Prague, Czech Republic

4 April 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at media event on Climate Change

I am very much impressed by what I have seen for myself, how well prepared the city of Prague is against any possible potential impact by climate change.

Climate change knows no boundaries.

Everywhere we are seeing more extreme and unpredictable weather patterns.

Cities such as Prague have experienced major floods over the past two decades.

Lives have been lost, tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and billions of euros of damage has been caused.

I was struck by the pictures from 2002 showing the flooded Czech capital, the Jewish Quarter under water, and UNESCO sites threatened by the rising tide.

The Prague flood protection system is part of the most extensive in Europe – and it has made a real difference.  I would like to highly commend, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, who takes disaster risk reduction as one of our priorities, and also climate change - this is a good example of leadership which makes a difference in saving lives and properties and protecting all of us from the damage and impact of climate change.

As you know, even the best flood barriers like this cannot halt the march of climate change.

Last week, I was in Greenland and saw once again the evidence of our warming climate. I said to the world, standing on the arctic ice and watching the rapidly melting icebergs, that climate change is approaching much, much faster than one might think.

Climate change is a reality and the science is undeniable.

But it is just as clear that addressing climate change provides a great opportunity for sustainable economic growth.

We simply must generate the political will for a meaningful global climate agreement by 2015. 

That is why I will host a Climate Change Summit Meeting on September 23rd at the United Nations headquarters. 

It will be a ‘solutions summit’.  I am calling for leaders of the world – government and business and civil society leaders - to come with bold announcements and concrete action.

In life, we [may] have a ‘Plan B’, but there is no ‘Planet B’.

There is only the commitment we can make together to address climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen adaptation and build a more sustainable world.

I salute your efforts here to do just that.

Thank you very much.

Q: [inaudible]

SG: I am very happy to be back to this beautiful city of Prague. Part of this beautiful city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You should be very proud of your long tradition and cultural heritage. That is also what you have to preserve, not only preserving the cultural heritage and your cultural legacy and pride, it is also important to protect this city and protect human lives from possible natural impact caused by climate change.

Often the perception is that developed countries like the Czech Republic or big cities like Prague may be immune from any impact of climate change, but climate change does not respect borders. We need to do all we can. That is why I have been raising the awareness of the importance and urgency of climate change. I have been meeting world leaders,  including today the Prime Minister and yesterday the Foreign Minister. I am going to talk with President Zeman about the importance of this, and urgency. I am asking all world leaders to show their political will, determined political will, to make this planet Earth for our future generations sustainable and environmentally hospitable. That is my commitment, and I need your support. Thank you very much.

Q: [inaudible, on impressions of Prague]

SG Yes, I love this city. I love this historical and cultural heritage. I am impressed, and more impressed and overwhelmed by the warmth of the people of the Czech Republic. Crossing this Charles Bridge on foot, and meeting so many people from all different countries, that is really a life which I would like to enjoy.

But frankly speaking there are so many crises, so many difficult challenges which we have to deal with all together, so I am here to ask for such help and to join the United Nations to address climate change issues and address all political and security crises. 

I am very proud and grateful to the Czech Government and people for their contribution. Thank you.