23 September 2014

As World Leaders Come Together for Historic Climate Summit, Secretary-General Urges Commitment to Meaningful, Universal Agreement

23 September 2014
Meetings Coverage
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Climate Summit 2014

AM & PM Meetings

As World Leaders Come Together for Historic Climate Summit, Secretary-General


Urges Commitment to Meaningful, Universal Agreement


Heads of State, Government Share Plans for Reducing Emissions, Building Resilience

A record number of Heads of State and Government, together with leaders from business and civil society, today shared plans to avert catastrophic climate change as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon looked to push forward concrete commitments ahead of the 2015 deadline for a binding global agreement on the issue.

“I am asking you to lead,” Secretary-General Ban said as he opened the conference.  “I ask all Governments to commit to a meaningful, universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015 and to do their fair share to limit global temperature rise to less than 2˚C,” he added, outlining the high stakes — as well as the "great opportunity" of the climate challenge.

Some 100 Heads of State and Government, many describing extreme weather, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and other phenomena impacting their countries, spoke on their vision and commitments for reaching a universal and meaningful climate agreement in 2015, as well as made announcements on actions to reduce emissions, enhance resistance to climate change and mobilize financing for climate action, in the three plenary sessions during the day.

Those announcements were preceded by an opening that was addressed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chairperson Rajendra Pachauri, former United States Vice-President Al Gore, actor Li Bingbing, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and newly appointed United Nations Messenger of Peace, actor Leonardo DiCaprio.  Speaking on behalf of civil society was Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands.

Mr. de Blasio said he was honoured that so many people who were fighting to preserve the planet had converged on New York City, as evidenced by the 21 September climate march.  Humanity was facing an existential crisis — and it was caused by us.  In New York, Hurricane Sandy had left 44 New Yorkers dead.  "We have only one choice — urgent, daring action," he stressed, pledging to build upon his predecessor's initiatives to greatly reduce the city's carbon footprint.

Mr. Patchauri introduced the Intergovernmental Panel's latest report, saying that human influence on the climate system is clearly growing with C02 levels unprecedented in the last 800,000 years, demanding swift, decisive action.  To limit change to 2˚C, the levels of C02 must begin to decline by 2020.  Renewable energy and other technologies provided the answer.  Action was, therefore, achievable, and not prohibitively expensive.  On the other hand, however, he warned, "wait until you get the bill for inaction".

Mr. Gore said, "we have entered a period of consequences", adding, however, that it was also a period of hope, evinced by the declining price of solar electricity and the fact that, in 79 countries, it was cheaper than all other sources, and that the green bond market had grown tenfold.  There was economic opportunity present for those nations that seized it.  Political will was still need, but, he pointed out, "political will is a renewable resource".

Ms. Bingbing said she was keen to see leaders take ambitious action, expressing optimism.  She described young people's activism on the climate cause and introduced a film with their questions, starting with:  "Why did the generation before us leave us with so many environmental problems?"  Mr. DeCaprio said he appeared as a concerned citizen.  He was an actor, used to pretending, but there was no way that climate change would go away by pretending.  The changes were fact.  The disaster was about Governments and industry taking large-scale action.  Clean air and a liveable climate were inalienable human rights.  He pleaded with leaders to meet the challenge with courage and honesty.

Ms. Jetnil-Kijiner said that people in Oceania were already experiencing the high cost of inaction first-hand.  They had seen waves crashing into homes and breadfruit trees wither from the salt and drought.  Wondering how their children would know themselves, or their culture, should they lose their islands, she shared a poem she had written for her daughter, saying, “we deserve to do more than just survive.  We deserve to thrive."

The opening ceremony started with a film produced by Lyn Lear and narrated by actor Morgan Freeman.

Following the opening, the plenary was divided into three parallel chambers to hear the Heads of State and Government make national action and ambition announcements.  At a private sector forum following those sessions, the political leaders joined business executives to discuss the issue of pricing carbon and emissions, and to announce business actions on climate change.

In the afternoon, coalitions consisting of Governments, businesses and civil society announced climate initiatives in areas where action was most needed, including agriculture, cities, energy, finance, forests, industry, resilience and transport.  Thematic sessions discussed critical issues on climate change, including the economic case for climate action, health and jobs, climate science and to hear from people living on the frontlines of climate change.

Also in the afternoon, countries represented at the Summit at the ministerial level made their national action and ambition statements in Plenary IV and V.

In a closing session, the Secretary-General declared that delegates had delivered on his request for commitments on a universal climate agreement; climate financing; carbon pricing; strengthening resilience; and on the formation of partnerships to meet the climate challenge.  The spirit of compromise and commitment that had characterized the discourse had to be retained going forward and the pledges made had to be fulfilled.  “Today’s Summit has shown that we can rise to the climate challenge,” he said.

The Secretary-General was joined on the podium by the President of Peru, Ollanta Humala, who looked forward to the Conference in Lima, believing it should produce a “clear and coherent” document to lead into the Paris Summit.  Among its aims were capitalizing the Green Climate Fund, and steps to ensure financing in support of adaptation.  He hoped it would also agree on measures on mitigation, promote trust in finding solutions and build “the greatest alliance in history” for climate and development.

A keynote address was delivered by Graça Machel, who stressed courage, leadership and obligation.  She underlined that the world had reached a “tipping point” requiring commitments ambitious enough to prevent the world from “falling over the precipice”.  Confessing to mixed feelings about the prospects for success, she acknowledged a better understanding of the gravity of the climate challenge, but a continuing mismatch between the magnitude of that challenge and the response.  The simple question leaders were dealing with was:  “Are we going to survive?”  There was an obligation to act and a need for courage.  They needed to make decisions that might make them unpopular with some citizens, but protect billions and the future of the planet.

The Summit concluded with a performance by singer Natasha Bedingfield of a song written specially for the Summit by songwriter Toby Gad.

Plenary I

Chairing Plenary I, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, welcomed delegations, thanking them for their engagement, commitment and inspiring speeches.

Speakers then took to the floor, discussing various national, regional and international strategies, as well as possible initiatives that could forward a sustainable agenda for the future.

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, speaking on behalf of the European Union Delegation and emphasizing that climate change was one of the defining threats facing the world, pointed to its undermining of development and its destruction of “humanity’s commons”.  However, it also presented an opportunity to reinvent in a cleaner and greener way.  The European Union was at the forefront of efforts to mitigate climate change, and would provide over the next seven years more than €3 billion in grants to support sustainable energy in developing countries.  Urging the Secretary-General to continue engaging leaders on political momentum, he stated the international community would not fail in “this decisive battle against climate change”.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, listing numerous initiatives aimed at combating climate change currently funded by his country, also announced a new adaptation initiative.  In addition, his country would also host a world conference on disaster risk reduction.  On the technological front, Japan would launch a satellite, which would monitor emissions.  The year 2015 was a crossroads for human beings, and a framework would be needed which would be applicable to all.

Yet, concerns were voiced regarding the responsibilities of developed countries, as well as the support needed by developing countries, when discussing how to approach climate change mitigation.

President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt, speaking for the Arab Group, while stressing the need for a spirit of solidarity by the international community, said efforts needed to be based on “common, but differentiated” responsibilities that were grounded in historical responsibility.  The fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report had sent a clear warning to the entire world.  Calling for international engagement with his country to combat desertification, he also underscored that the new climate agreement currently being negotiated should build on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

President Mohammed Fuad Masum of Iraq also stated it was incumbent upon developed countries which were responsible for climate change to fulfil their legal responsibilities for mitigation, a stance echoed by President UHURU KENYATTA of Kenya, who emphasized that developed countries had to take the lead in emissions cuts.  A policy of common, but differentiated responsibilities, according to capabilities, was needed.  On a national platform, sound agribusiness practices were being promoted, and incentives to private sector investments in renewable energy were being developed.  Forest cover was also being restored, an initiative which called for international support.  While Kenya would continue to be guided by the Framework on Climate Change as the primary forum for intergovernmental negotiations, he said he looked forward to a final agreement in Paris next year.

In that regard, said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, there needed to be a redoubling of efforts to create a legally binding agreement for the post-2020 climate change framework.  That agreement should uphold the principle of equity, and should also contain a framework for implementation.  Indonesia’s measures towards dealing with climate change included national pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as efforts to reduce deforestation.  In cooperation with Norway, through the REDD Plus programme, welfare could be delivered for people in forest and peat-land areas.

Madagascar understood the grave threat of climate change, said the country’s President, Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana.  Madagascar’s coasts were being progressively invaded by the sea.  With an economy largely dependent on sectors vulnerable to climate change, the Government had made combating climate change one of its national priorities, implementing measures for reforestation, among other initiatives.  The World Bank campaign for the introduction of a carbon tax was of great interest, as well.

Several delegations highlighted the need to “delink” economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.  Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark, pointed to her country’s long-term vision on green energy, which had demonstrated that such “delinking” was possible.  National initiatives had enjoyed broad political support, which private companies needed in order to invest in green solutions.  Furthermore, Denmark was planning to become fossil fuel-free by 2050.  However, such initiatives and partnerships required political leadership.  Leaders at today’s meeting could make the green transition happen.  It was crucial for the European Union and key countries to take the lead and create a climate agreement in 2015.  Climate financing tools were crucial if an ambitious agreement were to be reached in Paris.  Words alone would not bring results; the poorest and most vulnerable countries had to be helped in tackling climate change.  Denmark would allocate an extra $70 million to the Green Climate Fund, on top of more than $350 million contributed since 2010.

Iceland, too, was aiming to become a fossil fuel-free economy and was ready to work with other countries in achieving this goal, said its Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davið Gunnlaugsson.  Voicing support for the call on putting a price on carbon, he also detailed the ways in which Iceland was sharing expertise in geothermal energy use, most recently in East Africa’s Rift Valley.  The participation of all members of society, men and women, was necessary to address the issue of climate change, he said.

In line with efforts to bring “green” economic growth onto a national platform, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessaglegn of Ethiopia said that his country had aimed to become a middle-income country by the year 2025.  However, reaching that goal would take longer if it followed a “business as usual” path.  Instead, national strategies were now focused on becoming a green middle-income country with zero net carbon emissions.  That development approach was in contrast to the historical link between economic growth and increased greenhouse gas emissions.  There were a number of initiatives at work, from forestation measures to the construction of a light rail system powered by renewable energy, scheduled to open next year.  He expressed gratitude to partner countries helping his nation, which could not have done the job alone.

That kind of international support was critical, speakers noted.  The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said that his country had a wealth of natural resources.  Forests extended over vast areas, and the Congo Basin had enormous water resources.  Sustainable development of his country’s forest areas would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and developing hydropower would provide clean energy throughout Africa.  However, for any future economic development to have a minimum impact on forests and water resources, heavy investment and involvement by the private sector was needed.  Next year’s Paris agreement would be a milestone in making sure countries could be developed at the same time as the environment was being protected.

Also speaking today were the Heads and Deputy Heads of State and Government of Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, Guyana, Malawi, Hungary, Cyprus, Latvia, Gabon, Iran, Honduras, Lithuania, Marshall Islands, Ireland, Malta, Grenada, Georgia, Malaysia, Italy, Guinea, Dominican Republic and St. Lucia

The Permanent Observer of the Holy See also participated.

Plenary II

The second plenary session featured many speakers from small island developing States, who made urgent appeals for a binding agreement on climate change, as did European Union member countries.  Many highlighted national actions and offered proposals for the way forward.

“Time was ticking,” said the President of France and the meeting’s co-chair, François Hollande.  He stressed, in particular, the urgent need to curb carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which had reached record levels.  “Climate change is a certainty now,” and not a subject of controversy, and the battle against it was also a battle against indifference and profit. The international community could not afford another failure after Copenhagen.  In Paris, next year, it was imperative to reach an ambitious global agreement and elaborate a legal framework.  His Government would contribute $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund, he said, adding that Paris, which had been a symbol of freedom and human rights, could become “a symbol of change” for climate action in 2015.

Also speaking in his capacity as co-chair was Ollanta Humala Tasso, President of Peru, who drew attention to the forthcoming Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, to be held in Lima, in December.  He stressed that the conference’s outcome document must be broad and well-balanced, and takes into account equitable economic growth, transformation of energy sources, and carbon-neutral society, among other elements.  A new alliance must be cemented at the Lima conference.  Island States and least developed countries were most vulnerable and for them, adaptation was not just an obligation but also an opportunity to make their economies more competitive.  For Peru, the climate change impacts, if not contained, could erode gross domestic product (GDP) by 20 per cent by 2050.

Climate impacts were, indeed, threatening the survival of small island developing States, stressed James A. Michel, President of the Seychelles, as he called for urgent action.  “This is not the time for speeches, but the time for action,” he said, stressing that ignoring the truth of climate change would constitute a crime against humanity.  “We all are guilty and are victims,” but small island developing States refused to be victims.  Citing the landmark outcome document, Samoa Pathway, adopted at the recent international conference, he said that small island developing States wished to lead the way in climate action, but that their unsustainable debt levels were hindering their efforts.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, noted that the international community last week had acted decisively and unanimously to adopt a response to the Ebola crisis, in sharp contrast to the way some Member States had responded over the years to global efforts to address the root causes of climate change.  He supported the Secretary-General’s passionate advocacy for an ambitious climate agreement next year in Paris.  Samoa was committed to achieve 20 per cent carbon neutrality by 2030 by reducing fossil fuel dependence by 10 per cent and increasing renewable energy by 10 per cent by 2016.  It would scale up its partnerships to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy power generation by 2017.

The international community could still prevent the worst impacts of climate change with fast and ambitious actions, said Emanuel Mori, President of the Federated States of Micronesia.  He cited as an example implementation of the Montreal Protocol to reduce the powerful greenhouse gases, hydro-fluorocarbons.  Small island developing States, which contributed little to climate change, were taking steps to address it at national, regional and international levels, but they must not be asked to fight climate change alone.  The major polluters had the moral obligation to do more, having created the problem in the first place.

Global efforts should focus on a global phase-down of hydro-fluorocarbons under the Montreal Protocol, he said, stressing that his country had been the first to have proposed that action in 2009.  The Economist magazine put the Montreal Protocol at the very top of the list of the 20 most successful mitigation policies.  It also had run an editorial titled, Paris via Montreal:  The quickest way to cut greenhouse gases is to expand the Montreal Protocol. Success with the Montreal Protocol in the next six months “is our ticket to a successful outcome in Paris in 2015”, he concluded.

Advocating for climate innovation, the Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte highlighted the European Emissions Trading Scheme, which put a price tag on CO2 emissions.  “Making sustainability a business case is the best guarantee for a successful climate policy,” he said, arguing that “green growth pays”.  His country felt that, by forming broad coalitions, the European emission reduction target for 2030 could be at least twice the 20 per cent goal from 1990 to 2020.

Although Switzerland was responsible for only 0.1 per cent of global emissions, said its Vice-President, Doris Leuthard, it was nonetheless committed to ambitious action.  Its GDP had risen by 36 per cent since 1990, but its emissions had fallen by 8 per cent in the first Kyoto commitment period.  Her country was committed to reduce emissions by 20 per cent in the second Kyoto period through 2020.  The Government was considering a contribution of at least $100 million to the Green Climate Fund, and would be ready to formally announce it at the pledging conference in November.

Spain, for its part, had become the first in the world to use wind power as its leading source of electricity for an entire year, said King Felipe VI.  His nation had also launched the Carbon Footprint project, encouraging businesses to calculate and officially register their annual carbon footprint.  Additionally, Spain had been the first to make a contribution to the Adaptation Fund.

Climate change was not just about rising sea levels, said the Prime Minister of Nepal, Sushil Koirala, adding that global warming “has put the mountains on [the] hotspot of climate change”.  The melting of Himalayan glaciers had seriously affected the hydrological stability of the river system and caused erratic extreme weather events leading to flash floods and landslides, loss of biodiversity, decline in agricultural productivity and depletion of fresh-water resources.  That had threatened the livelihood of more than 1.2 billion people in the region, forcing his country to adopt a national action plan for adaptation.

Representatives of several African States today described climate change as a sustainable development challenge.  Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of Mauritania, explained that due to the dependency on natural resources, African countries were largely affected by such climate change impacts as biodiversity degradation, desertification and droughts.  Those were causing economic losses, he said, making an appeal for the Adaptation Fund to assist African States exposed to impacts of climate change.

Also speaking today, including at the level of Heads of State and Government, were representatives from Mongolia, Serbia, Monaco, Montenegro, Sri Lanka, San Marino, Palau, Niger, Togo, Tunisia, Namibia, Panama, Slovenia, Mexico, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaragua, Norway, Sweden, Tonga, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Republic of Moldova, Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco.

Plenary III

Plenary III was chaired by Sam Kahamba Kutesa, President of the Sixty-Ninth Session of the General Assembly, who, introducing the programme, said that its purpose was to mobilize political will towards finalizing a meaningful, universal climate change agreement and generate action on the ground that would increase resilience, cut greenhouse gas emissions and propel the world towards a cleaner, greener economy.  He would keep the momentum building with a high-level General Assembly session in the first half of 2015.

Latin American countries were also heavily represented in the early hours of the session.  President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, issued a call to developed countries to take the lead with "robust and ambitious" climate commitments and to follow through on those pledges, as they had an historical responsibility for the climate problem that severely threatened developing countries, as well as Mother Earth itself.  To implement commitments, he expressed hope that developed countries would invest $100 billion per year by 2020.  In that vein, President Nicolás Maduro Moros of Venezuela said that the capitalist economic model could not be relied upon to rescue the planet from the dangers it had caused, while outlining forest conservation and other programmes implemented voluntarily by his country.

Several Latin American countries described extensive voluntary programmes to mitigate climate change.  President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, advocating a fair, robust, effective and binding climate agreement conducive to sustainable development, said her country had already announced a commitment to a 39 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas production by 2025.  Deforestation had already been reduced by 29 per cent.  Plans had been developed for further reductions of deforestation, and agricultural reform boosting productivity of small farms had reduced environmental impact and lifted family incomes.  Brazil did not announce initiatives, but showed results.  Adaptation actions could be a source of economic growth, as could mitigation.  That was the message of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, she said.

President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera of Costa Rica reiterated his country's commitment to become carbon neutral by 2021, through innovations in transport — electric trains and busses using biofuels — and 100 per cent power generation following the completion of a new hydroelectric dam and sustainable use of geothermal energy.  Research was being conducted into the promotion of sustainable household practices.  Middle-income countries should be supported in such efforts, he said.  Developing countries could no longer afford to subsidize the wasteful practices of wealthy countries.  President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón of Colombia described a sectoral approach undertaken by his country including measures to protect the Amazon forests.

The existential threat to small, developing island States was emphasized in the plenary by, among others, President Ikililou Dhoinine of Comoros, Prime Minister Gaston Alphonso Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, Prime Minister Perry Gladstone Christie of the Bahamas and Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga of Tuvalu, who also described mitigation and adaptation initiatives with development partners and United Nations agencies.

Among leaders of African countries, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda said that the threat posed by the practices of industrialized countries had melted the ice caps on peaks in Africa and could kill its forests.  President Alassane Ouattara of C ôte d'Ivoire, describing equally severe effects and calling for an effective climate agreement in 2015, said his country had joined forest initiatives, developed adaptation programmes and was boosting hydroelectric production.  Catherine Samba-Panza, Head of State of the Transitional Government in the Central African Republic, emphasized that her country, though constrained by its political and military crisis and contributing little to greenhouse gasses, had joined the framework convention because of the effects of climate change already being felt there.

Nebojša Radmanović, Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, President Bujar Nishani of Albania and President Ivo Josipović of Croatia noted recent disastrous floods in the Balkan region and said that their Governments were developing programmes on climate in the European context.  Also recounting floods, President Rossen Plevneliev of Bulgaria said that 20 per cent of power in his country was already provided by renewables.  In 2012, he said, Bulgaria had the most solar capacity per capita in the world.

Among other leaders speaking, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah of Brunei Darussalam said his country was targeting a 63 per cent reduction in energy consumption by 2035 and the generation of at least 10 per cent of its power through renewable sources by that year.  He added that 58 per cent of his forested country would be protected through conservation mechanisms.  President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey said his country was targeting a level of 30 per cent of power from renewable sources, but looked forward to a comprehensive international regime.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh said that her country had long experienced adapting to climate change, having introduced energy-efficient stoves, resilient agricultural practices and other measures.  Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh of Viet Nam indicated the institution of a national strategy on green growth aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emission from energy activities by 10 to 20 per cent compared to 2010 output, among other measures.

Finally, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom said his country had cut greenhouse gas emissions by one quarter since the Thatcher administration — aiming for an 80 per cent cut by 2050 — and had enough solar power for a million homes, along with a highly developed carbon market.  The whole world had to commit to a binding regime that could realistically roll back emissions, he urged.

Closing of Morning Plenary Sessions

The three separated plenary groups reuniting at the end of the morning, President Barack Obama of the United States took the podium, introduced by Secretary-General Ban, saying that of all current challenges to the international community, climate change had the most long-term importance.  "We cannot condemn our children and their children to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair," he said.  His country, the world's largest economy and second greatest carbon emitter, had made huge investments in efficiency and technologies, driving carbon output to its lowest level in two decades.  Power plant emissions were being dealt with under recently established measures and renewables promoted.  Talks to limit ozone-depleting hydro-fluorocarbons were under way.

He acknowledged that the United States had a special obligation to lead, but added that no country could meet the threat alone.  Climate assistance from the United States was now reaching 120 countries in the agricultural, power and other sectors.  "We recognize our role in creating this problem and our responsibility to combat it, but we must be joined by every nation," he said, noting that emerging economies were producing more and more pollution.  Collective ambition had to be raised, with all nations doing what they could.  Targets had been met and next year new ones would be set that took advantage of technical advances.

President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania, Coordinator of the Committee of Heads of State and Government of Africa for Addressing Climate Change, said that his continent was appealing for needed support for mitigation and adaptation, but it was not sitting back in inaction.  All nations must play their part.  Developed countries must shoulder their full responsibilities.  A priority in Africa that needed support was the transition to cleaner energy.  He made a passionate appeal to all nations to ensure that next year produced a legally binding climate agreement.  "This is all Africa is asking for," he said.

President Baron Divavesi Waqa of Nauru, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, said that the science was clear.  The window to limit climate change was closing.  Given the threat to their very existence, those States would continue to lead in both mitigation and adaptation.  He called for $15 billion in initial funding for the Global Climate Fund, which would be accessible by small island developing States.  The development of the Warsaw International Mechanism was also needed, given that damage from climate change was now unavoidable.

Zhang Gaoli, the Vice Premier of China, said that his country had implemented national climate change policies that would reduce pollution by 45 per cent from the 2005 level.  There had already been effects; China provided 24 per cent of the global output of renewable energy.  The country would announce 2020 targets soon, through reducing their share of fossil fuels and other measures.  In addition to promoting South-South cooperation on climate change, China would double its funding of initiatives carried out with other developing countries, with $6 million provided to the Secretary-General to boost such cooperation.  In all efforts in climate change, the principle of common, but differentiated responsibilities must be upheld, with developed countries meeting their obligations.  All countries must follow the path of green development that suits their particular conditions.  " China is ready to help build a better future for mankind," he said.

Summing up the morning, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the commitments he had heard, from national action plans for low-carbon growth to increased pledges to the Green Climate Fund.  Speakers, he said, had expressed overwhelming support for the process of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  "This morning has shown […] the promise of our future," he said, saying that States and civil society were already working to build the momentum needed on climate change.  "Let us build on that momentum," he said.

Heads of State and Government from Albania, Austria, Congo, Angola, Burundi, Barbados and Andorra, as well as the Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan, also spoke in the plenary.

Plenary IV

The meeting, co-chaired by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Climate Change, Mary Robinson, and the Environment Minister of Peru, Manuel Pulgar Vidal, was marked by acceptance across the board of the indisputable science behind climate change, and with participants calling for collective commitments to a new legally binding agreement by the end of 2015.

Developed countries voiced their commitment to supporting climate change mitigation on a global platform, with Barbara Hendricks, Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of Germany, stressing the need for countries like her own to stand by poorer countries.  Pledging a contribution to the Green Climate Fund, she said that Germany would also no longer provide finance for the building of coal power plants.  Among several other States echoing the pledge of contributions to the Green Climate Fund, Luxembourg’s Minister for Environment, Carole Dieschbourg said that her country’s apparently modest contribution actually represented a €10 per capita figure, and thus, was comparable to other contributions.

Joining a chorus of positive interventions, Jorge Moreira Da Silva, Minister for Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy of Portugal, said he looked forward to the Lima and Paris meetings, pointing out the European Union’s leadership of world efforts on climate change and underlining his “serious expectations” over a 2015 agreement that included commitments on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology transfer.  The climate agreement needed to be global, rules-based and legally binding, preferably in the form of a new protocol.  It had to apply to all, and key among its aims would be a commitment to ensure global temperature increases remained under 2˚C.

However, several developing Member States pointed to their disproportionate suffering from the adverse effects of climate change.  Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, stated that the main cause of climate change was “irrational and unsustainable production and consumption patterns” supporting the capitalist system.  He called for political will from those bearing the historical responsibility for pollution.

Sartaj Aziz, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, noted that his country was a low emitter, yet had suffered multiple natural disasters, including drought, desertification, floods, sea level rise and glacial melting.  Most were triggered by climate change and the decelerated growth and sustainable development.  Pakistan was one of several countries speaking that dealt with particularly distinct vulnerabilities.

Because of his country’s complex ecosystem, landlocked, mountainous nature intensified the effects of climate change, said Erlan Abdyldayev, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan.

Small island developing States were also disproportionately affected.  Robert Dixon Pickersgill, Minister for Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change of Jamaica, warned that his country’s “beaches, hotels, roadways, fisheries, two international airports and power generation systems” were under threat of destruction from the effects of rising seas and stronger storms.  Without mitigation, many effects would be irreversible.

Wunna Maung Lwin, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, outlined his country’s vulnerability which stemmed from its long coastal zone.  Floods were more frequent, with cyclones and drought impacting agriculture, energy supplies and livelihoods.  His country was one of a large number whose measures to combat climate change included the expansion and protection of forestry reserves.

Other Member States, as well, spoke of addressing climate change through forestry initiatives, with several describing their work under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation programme, including Noulinh Sinbandith, Minister for  Natural Resources and Environment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Carlos Raúl Morales Moscoso, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, and Lorena Tapia, Minister for Environment of Ecuador, who detailed how her country was preserving native forests through incentives.  Through public-private partnerships, 500,000 hectares of reforestation had gone ahead, with 100,000 hectares in 2014 alone.

The Minister for Environment of Israel, Amir Peretz, requested that the Secretary-General appoint a Special Envoy tasked with creating a new framework to help all Middle Eastern countries fight climate change.  It was important to rise above political differences.  As a man of peace, he saw the mutual environmental challenges faced as a major reason to renew negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians.

Closing the session, Mr. Pulgar Vidal underscored that countries had needs in terms of their vulnerabilities, adaptation and means of implementation.  Nevertheless, worldwide efforts were being made to address climate change through policies and actions on all platforms and in every sector of society.  On the finance side, the Lima Conference would be a fundamental step towards the new agreement that he hoped would be reached.

Also participating in the session were Ministers and senior Government officials of Greece, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Liechtenstein, Kazakhstan, India, Peru, Romania, Maldives, Mali, Kuwait, Liberia, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Qatar and Lesotho.

The representative of Fiji also spoke.

Plenary V

The fifth plenary was co-chaired by John Kufuor, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Climate Change, and Marcia Korolec, President of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Member States from all regions of the world participated in the discussion, with many developed countries reaffirming their commitment to combat climate change and detailing actions being taken domestically and internationally, as well as financial commitments being made.

Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, recognizing that her country was responsible for around 1.5 per cent of global emissions, said Australia was committed to reducing them by 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 and had dedicated $2.55 billion, for such projects as upgrading commercial buildings, improving industrial and household efficiencies, capturing emissions from landfills and reducing waste gas from coal mines.  The Government had also placed sustainable economic growth at the heart of its $5 billion aid programme.

Canada was a founding partner, major contributor and active participant in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, said Leona Aglukkaq, Minister for the Environment, pointing to the Coalition’s work marshalling global efforts to tackle short-lived climate pollutants.  That initiative was especially important to northern countries, as reducing such pollutants could avoid up to two thirds of projected warming in the Arctic between now and 2050.  Further, her country had committed and delivered $1.2 billion in “fast-start” financing to help other countries with projects ranging from clean energy, green infrastructure and to help prevent deforestation.

However, participants also discussed the gaps between developed and developing nations and the impact of climate change on achievements made by countries committed to a sustainable world.

Rabindre Parmessar, Minister for Public Affairs of Suriname, speaking passionately of the impact climate change had on his country, underscored that Suriname was the “greenest country on earth” and a carbon-negative society.  Its forests had absorbed 193 million tons of carbon since 1992 and captured more than 8.8 million tons of carbons annually, while emitting only 7 million.  As of 2014, each Surinamese citizen represented a per capita net carbon capture of 3.3 tons out of the earth’s atmosphere.  Through all those achievements, Suriname was providing a great service to the ecosystem of the planet and the global community.  Yet, despite that, the country was unable to halt the destruction brought upon it by climate change, which put Suriname squarely on the path towards climate departure by the year 2028.

Riad Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the non-member observer State of Palestine, also stressed the gap between those most impacted by climate change and those who were the greatest emitters of carbons.  Palestine was one of the most vulnerable, yet its total emissions did not amount to that of a single factory or power plant in an industrialized country.

Many speakers called for the political will to take action.  Ramtane Lamamra, Minister for Public Affairs of Algeria, detailed many programmes being undertaken in his country to combat land degradation and desertification, capture CO2 in the Sahara and promote the development of clean energy sources.  However, developing countries must be not only be aided by financial support, but receive the transfer of technologies, an essential component to mitigating climate change.  He called upon each State to take on that challenge.

In the same vein, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, noting that his country had been the first to invest in solar energy on a global platform, spoke of the importance that political momentum had in mitigating climate change, as demonstrated by his country’s hosting last year’s ministerial conference on the matter.

Nonetheless, several Member States called for a balance between international stability and sustainable goals.  Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Minister for Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia, said that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions must be achieved without undermining economic growth, negatively affecting social development or destabilizing the global energy market.  The principles of the Framework Convention on Climate Change must be respected, particularly in regards to common, but differentiated responsibility.  Energy played a critical role in sustainable development, but the proposed mechanism to reduce emissions through carbon pricing would undermine the principle of justice and equity, and transfer the cost of efforts to combat climate change to developing countries.

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Permanent Secretary of Thailand, detailing the country’s development model which sought economic prosperity while mitigating climate change and cooperating with other countries in the region, said that the time for debate was over and the time for action had come.  “We must now renew our collective and political will.  We must take a new approach to development, an entirely new one,” he stated.  Each country must address the issue.  It would take international cooperation to meet the challenge of climate change.

Also speaking today was the Prime Minister of Belgium.

Also participating in the session were Ministers and senior Government officials of Cambodia, Samoa, Russian Federation, Senegal, Uruguay, Singapore, Azerbaijan, Botswana, Argentina, Burkina Faso, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Sudan, Zambia, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Benin, Chad, Armenia, South Sudan and the United Republic of Tanzania

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