08 October 2016

Secretary-General’s joint press conference with Mrs. Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland [including Q&A]

Thank you Madame Foreign Minister, Góðan daginn.
It is a great pleasure to visit Iceland for the [second] time. I am happy to see former President Grimsson who is now taking another very important leadership role as a former President and also President of this Arctic [Circle].
Since I have said enough about climate change [in my speech], I will stop here but as she [the Foreign Minister] said – I don’t want to repeat the subjects we have been discussing – but we are in full agreement. My only ambitious demand is that Iceland should do much more.
Iceland is a shining example in every aspect of our life. Even though Iceland may be small and not a powerful country, but not being a powerful country has more leverage sometimes, more legitimacy talking about rule of law, democracy, human rights, sustainable development, climate change, transparency, accountability: the reputation of Iceland in good in all these aspects.
I can only ask Iceland and the people of Iceland to even do more, to lead a campaign. We are living in a very difficult world but at the same time, we have shown some good visions for a better future: we ask Iceland to do [even] more contributions to a better future.
While the Syrian and other crisis will be handled by the Security Council and my successor at the political level, we really count on your Government strong engagement for sustainable development, climate change and gender equality.
Thank you very much, I’ll be happy to answer your questions.
Question on the responsibility of Iceland regarding the Arctic region?
Secretary-General: Every country has a critical role to play but when it comes to Iceland – you have so much glaciers which should be naturally preserved in a sustainable way, [and] this ocean issue is one of the important goals of the Sustainable Development Goals, climate change is a very important one, so I have been emphasizing the important role, crucial role of your country.
In that regard this Arctic [Assembly’s] role led by President Grimsson can continuously play a very important role.
This is the test ground, a bellwether of what may be coming so still we should never relent our efforts. Just adopting and ratifying this climate change [agreement] is just the beginning. We have come such a long way, a long way – at least 20 plus years – now we have reached very important momentum.
There is momentum created among governments, civil society and business communities. The science is very much united. Now climate deniers, skeptics, their voice has been silenced.
Therefore it is a matter of moving ahead as quickly as possible in an accelerated way. We count on Iceland’s contribution.
Question on China’s role in fight against climate change?
Secretary-General: When it comes to China, I can only say we are so much grateful, we are -- not [only] me; the whole international community.
When the Chinese Government hosted G20 summit meeting in Hangzhou, the Chinese President initiated a very welcome initiative to have China and the United States ratify and deposit in person with me the legal document[s] of ratification. That happened in Hangzhou in early September, on September 5th.
I went there and I received all these legal documents of ratification. Before that there were 22 countries that ratified. Already, the aggregate percentage of greenhouse gas emissions emitted by these 22 countries reached [the] almost negligible [amount of] 0.00 something [percent]. Only with China and the United States depositing, ratifying, we reached 39 percent.
It has shown great political impact. People were very much excited. We were close to the 55 percent threshold. Since then, many countries [have been] competitively depositing.
The European Union played a very important role last week by allowing individual countries to ratify on a fast-track basis without waiting until all 28 countries ratified. That made us move ahead to another very important moment. As of October 4th, we have crossed over this 55 percent threshold. Now we have 75 countries accounting for 59 percent [of emissions.]
Now it is a matter of increasing universality. We are now counting the 30-days period [ending on] November 4th. We will have the first ratifiers meeting on November 15th in Marrakesh. I deeply appreciate the Chinese contribution, together with the United States.
Question on transformative technologies being overlooked in the Paris Agreement?
Secretary-General: I have some message of appreciation to governments and businesses communities about this transformative technology development. It has been and it continues to play a very important role: the level of technology development of yesterday will be very different by the end of tomorrow.
Therefore, while we may think that it will take a longer time, depending upon how we do, with a stronger political will and with the persons using tools and means, particularly through scientific, technological development, we will be able to achieve this much, much faster than expected. We may not have to wait until the end of the century.
This is a long-term goal: that is why we will have every five year review so that we can accelerate considering the development [of new technologies], which we have to keep up with.
I am hopeful that we can handle this climate change phenomenon. As I said there is momentum. There is full participation. What seemed to be impossible is now unstoppable. Nobody can stop it. This is irreversible and inevitable and markets understand that it is inevitable. They have to go to a low-carbon economy, a climate-resilient economy is our answer.
Let’s use full technological development, including social media. You may be surprised that even at the time of my taking over as Secretary-General, there was no smartphone ten years ago. People believe that smartphones have been there twenty, thirty years ago, but it’s a very recent one.
Let’s use social media so that mobilizing all this political will and pushing, pulling the governments and business community, we can use social media. Media can play a very important role.
Thank you very much.