23 January 2015

With Adoption of Sustainable Development Goals ‘We Can Set Our Lives, Our World on Course for a Better Future’, Secretary-General Tells World Economic Forum

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s introductory remarks at the World Economic Forum plenary session “Tackling Climate, Development and Growth”, in Davos, Switzerland, today:

It is a great privilege and honour for me to address this very informed and interested and committed group of leaders.

2015 is a year of global action.  We are faced with multiple crises in this world — geopolitical, socioeconomic and sustainable development.  The year ahead must be a time for our strong commitment and global action. 

With the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, with a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) and an agreement — universal and meaningful — climate change agreement by December this year in Paris, I think we can set our lives, our world, on course for a better future.

United Nations Member States have proposed a set of sustainable development goals that will guide anti-poverty efforts through the year 2030.  Further negotiations have already begun among Member States this week in New York, and I am expecting that all the leaders will come to the United Nations in September this year to adopt and declare as their commitment, as their vision, to the world in September.

Meanwhile, the Climate Summit I hosted in September last year has created new political momentum.  I am very encouraged that the European Union has taken far-reaching, visionary decision to cut 40 per cent of greenhouse gases by 2030, and China and the United States have agreed on a very significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  And there was a successful climate meeting in Lima, Peru, which adopted the "Lima Call for Action".

Sustainable development and climate action are two sides of one coin.  Climate action will contribute to many of the SDGs, and the SDGs can be a new investment pipeline on issues that are essential for tackling climate change.  

The success of both agendas will hinge on substantial resources from the public and private sectors.  The UN Financing for Development Conference in July in Addis Ababa will provide an opportunity to agree on a comprehensive framework, which must be very robust and visionary.

Success will also depend on growth.  Growth has freed millions people from poverty and hunger, and supported health care, education and environmental protection.  But growth is also associated with pollution and an increase in emissions.  One key transformation for the post-2015 era will be to make growth more inclusive and green.

Over the next 15 years until 2030, the world will make massive investments in new infrastructure in cities, energy and agriculture.

If this spending is directed towards low-carbon goods, technologies and services, we will be on our way towards more sustainable, equitable and climate-resilient societies.

At the moment, however, infrastructure and sustainability are treated as separate issues.  We see this at the meetings of the G20, at other international gatherings, and even here at the World Economic Forum.  We need to address this troubling disconnect.  If we do not, we will lock ourselves into bad, long-term investments that will make it virtually impossible to achieve the SDGs, and will put ourselves and our children at grave risk for extremely costly climate disruptions.

I urge you to choose wisely and invest in the low-carbon pathway.  I urge finance ministers and leaders of Governments and the business community to do the same, both in their domestic budgets as well as in positions they take at the G20 and the meetings of international financial institutions.

The low-carbon calculation must be factored into every aspect of our planning for the next decades and beyond.  Your leadership is critical.  The latest report of the IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has made it quite clear.  I launched the fifth assessment report last November in Copenhagen.  The gist of the report is that climate change has happened because of the human factor, human behaviour.  Therefore, it is only natural that it should be us, human beings, to address this issue and it might not be too late if we take decisive actions today.

I encourage you to put forth new commitments that spark a race to the top.  Show the world that a low-carbon pathway is not only the right thing to do, but the smart choice for sustainable prosperity for all. 

We are the first generation that can end poverty, and the last generation that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  Future generations will judge us harshly if we fail in upholding our moral and historical responsibilities.

I count on your strong commitment and leadership. I hope this discussion today will provide another energetic and passionate awareness about our common responsibility.

For information media. Not an official record.