Buenos Aires

29 November 2018

Full transcript of UN Secretary-General's press encounter in Buenos Aires ahead of G20 Leaders' Summit [English and Spanish]

Buenas tardes a todos. Es un gran placer estar aquí en Buenos Aires. Si me permiten yo no hable español, hablo portuñol, y es muy difícil hacer la intervención en portuñol, entonces, iré a hacer algunas afirmaciones en inglés, pero después estoy disponible para contestar a las preguntas que sean hechas en español.
 
I believe many people would ask, in a moment of such high level of lack of confidence within the international community, of high level of confrontation, even, between powers, be it in the security dimension or in the trade dimension – does it make sense to have the G20 meeting? And my answer is clear; it is exactly because of the lack of confidence, it is because of the risk of confrontation and escalation that it is absolutely essential to have a forum like this working.
 
I want to express my deep appreciation to President Macri and to the Government of Argentina for the engagement, the commitment and the persistence that they have put in order to organize this meeting in the complex situation in the international community that we all know.
 
From the point of view of the Secretary-General of the United Nations there are two main concerns - I would say two main messages – that I would like to convey during this meeting.
The first is related to the level of mistrust that I spoke about, because it is not only mistrust among States; there is a very high level of mistrust between peoples in general and institutions – their  governments, their parliaments – but also international organizations.

Globalization and technological change have of course produced enormous benefits to humankind: growth of the global economy, growth of the global trade, improvement, even at the level of reduction of extreme poverty. But at the same time, we see everywhere those that are the losers of globalization, those that were left behind – people, regions, sectors – that feel angry, that feel frustrated, that many times consider that there was not enough effort from their government, or from international organizations like the UN, in order to attend their problems, to attend their difficulties in the rustbelts of this world. I think it is very important to come together, the different countries around the world, and to have a common strategy for a fair globalization, which means a globalization that leaves no one behind. This is exactly the purpose of the Agenda 2030 that was approved in a summit in New York in the United Nations with the Sustainable Development Goals aiming at the eradication of poverty, enormous efforts in education, health, preserving the oceans, addressing climate change, addressing governance problems around the world, and it is my hope that this meeting will allow leaders to assume a very strong commitment to support the Agenda 2030, to support the Sustainable Development Goals, and that support is more needed than ever. Because, if one looks at the present trends, and if one looks at the goals of what is established for 2030, if we go on at the present level, we will only reach halfway, which means we need increased commitment by governments, we need increased commitment by the private sector, we need increased mobilization of resources both with the support of developed world to the developing world but also mobilization of resources within the developing world, and that requires a strong political commitment and I believe the G20 is – with the presence of the largest economies in the world – the right place to ask for that commitment.
 
The second message is related to climate change. Climate change is running faster than we have, and we are facing an extremely difficult situation.
 
When one looks at what is happening on the ground, when we see the temperature of the ocean rising faster than the predictions, when we see the way the Arctic ice cover is reducing every summer to unprecedented levels, where we see glaciers receding, corals bleaching, and when we see the multiplication of natural disasters that are becoming more intense, more dramatic, with more tragic humanitarian consequences, it is clear that the reality is more dramatic than the forecasts that were made. Things are getting worse than it was expected, everywhere. We estimate that the cost of keeping things as they are, just in relation of natural disasters around the world, would be – up to 2030 – something of the order of US$21 trillion. So, it is my deep belief that this needs to be taken very seriously by the international community. The truth is that after the Paris Agreement, with predictions becoming not only very [inaudible] but realities being even worse than what was predicted, there has been a certain fading of political will, and it is absolutely necessary to restore that political will – at the level of government; at the level of cities; at the level of business communities; at the level of civil societies everywhere in the world – if we do not want to lose that race, which would be absolutely tragic for humankind.
 
It is now clear, that the Paris Agreement needs to be fully met. But it’s not enough to meet the commitments that were made by countries in the Paris Agreement; the objective is, as you know, to make sure that the growth in temperature until the end of the century will be below two degrees and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. Recent scientific evidence demonstrates that it’s really needed to get close to 1.5 degrees. Now, with the commitment made in Paris we will still reach an increase of more than three degrees at the end of the century, which means that we need to fully – fully – implement what was agreed in Paris, and we are not yet doing so, and at the same time increase our ambition.
 
This G20 meeting is very important because it precedes the Katowice COP24, the Conference of the Parties related to climate change, where it is absolutely essential to move forward in relation to the Work Programme of the Paris Agreement – the rule book – and where it’s also clear that people must be reassured in relation to the financial perspectives for climate change, the $100 billion that were promised from 2020 onwards, and at the same time, that countries are ready to accept an increased ambition in relation to climate targets.

It is my belief that this is possible. It is my belief that technology is on our side – we see renewable energy now cheaper and more competitive than fossil fuels, we see the green economy becoming the best economy, and I have no doubt that those that will not bet on the green economy will have a grey future, and will not have a positive position in the global economy in the decades to come, but political will is lacking. That is why it’s so important to come here and to express to political leaders how important it is for everybody to understand that this is a make it or break it moment in relation to guaranteeing that the Paris Agreement is implemented and that we are able, and I’m convening the Climate Summit for September next year, that we are able to increase our ambition and to assume in 2020, when the engagement will be reviewed, a much more ambitious programme of action in order to be able to tame climate change and in order to be able to guarantee that we will be able to live in a healthy planet.
 
Spokesperson: OK, por favor su nombre y el medio al que representan, y por favor utilicen el micrófono. Empezamos por acá, Tais.
 
Question: Voy a hablar en español ¿puede ser? Soy Tais Gadea Lara, del Canal de la Ciudad. Mi pregunta sigue en torno a lo que dijo sobre cambio climático. Usted describió muy bien la situación del impacto del cambio climático pero, al mismo tiempo, la falta de voluntad política y el fracaso que hubo. Mi pregunta gira en torno a cómo desde Naciones Unidas se va a tratar de impulsar para que las políticas realmente sean más ambiciosas y urgentes en torno a lo que el planeta necesita, y si va a aprovechar el contexto del G20 para pedirles a los gobiernos que presenten propuestas concretas y ambiciosas en la Cumbre de septiembre del próximo año.
 
Secretary-General: Estamos haciendo consultas en todo el mundo, incluso en la preparación de la COP24 de la que hablé. Estamos pidiendo a todos, en primer lugar, un sentido constructivo de compromiso para evitar una división Norte-Sur que sería dramática en Katowice. Es necesario un compromiso sobre el programa de trabajo del acuerdo de París; y al mismo tiempo, la convocatoria de la Cumbre para septiembre es, exactamente, para pedir a los Estados que aumenten su nivel de ambición, que sean capaces de plantear en 2020 compromisos sobre los niveles de emisión y otras medidas complementarias capaces de reconducir el mundo a la perspectiva de un incremento de temperatura limitado a 1.5 grados al final del siglo, lo que no está aconteciendo ahora, ¿no?. Entonces, es necesario mucha más ambición y también es necesario tomar un conjunto de medidas que están andando muy lentamente. Seguimos con subsidios a los combustibles fósiles, ya el problema no es de necesitar, de ser necesario subsidiar a la energía renovable para que sea competitiva: las energías renovables ya son competitivas, pero siguen políticas de subsidios a los combustibles fósiles. Para mí es una anécdota que es muy conocida: la edad de la piedra no había terminado porque no había más piedras; había muchas piedras, pero el mundo ha descubierto que había maneras mejores de solucionar sus problemas. Y la edad de los combustibles fósiles no va a terminar cuando terminen los combustibles fósiles: creo que hay que invertir en las alternativas que permiten una mejor solución de nuestros problemas. Por otro lado, el impuesto a las emisiones de carbono es algo que sólo se cobra en el 20 por ciento de las emisiones. Hay decisiones políticas muy importantes que los Estados, que los grupos de Estados, tienen que tomar si queremos vivir en un planeta habitable en el futuro.
 
Question: Patrick Gillespie with Bloomberg news. Two questions in English. Do you see a specific timetable for a potential ceasefire in Yemen? My second question is, the United Nations prides itself in maintaining dialogue during difficult times, are you concerned that the US President and the Russian President will not be meeting here at the G20 as they previously planned?
 
Secretary-General:  In relation to Yemen, we are making all efforts, I’ve already been in contact this morning with Martin Griffiths, he’s been shuttling between Sana’a, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. I don’t want to raise too many expectations, but we’re working hard in order to make sure that we can start meaningful peace talks still this year. But as you know there have been some setbacks in the sense that bombardments have gone on, that there was a new set of missile attacks from the Houthi side to Saudi Arabia so a number of setbacks are taking place, so we are working hard to create the conditions for those peace talks to start, hopefully this year. But I don’t want to raise too many expectations because as you know when we raise to many expectations, we sometimes do not contribute to the success of our endeavours.

On the other hand, I see with a lot of concern the recent escalation in relation to the situation that occurred close to the Sea of Azov. I hope that that escalation can be contained. It is clear that the territorial integrity of the Ukraine must be respected, and obviously I understand the level of tension that exists in this moment but I hope that there will be a capacity of the international community to avoid this situation to escalate, and to pave the way for the mechanism that exists and a lawful meaningful dialogue in relation to the situation, namely, that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine can avoid the worst and, if possible, come into a more positive direction.
 
Spokesperson: Siguiente pregunta, ahí atrás.
 
Question: Quiero volver sobre el tema de Yemen. Quería saber, porque se habló ayer de esta posibilidad, si usted va a tener una reunión con el príncipe saudita Mohammed sobre el tema de Yemen.
 
Secretary-General: Nuestro programa aún no está totalmente definido, pero es obvio que hay un interés vital en tener conversaciones con las partes del conflicto, para garantizar que los obstáculos que aún existen sean removidos y un diálogo para la paz que termine el más trágico conflicto desde el punto de vista del impacto humanitario, pueda terminar. Yo estoy completamente disponible para discutir con todas las autoridades sauditas, a todos los niveles, lo que sea necesario; incluso también con los otros protagonistas de la crisis, para que una solución sea encontrada. Naturalmente, si hay condiciones para hacerlo aquí, aquí va a ser.
 
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, Alan Fisher from Al Jazeera English. Can I ask you how concerned you are that this G20 meeting will be overshadowed by the international row over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, over what has happened in Ukraine over the last few days, over the continued row between the US and China, how do you expect countries to work together rather than adopt a me-first attitude?
 
Answer: That’s exactly what I would like to ask you [laughter]. That’s exactly the objective. That’s exactly the difficulty. But one thing is clear. We are facing global challenges. Terrorism, climate change, the lack of capacity of managing the migration phenomenon without international cooperation, and it is clear that there is no way global challenges can be address in isolation, country by country. It is clear we need global responses to global challenges and so even with all the problems, even with all the difficulties, even with all the contradictions, I do believe that the only way we can produce results is through bringing people together for international cooperation. This is an occasion where an opportunity exists and as I said, I praised the government of Argentina for their strong commitment to make it happen and hopefully to allow for some progress to take place.
 
Question: Are you worried though, that these events, such as the Jamal Khashoggi killing, other events…
 
Answer: It is clear that all the events that you mentioned do not facilitate a G20 meeting in which people can concentrate more effectively in addressing the problems of the global economy, the problems of climate change and others. It is obvious - but we should never stop addressing the central problems of our time just because other things are happening that of course are troubling and are creating serious concerns to many of us.
 
Spokesperson: Vamos a tomar dos preguntas más. A ver, nombre y medio.
 
Question: soy Natalia Kidd de la Agencia EFE. Volviendo al tema de Yemen, en las últimas horas se habló sobre la posibilidad de una reunión, de conversaciones en Estocolmo la semana próxima. ¿Está completamente descartado o hay todavía una ventana de oportunidad de iniciar la semana que viene?
 
Secretary-General: No creo que sea necesariamente la semana que viene, porque como dije hay algunos obstáculos aún que tienen que ser removidos, pero estamos totalmente comprometidos para hacer todo lo posible para que empiecen lo más temprano posible efectivas negociaciones intra-Yemen para solucionar el problema. Es peor anunciar cosas que después no se verifican. Estamos totalmente determinados, pero no quiero dar garantías de cosas que aún no están efectivamente garantizadas.
 
Question: Alicia Rinaldi de la Agencia Italiana ANSA. Puntualmente quería consultarlo por la situación de los centroamericanos en México que pretenden cruzar a Estados Unidos. Van aumentando, se está hablando ya de unas diez mil personas. ¿Qué se puede hacer antes de que este problema se agrande y pueda terminar en una tragedia humanitaria? Y, concretamente, si Estados Unidos ha violado el debido proceso, dado el reclamo de asilo y ante la situación de violencia que sufren estas personas.
 
Secretary-General: En este momento hay un diálogo entre las agencias de Naciones Unidas que son responsables por esta área: el Alto Comisionado para los Refugiados y la Organización Internacional de Migraciones con las autoridades de todos los países de la región estamos cooperando con todas ellas. El objetivo, naturalmente, es crear condiciones para que haya un respeto de la legislación internacional sobre refugiados y, al mismo tiempo, una posibilidad de encontrar soluciones humanas para un problema muy complejo. Naturalmente reconocemos que todos los Estados tienen el derecho de definir sus propias políticas migratorias y de manejar de forma responsable sus fronteras, pero también que deben hacerlo con preocupaciones de protección, sobre todo para los más vulnerables.
 
SG Spokesperson: Última...
 
Question: Virginia Solana de la Agencia Télam. Sobre la crisis migratoria en Venezuela, ¿qué opina de la respuesta que dieron los líderes regionales y, si no está de acuerdo, qué sugiere?
 
Secretary-General: Estamos cooperando muy activamente con todos los países de la región. El ACNUR y la OIM han creado un mecanismo de coordinación, todas las agencias de Naciones Unidas están involucradas. Hay un coordinador global, que es el antiguo vicepresidente de Guatemala... Se está trabajando muy activamente con todos los Estados para dar una respuesta a un flujo muy, muy dramático de venezolanos que están llegando a Colombia, sobre todo, pero a los distintos países de la región. Creo que en este momento estamos con un programa de acción de todos los Estados en curso y vamos a hacer un llamado internacional para garantizar los fondos necesarios para poder ser usados en el asilo humanitario a los venezolanos.
 
Spokesperson: Muchas gracias.