Copenhagen, Denmark

2 November 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at launch of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report [Scroll down for Q&A]

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to speak a few words at this historic occasion of launching the synthesis report of the Fifth Assessment of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change].

We are doing this at a very historic and crucially important timing for humanity.

Sound science must be at the core of our efforts to meet the challenge of climate change.

For more than a quarter century, the IPCC has been at the forefront of increasing understanding about this issue, climate change.

Most recently, the IPCC provided the scientific foundation for the successful Climate Summit that I hosted in New York this September. 

It brought together government leaders, business executives and finance officials and many civil society leaders. They all expressed strong commitment for a meaningful, universal climate agreement. Public and private financing sources showed the way forward for mobilizing funds. We made progress on carbon pricing, strengthening resilience and forming new coalitions to meet the climate challenge.

The Summit had enormous popular support. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in New York City and other major cities around the world to demand climate action. I was inspired to see so many global citizens taking to the streets and raising their voices loud and clear. While marching together with them, I hoped that world leaders should and could heed their voices.

The report we are launching today – the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment – was compiled by hundreds of scientists from around the world. It is the most comprehensive appraisal of climate change ever undertaken.

This Report offers three key messages:

One: Human influence on the climate system is clear – and clearly growing.

Second, we must act quickly and decisively if we want to avoid increasingly destructive outcomes.

Three: We have the means to limit climate change and build a better future.

The Report found that the world is largely very ill-prepared for the risks of a changing climate, especially the poor and most vulnerable who have contributed least to this problem. 

The atmosphere and oceans have warmed. The amounts of snow and ice have diminished. Sea levels have risen.

I have seen for myself those rapidly melting glaciers most recently in Greenland together with the Prime Minister of Denmark, Her Excellency Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

As I am not a scientist, I am not able to speak in a scientific way. That is why during the last eight years as Secretary-General, I have been travelling all around the world, wherever and whenever I was able, to see the impacts for myself so that I could add to the voices of scientists in a political way, as a common man, without knowing [science].

Whatever I saw, I conveyed from the scenes: From Antarctica to the North Pole, the Amazon River basin, Lake Chad, Aral Sea. Please name any places which I have not been – that much I have been committed. I am adding my political voice to what scientists have been [doing], working very hard. I really appreciate them.

If we continue business as usual, our opportunity to keep temperature rise below the two degrees centigrade threshold will slip away within the next decade.

Even if emissions stopped tomorrow, we will be living with climate change for some time to come.

The good news is that if we act now, immediately and decisively, we have the means to build a better and more sustainable world. 

Many tools and technologies are already available. Renewable energy sources are increasingly economically competitive. Energy efficiency has long proven its value.

Action on climate change can contribute to economic prosperity, better health, and more liveable cities, while reducing the risks of further environmental degradation. Economic growth and climate action can be mutually reinforcing.

There is a myth which is shared unscientifically and uneconomically that climate action will cost heavily but I am telling you that inaction of climate action will cost much, much more. Climate action and economic growth are two sides of just one coin.

With this new Synthesis Report, science has spoken yet again with much more clarity and greater certainty. Citizens are increasingly restive – but also eager to seize the opportunities of building a sustainable future. 

Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank most sincerely all the scientists of the IPCC who have done outstanding work in showing the world the perils of climate inaction – and the potential of climate action. 

You do not answer to any interests except our planet and the truth. You are trusted and most respected around the world. You have been at the centre of the global dialogue on climate since long before people started marching in the streets demanding action.

You – and the hundreds of scientists around the world who contribute to the IPCC – provide the hard evidence we need to make a change in our world, and human history.

This report gives a major push to the discussions at the Climate Conference in Lima in December – and to success in Paris next year. Without a global agreement, we will not mobilize action to the extent necessary to get the world on to a 2-degree pathway.

Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.

Let’s work together to make this world, our only planet earth, sustainable economically, socially and environmentally for our succeeding generations. Let us preserve our only planet earth in a sustainable way.

Thank you for your leadership.

[Inaudible question on whether there is enough momentum on climate change]

SG: As I said, we have seen the deadly effects to many, many places around the world. This global system of our earth is having a really high temperature. So when your child is sick with a temperature, you have to take all medication and if necessary bring to doctors.
This is what we have to do now, if I compare with our human body conditions.

We have to first lower the temperature as you would do to your children. There should be no temperature [rise], first of all. That is what we are doing. That requires massive and urgent immediate action. We have to mobilize all financial resources. I was very much encouraged when I convened the Climate Summit meeting on September 23rd. There were many business leaders, world-class business leaders. They pledged at least $200 billion for green economic development as well as climate-friendly investment.

Yesterday, here in Copenhagen, hosted by the Foreign Minister and Environment and Climate Minister, I was able to have in-depth discussions with the business leaders here. They are all committed. And I was very much encouraged that all business community leaders who were in New York, they were very much committed. 

As you many know, the United Nations has launched this Global Compact, where 8,000 world-class business companies are [members]. They voluntarily created the Caring for Climate action group. They are taking their own actions. I have been urging those companies or firms that may use a lot of money like pension funds or insurance companies. They are using this money, investing in any case. I am asking them please reduce your investment in the fossil-fuel-based economy to [favour] renewable sources of energy. But first we may have to live with all these fossil-fuel energy resources but we have to gradually move to renewable sources. And I am very happy to see that the Danish government is now hosting an energy efficiency hub in the United Nations headquarters here in Copenhagen. We need everybody, even just individual citizens. There are a lot of ways they can [take] actions. Just using electricity and one single drop of water; [they] should be used sparingly to make our world sustainable. This is what I am sending [as] a message to the world.

Q. Five years ago in this city of course world leaders came together and failed to agree on an agreement on climate change despite having had an IPCC report in 2007. What’s different this time? Are you hopeful? Is there any reason to more optimistic in Paris than was the case the year before Copenhagen?

SG: In our life, one may always try and one may succeed and one may fail. We have been really trying to have a global agreement on climate change at least during the last two decades. We have now the Kyoto Protocol, a very limited one.  Our target, our priority, is to have a universal, very meaningful global climate change agreement by the end of next year.

We had very extensive, in-depth discussions in 2009 in Copenhagen. But maybe looking back at that time world leaders might not have been fully ready to engage themselves. They were more focusing on national priorities rather than global priorities.

Since then we have been building up, building upon what we have discussed in Copenhagen. All those important elements or partial agreements which we made in Copenhagen have been built upon, built upon. Copenhagen, then Durban in South Africa, Doha, Qatar, then Warsaw in Poland. Now we are going to Lima, Peru, and our final destination will be Paris by the end of next year.

Now what had happened during that time? There were summit meetings which I hosted. There were many UNFCCC [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] COP [Conference of Parties] meetings. And each time they have had their commitment. Finally in Durban, 2011, the Member States have agreed to agree an agreement – agreed to agree. That was a good start, a good beginning. Now, it was reaffirmed in Doha 2012, let’s have an agreement. It was re-reaffirmed a third time in Warsaw. Now it will be agreed for a fourth time in Lima. Now, we are working very hard including the UNFCCC meeting in Berlin last week to have a draft text. We have been working without draft, just talking. We are trying to converge partial or whatever kind of agreements or understandings into a draft. We are trying our best to have this draft presented to the Member States in Lima in December this year. I am told that that has been smooth and quite good progress [has been made] until now. But what is important is that they must strengthen and focus more and concentrate their efforts in having the draft and let this draft be ready for very serious and intense negotiations next year. I am confident that we will do it, we can make it happen. This assessment report has made a huge impact and in my summit meeting in September the leaders of the world – more than 120 leaders participated – and almost 1,000 business leaders and pledged their commitment. Thousands and thousands of citizens, they participated. And now it is clear that government, business communities and civil society are united.

But how to balance all these different national priorities into a global vision-based and solutions-based model – that is our work for the negotiators. Leaders have given clear directions to the negotiators. I think they have to work. And I am confident that with your support we can make it for humanity. Thank you.