Abu Dhabi, UAE

4 May 2014

Secretary-General’s press conference at "Abu Dhabi Ascent" meeting [full transcript]

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber and the Government of the United Arab Emirates for hosting this very important meeting, the Abu Dhabi Ascent, and for their strong leadership and commitment. Particularly, I commend the visionary leadership of Dr. Sultan Al Jaber for leading this meeting.

We are here because change is in the air.

We know that climate change is costing us dearly.

You’ve just heard such a powerful statement done by former United States Vice-President Al Gore. We were very much inspired and I hope that everybody will continue to be inspired, committed and resolved, led by guidance of IPCCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and science.

If we continue business as usual it will cost us even more.

But there is an alternative.

Effective, affordable solutions exist or are becoming available to all of us.

We will learn about many of these opportunities over the next two days here in Abu Dhabi.

This meeting is a very important milestone, politically and also morally and scientifically, on the road to the Climate Summit I am convening on September 23rd at the United Nations in New York. I very much hope that we will be able to generate strong political momentum here in Abu Dhabi before leaders come to New York.

I am asking all participants – including you, the media -- to leave here inspired and also to work with the United Nations, to work for humanity. You are the connectors. You can play a very important, connecting role. What government leaders, business community are doing should be properly and correctly conveyed to the world.

That is how we will mobilize the political will for a meaningful global climate agreement by 2015 in Paris.

We need actions that will reduce emissions, strengthen resilience and improve well-being and prosperity worldwide while protecting the environment.

The Abu Dhabi Ascent is an opportunity to demonstrate that people are ready to work together for a low carbon future.

We will learn about many initiatives, ideas and partnerships over the coming two days. You will have already seen these initiatives which we are going to achieve. There are at least nine initatives – these may not be all, there will be more. But these are the most important intiatives which we hope to be able to achieve and generate momentum for that.

We must scale these initiatives up and spread them far and wide.

Our motto must be adopt and adapt.

Adopt what works and adapt it for your nation, for your business, your community.

The benefits of addressing climate change far outweigh the costs.

But the longer we delay the more we will have to pay.

Time is against us.

Nature will not wait. We can not negotiate with nature. Al Gore said it.

The planet is sending us clearly a message that nature is now sick.

We must listen.

That is why I am saying to world leaders: Don’t be on the losing side of history.

Change is in the air.

Solutions exist.  The race is on.  It’s time to lead. It’s time to lead now.

Thank you for your commitment and support.

I will be happy to take some questions.

Q: [in Arabic Inaudible]

SG: Let me add to what Dr. Al Jaber said about what United Arab Emirates is doing. In terms of size and population, clearly the United Arab Emirates is a small country but it has rich natural resources. But it’s not that all the countries with natural resources are as visionary and are doing what the United Arab Emirates is doing. Although it may be a small country, it is a global champion in leading our fight against climate change, particularly in this area of sustainable energy, renewable energy, innovative and creative ways of addressing climate change and of making societies sustainable. I visited Masdar City and I was very much inspired and impressed. Tomorrow I will have an opportunity of visiting the concentrated solar panel plant [Shams Solar Panel Plant]. This is the way, the creative way, innovative way of using natural resources and energy. I hope that we – not only ourselves in Abu Dhabi - collectively resolve to fight climate change and find solutions, but also emulate what this country is doing. That’s my message to you. Thank you.

Q: Can you explain what you expect from this meeting in Abu Dhabi ?

SG: This is going to be a very important milestone in terms of committing ourselves to fight climate change. As you know I am going to convene this summit meeting on September 23rd. We hope that this will be used as the place where we put very firm ground on the basis of which we can jump toward a very strong political, economic and scientific foundation in New York. Many people are asking what is the expectation of this conference and what do I expect from the Climate Change summit in New York. Many people were saying even this morning that it should not be a « talk shop ». As I said, this is not going to be a talk shop, it will be a solution shop. My summit this September will also be a solution and action shop. It will be different because we do not have time. This is the first and last stop before we come to New York and the New York summit will be the last one before we will be able to agree on a global legal climate change agreement in December next year. It is crucial important timing and crucial important occasion. That is why I’m asking the leaders to solidly resolve themselves and find out concrete ideas and bring their ambitious targets rather than talk. That’s the main purpose of this meeting and I am sure it will be successful.

Q: Are you confident we can reach the target of reducing global warming to two degrees and have any leaders already made concrete promises to you ahead of  September ?

SG: I am confident that we will be able to make it happen. The world has been working for the last twenty years, at least, but not much progress has been made. While the leaders have been [saying], in principle, that they are committed to climate change. As you will see the businesses are making lots of investments towards renewable energy and climate friendly economy. The United Nations’ top priority at this time is to make this world sustainable. Not only economically and socially but also environmentally. That is part of our top three priorities. As part of this sustainable development we have to address climate change. As I said, a lot of actions are taking place on the ground. What is more important at this time is political will. The governments have been more focused on their domestic economic situations but they should understand that climate change’s impact does not respect national boundari. As you have seen this morning, at the presentation of Al Gore, there have been dramatic changes. Climate change is approaching much much faster than one may expect.  This is what we are now experiencing unfortunately. Therefore, there is much heightened awareness on this. Much more active solutions are taking place on the ground. Therefore the purpose of this is two-fold. First, we have to raise the political will and ask the leaders to come with bold, ambitious targets and catalyse the actions on the ground. We will ask them to accelerate their actions on the ground. That is why I’m going to meet many multi-stakeholders in Abu Dhabi today and tomorrow: renewable energy, efficiency, industries, agriculture, finance and all others. We have to mobilize enough finance and technology so we can help developing countries so they can adapt and also adjust themselves to this changing situation. We can do it and we must do it. I think we have to really show our political will.

Q: What’s the difference between this meeting and the UNFCC process?

SG: This negotiation process in UNFCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change- has been so slow. Quite disappointingly slow because Member States have been really focusing and minding their own economic situation within their own national boundaries. We are going to have 20th UNFCC in Lima, Peru. The 21st in Paris, next year will be our final target whereby we will have to have global, legal climate change agreement. This Abu Dhabi Ascent and the climate summit in September are not going to be negotiation processes. The negotiations process continue. This is rather a political process in parallel to help the negotiation process. I am urging the political leaders to come to this summit meeting to direct negotiators, so that they will accelerate their negotiations. I am asking them to look beyond their national boundaries. This is an issue for the entire humanity. We have only one planet Earth. I see the way this negotiations process is going this – it’s a snail process. They seem to believe that there is a plan B but there is no plan B in fact. We only have plan A and we must do it. We do not have legal framework except the Kyoto protocol, which is not perfect, so we need to have a perfect global framework which will govern, give guidelines to the world. Business communities, they are ready to do that but hey want to have clear guidelines from the government, from the United Nations. That is what we are now doing.

Q: You mentioned all that the UAE is doing in renewable energy, but that is because they have money. How do countries that do not have money go into renewable energies?

SG: Realistically speaking and practically speaking, they may not totally stay away from traditional fossils fuels. I know their concerns. At the same time, the trend is changing rapidly. The solution, the only sustainable way out from this greenhouse emitting sources of energy is that we need to turn, change and transform to sustainable energy, renewable energy. That is why in 2011 I have launched this Sustainable Energy for All initiative. That has three goals. FBy 2030, we will have to have universal access for all the people in the world to electricity. Second, we need to double the energy efficiency rate and, thirdly, double the renewable energy in the global energy mix. We have to redouble this renewable energy. There is a huge investment now being done on renewable energy, led by United Arab Emirates and some other countries. I am encouraging them to do it as much as possible and as quickly as possible. The UAE is clearly a champion in that. There are some other countries that are still not taking bold actions. I hope that they will be inspired by what other countries are doing. I hope they will follow. And I hope also they will be fully conscious and understand what is happening on this planet Earth. The messages have been sent continuously, consistently and much more often than in the past. We are experiencing such extreme weather patterns as we have seen in this morning’s presentation. So there is no time. We have to adapt ourselves as quickly as possible. That’s the main messages. By December next year in Paris, we have to have this one. We have to have a draft text by December this year when we meet in Lima. Then we will have one year for full and most serious negotiations to detail down all this text of the agreement.

Q: How do you judge the BRICs countries’ contributions in fighting climate change?

SG: The role of the BRICs countries, particularly China and India, one of the fastest growing economies, is very important. That is why, while I am closely working with major industrialized countries like the United States and the European Union, at the same time they should be fully complimented by commitments of BRICs countries. This is extremely important. I am going to discuss during my visit this month to China with the Chinese leadership. Chinese participation and leadership will be extremely important in this fight against climate change. China is one of the fastest growing, number two economy, but China is the number one greenhouse gas emitting country now. Therefore, while, we fully support their industrialization, at the same time, we expect that the Chinese government will do much more, commensurate with their economic development. We really appreciate and highly commend the Chinese very dedicated and committed investment in renewable energy. I have visited several major cities in China and I have been very much impressed by what they do. But my message is that we expect that China will do more and other countries, like Brazil, South Africa and India – all these BRICs countries -- will do much more to compliment our ongoing negotiations.

Thank you very much.