Warsaw, Poland

19 November 2013

Secretary-General's press conference at UNFCCC Climate Change Conference [With Q&A]

If you allow me, before I state my position on climate change, I would like to read out my statement on the recent terrorist bombing in Lebanon near the Iranian embassy. I know this has already been released but since it has been released in my name, I would like to announce it myself.

I strongly condemn the terrorist bombing near the Iranian embassy in Beirut which killed at least twenty-three people and wounded thousands more. I extend my condolences to the families of those killed, as well as to the Government of Lebanon and to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I extend my sympathies to those injured.

Such appalling and indiscriminate acts of violence target every one in Lebanon. I urge all Lebanese parties to act with restraint.

I hope that those responsible for this attack will be swiftly brought to justice. I know that the international community remains determined to Lebanon’s security and stability.

I have just participated in the opening of the High-Level Ministerial segment of the Conference.

I am encouraged by the sense of urgency and determination to rise to the climate challenge.

We are now shifting gears on the road to a climate agreement in Paris in 2015.

The latest IPCC report confirms that our planet is continuing to warm.

Sea levels are rising and icecaps are melting.

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

We are the first humans ever to breathe air with 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide.

Warmer ocean surface temperatures and higher sea levels contributed to the strength of Typhoon Haiyan and the devastation it caused in the Philippines. 

This disaster is more than a wake-up call.  It is a very serious alarm.

Typhoon Haiyan puts an anguished human face on our struggle to combat the extreme weather and other consequences of climate change.

It makes me even more determined to work for a new global legal agreement by 2015.  This is our responsibility to future generations.

Our responsibility to the people of the Philippines today is to ensure they get the humanitarian assistance they need right now.  The UN is fully mobilized.  I have also recorded a special appeal with the French music star David Guetta.  The video is up on YouTube.  Have a look and be part of the response.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This conference is an important stepping stone.

Progress does not come easily.

In my remarks just now I called on all countries to recognize that addressing global needs is in their long-term national interest.

There are some hopeful signs.

Action on climate change is visible and growing, driven by science, economics and political will.

We see it from governments, the private sector and civil society.

Affordable and effective alternatives to fossil fuels are coming online.

Renewable energy makes up a growing percentage of new power generation capacity, and is expected to rise significantly between now and 2030.

Momentum is building, and I believe we can secure a universal, fair and ambitious agreement in 2015 if all Parties work together with a spirit of collaboration and compromise.

Next September, 23 September next year, I will host a climate summit at United Nations Headquarters to raise political momentum in support of the UNFCCC negotiations and to catalyze concrete action on all climate-related issues.

I have asked Heads of State and Government and leaders of business, finance and civil society to use the Summit to showcase solutions and bring bold announcements that will propel us forward.

Climate finance will be critical.

And 2015 is a watershed year.  It marks the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. We have tools to establish a post-2015 development agenda and finalize a new climate change agreement.

That is why progress here in Warsaw and on the road ahead is so essential.

Thank you very much.


Q: There is a discussion here about when the national commitments for the new climate agreement should be presented, and some have suggested they should be presented at the summit next year. The US has said that early 2015 would make sense. What do you consider the right timeframe for making these announcements? And also is your expectation that the agreement in 2015 is going to be internationally legally binding?

SG: The Member States have been taking their own national actions commensurate with their capacity as well as in accordance with the recommendations, scientific recommendations, by IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. But the level of their ambitions [and] the level of their commitments are varying. That is why we are trying to urge Member States to do it. We expect, of course, the United States will take this leadership role. But I do not want to talk about some political situations there. We need the developed world to lead this campaign. I think they have capacity. They have all good systems and means. Therefore it is absolutely necessary and crucial that the members of the G20 particularly and broadly the OECD countries should lead by example. It is important. That is why I am asking leaders to come to the General Assembly summit meeting next year, 23 September, and state their commitments [at an] ambitious level and raise political awareness and show their political leadership and give political direction to negotiators. We do not have much time. From then on, we will have only one year left before we meet in Paris. We do not have much time to waste, to lose. So, I am appealing to the leaders of the world to take urgent action.

Q: In addition to stating their commitments on emission levels in 2014, could I clarify, does that mean you want countries to come with their targets to the leaders’ summit in September 2014? And secondly are you also telling the governments to come with their pledges towards the 100 billion dollar commitment?

SG: First of all it is important that the Member State follow the scientific recommendations. The level of ambition thus far shown is very much inadequate, insufficient, at this time. That is why we are meeting and talking and urging them and you will continue to see these extreme weather patterns. That we need to prevent as much as we can, the tragic consequences caused by this. Therefore I would really hope that all this tragic devastation which we have seen in the Philippines will really give us some wake-up call and alarm bell. I know that every country has their domestic constraint and some limited resources. But depending upon the political leadership, political priority setting, climate change can be given much higher political priority. This is my urging again.

On the 100 billion dollar target pledges, without climate financing we cannot carry on this one. We need a lot of resources. Financial resources are the most important [funds]. I understand the Member States are discussing about this mid-term target before we go to 2020, and there are still some gaps between the developing and developed world. I sincerely urge that the [developed] world should keep their promise so that all the members of this Planet Earth, the United Nations, can move together and can take action.

Q: The World Health Organization has a ban on tobacco industry lobbying delegates around tobacco control. Would you consider a similar ban on the fossil fuel industry lobbying commissioners at these meetings?

SG: We need to engage all areas of industry and society in the transition to a low-carbon future, including industries that are presently associated with high greenhouse gas emissions related to fossil fuel. They too will have to make green and sustainable investment decisions that will keep them in business and thus within the bounds of 2 degrees Celsius as recommended by IPCC. We must work together so that everyone can be part of the solution. Of course we recognize the importance of coal and fossil fuels in many economies at this time, and they are an important part of this livelihood [for] people around the world. With all these technologies they can also invest wisely, in a smart way, to make this fossil fuel more effective [and] produce less greenhouse gas emissions. Practically speaking, in reality, they seem to be going in a transition but I have been urging them to make it faster so that we will be able to lower these greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: You are appealing to countries in urging them to raise ambitions. Is there some way that you can cajole using some other tool to raise ambitions?

SG: That is an interesting question. Even the Secretary-General does not have a sharpened tool. We have a moral voice. We work very closely with all leaders, business community, science community and civil society. Sometimes, the voice of civil society gives me quite important backing and support. I quite often meet with business community leaders. They also express their concerns. They know that their business is really affected seriously. They may not be able to operate as smoothly [as] they may want. What they want and what civil society wants is that Government should lead this process by creating and by establishing a good framework, legal framework, or political framework with which business community also can be incentivized. They can be sure for their future investment. I think all the actors must work together. I am going to continue to meet [with] all the actors and appeal to them. I hope they will listen to, first of all, our appeal. Most importantly, they have to live by scientific recommendations, which have made it quite clear. There are no such skeptics these days. IPCC has made it much clearer on the climate change phenomenon.

Q: Do you believe that the creation of international loss and damage mechanism is necessary for a successful outcome at the climate talks in Warsaw? If that does not happen, how do you believe this should be dealt with going forward?

SG: This loss and damage [mechanism] is a very important issue, which has been discussed among the Member States. As Member States are very actively, seriously engaged in this process, as Secretary-General, I would observe and watch how the negotiations are going on. It may not be desirable for me to make any comments at this time.

Q: Finance Ministerial meeting starts tomorrow. What would you like to see come out of the Finance Ministerial?

SG: Finance Ministers’ role is very important. That is why I have been meeting with Finance Ministers on the margins of the World Bank and IMF meetings in Washington [DC]. Negotiators make certain decisions. Foreign Ministers and Environment Ministers engage in good framework. It comes ultimately to the hands of Finance Ministers – not only climate change, but education, sanitation, all other development issues. While Finance Ministers have to deal with overall aspect of a nation’s financial packages, I am urging them to give a priority to climate change and also [other] development agendas. Our discussions have been quite sincere and in-depth. I will continue to engage in dialogue with Finance Ministers. I am also going to meet with business communities and Finance Ministers and continue my efforts.

Q: What is your comment on the EU and US leadership in the climate change campaign and what role do you expect of China in the climate change campaign, and especially at Warsaw Climate Conference?

SG: China, as one of the two largest economies, one of the BASIC countries, one of the emerging economies, I cannot overemphasize the importance of Chinese contribution and role in addressing all major developmental issues including climate change. Right after this press briefing, I am going to have a meeting with Minister Xie Zhenhua. I had a good meeting with the European Climate Change Commissioner, Ms. [Connie] Hedegaard. I am going to have a bilateral with the American chief negotiator.

All of this is necessary for me. What I have been asking Europe Union, Chinese and Americans [is] they have differences of vision and positions. It is only natural that they come from different backgrounds, different positions. At this time, because of this urgency, science’s clear warning and recommendations, all Member States should really show their flexibility. We should understand that good multilateral solutions, good multilateral agreement can be beneficial to their national solutions, at this time. It is not one single national government, when they have priorities and challenges. Of course, addressing those domestic and local solutions, then eventually, [will] help global solutions. The approach should be that if we resolve this global challenge, then this will benefit all national Governments. So let us have some broader global vision. In that regard, I really count on Chinese leadership.

The most recent Chinese and American agreement on HFCs [hydrofluorocarbons] between the two leaders – that was a quite important one. That has given a good sign that such big two economies can cooperate with flexibility. I hope [with] this kind of sense of flexibility about the global solutions, all Member States should work together.