tells ‘Global Green Growth’ Event Sustainable Development Is ‘Imperative of This Century’, with Dignity for All

11 October 2011

Secretary-General Tells ‘Global Green Growth’ Event Sustainable Development Is ‘Imperative of This Century’, with Dignity for All

11 October 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Tells ‘Global Green Growth’ Event Sustainable Development


Is ‘Imperative of This Century’, with Dignity for All


This is the text of remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen, Denmark, today, 11 October:

Sustainable development is the imperative of the twenty-first century.  Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the dark.”  She was absolutely right.  But now we need to think of new ways to bring light into darkness.  We need a different path.  A sustainable path.

This is my message to leaders around the world.  And that is why we are here today.  This 3G Forum comes at a crucial time.  We are racing to reach the Millennium Development Goals.  We are preparing for next year’s Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  And we are coping every day with global threats to lives and livelihoods.

The three Gs of Global Green Growth must respond to social, economic and environmental challenges equally.  Because we live in an era of three Fs:  crises on Food, Fuel and Finance.  So we need to enhance the three Es:  the Economy, the Environment and global Equity.

This month, the seven billionth citizen of our planet will be born.  We have to do more than sing, “Happy Birthday”.  We have to give this child — and its whole generation — a sustainable future.  We have to embrace sustainable agriculture so she has enough food to eat.  We have to expand clean energy so that he can reap the benefits of modern productivity without suffering the drawbacks of climate change.  And we have to ensure greater opportunities and decent jobs so that people can enjoy lives of dignity and fulfilment.

The old economic models are not working for the countries and companies that embraced them.  New models show tremendous promise.  I have seen examples around the world.  Prime Minister Meles [Zenawi], I saw Ethiopia is driving a low-carbon pathway by expanding hydropower and clean cooking solutions.  Prime Minister [Raila] Odinga, I have seen in Kenya how geothermal, wind and solar power are driving progress.

I launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative because energy access, efficiency and clean energy are essential to building a healthier and more prosperous world.  On the one hand, 20 per cent of all people on earth lack basic electricity services.  Nearly 3 billion people burn biomass.  On the other hand, far too many people rely on depletable energy sources — and use them unsustainably.  This world of plenty and poverty cannot be sustained.

We need to marshal all forces to power progress in a way that protects our planet and promotes the welfare of all people.  We need to come together — rich and poor.  We need CEOs, investors, utility companies and renewable energy businesses.  Government officials and research scientists.  We need bold and bankable solutions.

With that kind of action, with that kind of energy, we can realize our vision for 2030.  A world where all people have modern energy services, where we double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and where we double the share of renewable energy in the global mix.  There are excellent examples of progress in Denmark, Mexico and Korea — the three countries that helped make this Forum possible.  The Danish company Maersk is designing the world’s most efficient container ships — they cut carbon emissions by half.  The Eurus wind farm in Oaxaca, Mexico, will supply one quarter of the country’s energy needs.  In the Republic of Korea, LG Electronics has announced plans to invest $7 billion in electric car batteries, LED lighting, solar panels and other green technologies that can create 10,000 jobs.

I appreciate this engagement.  But my message to all countries is the same:  we need to do more.  Next year’s Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development provides an opportunity for tangible results.  This Global Green Growth Forum can help pave the way for success in Rio.  And you can start today.

I encourage you to address difficult issues.  There are those who fear green growth can lead to trade barriers, and “green” aid conditionality.  You also have to consider entrenched interests that may resist progress, claiming that sustainability is a luxury we cannot afford.  The opposite is true:  that depleting our natural resources will actually deplete our chances of true prosperity.  Guiding the world toward green growth, however, will lead to substantial gains and benefit the majority of humanity and our shared planet.

This Forum should be a chance for thoughtful reflection — and also determined action.  Make plans.  Form alliances.  Commit to engagement long after we leave Copenhagen.  Together, we can generate a clean energy transformation, set the world on course for low-carbon growth, and create conditions for a truly sustainable future.  That is why I have made sustainable development my top priority.

The green growth agenda can help drive the advancement of sustainable development for the twenty-first century.  It is good business — good politics — and good for society.  The sustainable development agenda provides a compelling model for generating prosperity on a planet under multiple pressures:  climate change, species loss, desertification and pollution.  At Rio, our vision must be clear:  we need to move quickly towards a sustainable economy that is equitable and inclusive.

The late Wangari Maathai had many titles in her life, including Member of Parliament, Nobel Laureate and United Nations Messenger of Peace.  Wangari Maathai understood green growth from the perspective of the world’s poor.  She said, “Poor people will cut the last tree to cook the last meal.  The more you degrade the environment, the more you dig deeper into poverty.”

The global movement for sustainable development is about more than economic growth and environmental protection.  It is about providing a life of dignity for all people, so that instead of digging deeper into poverty, they can build towards greater levels of prosperity.  I count on you to help power this movement for a sustainable future.

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