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SG/SM/18181-ENV/DEV/1730
7 October 2016

Germany ‘Leading by Example’ to Create Green Economy, Help Vulnerable People, Secretary-General Says Upon receiving National German Sustainability Award

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, upon receiving the National German Sustainability Award, in Hamburg, Germany, today:

I am delighted to be once more in Germany, particularly in this beautiful City of Hamburg.  I thank you for this prestigious award.  It is truly an honour to be recognized alongside so many distinguished pioneers of sustainability.  I gratefully accept this award on behalf of hardworking United Nations staff.

The Organization I am proud to serve has worked for decades to promote the principles and practices of sustainable social, economic and environmental development.  This is, quite simply, an imperative for people, planet, peace and prosperity.  Without a plan for sustainable development our very future as a society, indeed as a species, is in doubt, in danger.

That is why last year’s historic adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 Goals is so important.  This week, we have passed another significant milestone.  We have crossed the second and final threshold for the Paris Agreement on climate change to enter into force.

Canada, Bolivia, Nepal, Rwanda, and, most importantly, Germany, the European Union have deposited their instruments of ratification, along with seven European Union member States — Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia.

We now have 74 countries accounting for nearly 59 per cent of global emissions.  We have surpassed [the thresholds of] 55 countries and 55 per cent [of emissions].  The Agreement will enter into force on 4 November.  That will be our historic day.

This is much faster than anyone thought possible.  What once seemed to be unthinkable, impossible is now unstoppable, inevitable and irrevocable.  This global support for the bringing the Paris Agreement to life has been remarkable.

From the world’s largest emitters to the most vulnerable island States, countries understand that global cooperation, grounded in national action, is essential to meet the climate challenge.  Markets now have the clear signal they need to scale up investments that will generate low-emissions, climate-resilient sustainable development.

Climate change and sustainable development are two sides of the same coin.  To achieve sustainable development we must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature rise.  And, to do that, we must vigorously pursue sustainable development across all three dimensions:  social, economic and environmental.

Now, for the first time, all nations have united behind a concrete and comprehensive plan of action with measurable targets and clear goals.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a vision and a road map for a future of peace, dignity and prosperity for all on a healthy planet.  We already have the tools and know-how to make this a reality.  The question is whether we have the political will. 

Around the world, conflict, desperate poverty, inequality, poor governance, environmental decline and climate change threaten to reverse the gains we have been making and impede progress.

We must address these challenges swiftly and decisively with political will.  We must prioritize the prevention of disasters and conflict, rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels, increase access to clean energy and change patterns of consumption and production.  We must empower women and girls, put human rights front and centre and make institutions accountable to all.  We must lay the foundations for inclusive, sustainable economic growth.

And we must live up to the pledge to leave no one behind.  That means focusing our efforts on helping the poorest, the most vulnerable, the marginalized and the hardest to reach.

I would like to commend Chancellor [Angela] Merkel and the people of Germany for their courageous and principled decision to welcome refugees and migrants with open arms, with compassionate leadership.

Around the world, vast numbers of people are on the move.  More people have been forced from their homes than at any time since the United Nations was founded.  This issue is not going to subside until and unless we succeed in fulfilling the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Germany is leading by example.  You have built a nation of compassion and tolerance.  Hamburg’s motto is “Das Tor zur Welt” [the gate to the world], but you are also a welcoming “Tor fur die Welt” [gate for the world].

You balance economic vigour with environmental care and social responsibility.  You demonstrate that going green is not only right for our planet but that it creates jobs and opportunities.  And you are a willing partner in a multilateral system that the world relies on to solve global challenges.

I have been in office nearly 10 years.  I am confronted every day with the profound challenges of our world.  But I am also inspired every day by the promise of a better future.

I truly believe we have entered a period of unprecedented opportunity.  We are the first generation that can end extreme poverty and needless suffering.  We are also the last generation that can stop runaway climate change and save our planet’s fragile environment.

So, we have a privilege and a responsibility.  And we have a plan.  What we need now is action and implementation, backed by political will and inclusive and dynamic partnerships.  I constantly urge leaders to think beyond their terms of office or their national borders.  I tell them their interests are best served by doing what is best for the world.

We have a choice.  A sustainable future.  Or a growing list of calamities.  There is no time to waste.  We need action from everyone, everywhere.  National and local governments, cities and rural areas.  We must rally businesses, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.  We must listen to scientists and learn from academia.  We must involve civil society as we define and implement policies — and we must give it the space and the authority to hold us to account.

We have 15 years to implement the 2030 Agenda and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  I am confident that we can succeed.  I already see earlier and better buy-in from Governments and other actors than we saw with the Millennium Development Goals.  That is one of the lessons we have learned.

We have to hit the ground running.  The 2030 Agenda has the advantage of universal ownership.  Every Government and major group was engaged in building the vision.

Now everyone must get involved in transforming our world.  We must all act and we must all be accountable.  We are all stakeholders in a collective enterprise to eradicate poverty, build a sustainable world and leave no one behind.  Everybody’s future is at stake.

That is why I want everyone to be informed and engaged.  By the end of next year, we aim to recruit 1 million agents of transformation who will spread the word to 2 billion people.  We are working with Governments, civil society and major players in advertising and the media.

We want to make it easy for everyone, everywhere to work together to achieve the full promise of the Sustainable Development Goals.

So today, I ask you to help us reach far and wide to gain the hearts and the minds of people everywhere so they understand that these are their Goals.  Fifteen years may seem a long time, but it can pass in the blink of an eye.  So, let us commit today and every day to work without rest for peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all on a healthy planet.

For information media. Not an official record.