Activities of Secretary-General in United Arab Emirates, 3-6 May

14 May 2014

Activities of Secretary-General in United Arab Emirates, 3-6 May

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, late on Saturday night, 3 May.

Soon after arrival, the Secretary-General met with the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Nabil ElAraby.  The two discussed the situation in Syria and Libya.  On Syria, they both agreed to work together to resume the Geneva talks.  The two Secretaries-General also said that the United Nations and the League of Arab States would join efforts to support the Government of Libya on creating an inclusive political process.

On Sunday morning, the Secretary-General attended the opening of the Abu Dhabi Ascent in support of the Climate Summit 2014.  The United Nations is co-hosting the meeting with the United Arab Emirates.

Participants engaged in highly focused consultations on key areas where climate action is critical, including increasing the use of renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, reducing emissions from transportation, and deploying climate-smart agriculture.  Discussions also focused on initiatives to address deforestation, short-lived climate pollutants, climate finance, resilience and improving the infrastructure of cities.

In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General underscored that climate change was the defining issue of our time and that there was no time to lose.  “The effects are already widespread, costly and consequential,” the Secretary-General told the assembled delegations.  He urged Governments, business leaders and civil society to come to the Climate Summit, which he will be convening this September, to join a “race to the top” and “announce bold commitments and actions that will catalyze the transformative change we need”.  (See Press Release SG/SM/15819.)

He encouraged leaders from around the world to lead boldly on climate solutions.  “The message is clear and simple,” Mr. Ban said, “climate action is feasible, affordable and beneficial.” 

In addition to the Secretary-General, the opening session of the meeting also featured the United Arab Emirates Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change, Sultan Ahmed al Jaber, and former United States Vice-President Al Gore.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the Secretary-General held a series of bilateral meetings with national delegations and senior United Nations officials.  He also participated in specific discussions with multi-stakeholder partners on “Short Lived Climate Pollutants”, “Agriculture and Climate Change” and “Energy Efficiency”.

In a press conference, with Mr. al Jaber, held right after the opening ceremony, the Secretary-General promised that the September Climate Summit would be not be a “talk shop”, but rather a meeting focused on action. 

In response to questions, he encouraged leaders to look beyond national boundaries when fighting climate change.  “This is an issue for the entire humanity.  We have only one planet Earth,” Ban told reporters.

The Secretary-General explained that the Ascent meeting and the climate summit this September were separate from the negotiating track under the auspices of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change.  The September summit, he said, was a political process meant to encourage the negotiators.   The final target, the Secretary-General told the press, is to have a global, legal climate change agreement by the final Paris meeting in December of 2015.

On Monday morning, the Secretary-General addressed the closing plenary of the “Abu Dhabi Ascent” meeting.  He said that the business opportunities of the low-carbon economy are great.  The social and environmental benefits for countries in all regions are yet to be realized.  He said that now is the time for visionaries and those who are prepared to act to step forward.  (See Press Release SG/SM/15822.)

On Monday, the Secretary-General travelled by helicopter with Mr. al Jaber to visit the Shams Power Plant.  Shams solar power station, which opened is 2013, is a concentrating solar power (CSP) station that has a 100MW capacity.  It is the largest single-unit CSP plant in the world, and Shams 2 and 3 will soon follow.  Shams 1 will generate enough electricity to power 20,000 homes and covers an area of about 2.5 square kilometres.  The Secretary-General toured the plant and was briefed on its operations by the plant’s engineers.

Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General and Madam Ban flew to Dubai to meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai.  In that meeting, the Secretary-General thanked the United Arab Emirates for its support of United Nations humanitarian efforts in Syria.  He also commended the country for its investments in renewable energies.

The Secretary-General departed Abu Dhabi early on Tuesday, 6 May, on a previously unannounced visit to Juba in South Sudan.

For information media. Not an official record.