03 December 2018

Transcript of Secretary-General’s joint press conference with Mr. Andrzej Duda, President of Poland

Thank you very much, Mr. President, and allow me first of all to express my deep gratitude for Poland’s hospitality and Katowice’s hospitality in relation to the COP, and your commitment, your personal commitment, for Poland to generously accept to lead once more the COP process.
As you said, Mr. President, we cannot afford to fail in Katowice.
Climate change is still running faster than what we are. We need to reverse this trend and Katowice is an essential platform for this reversal to take place.
And for that, I count on two things: I count on the dynamic leadership of Poland as an honest broker, as bridge builder, as a convener to help countries come together, and find solutions for the points in which they are still divided.
And I also count on the conscience of Member States, of all Member States present, that to come to an agreement is an absolute must. That means naturally that final conclusions are not necessarily what each one would exactly want but it is the compromise that is absolutely essential for the international community to be united to be able to defeat climate change.
And indeed, we are facing a paradox: we see what is happening on the ground being worse than the predictions that were made. We see climate change running faster than expected. We see the rise of the temperature of the water faster than expected. We see the melting in the Arctic and the Antarctic faster than expected. We see glaciers receding faster than expected. We see corals bleaching faster than expected. We see natural disasters becoming more and more dramatic, but also more frequent and more intense, with terrible consequences for people - and I witnessed them recently in the Caribbean and I witnessed myself the tragedy involved by this terrible multiplication of natural disasters.
So the realities are worse than expected but the political will to fight climate change has relatively faded after Paris. Paris was a very important moment that reached an essential goal that is necessary to preserve the planet and that goal is that the temperature [by the end] of the century will not rise by more than 1.5 degrees ideally, and always less than 2 degrees.

But at the same time in Paris, countries made commitments in relation to their emissions and other aspects, but those commitments would not allow us to reach that goal of 1.5°C, that would lead still to an increase of about 3 degrees, which of course would be catastrophic for the planet.
So, Paris commitments are not enough to reach the Paris goals but unfortunately since Paris the implementation of those commitments for the majority of the countries has been less ambitious than the commitments themselves. We are off track. We will not reach 2020 with what was promised in Paris and at the same time what was promised in Paris is not enough. So we need a huge increase in ambition and that increase in ambition will have the moment to be expressed in the Climate Summit I’ve convened in 2019 and in the new Nationally Determined Contributions that countries will assume in 2020 when reviewing the engagements that they made in Paris.
We need more ambition if we want to defeat climate change.
But Katowice is an essential platform for that ambition to be possible. Because Katowice is where we believe we will have the approval of the work programme of Paris. Katowice is where we will define the guidelines to implement the Paris agreement, knowing that there are common and differentiated responsibilities taking into account different capabilities and different national circumstances, which of course is a general principle that now needs to be fine-tuned into concrete solutions, both in relation to the aspect of transparency, in reporting, to the aspects related to transparency in financing and to different other very important questions that will need to be fixed here in Katowice.
At the same time, Katowice with the Talanoa dialogue that concludes will hopefully give a strong impulse to that increased ambition that we need in relation to the engagements that countries are assuming to defeat climate change.
So we put a lot of hope in this COP. This COP is an absolutely vital instrument in the strategy to defeat climate change. And as I said, we cannot afford to fail.
And at the same time, we need to do it based on a perspective that is linked to a fair view of globalization. A perspective that takes into account the vulnerability of certain areas of the globe, that of course need a stronger solidarity. Look at the islands of the Pacific, islands of the Caribbean, areas in Africa that are facing huge desertification. But also solidarity in relation to the areas that will suffer the impact of the measures necessary for climate action.
And that is why transitions are important and that is why international solidarity is relevant. Our approach has always been in all these dimensions to leave no one behind, which is as you know the main slogan of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. And we believe that there will be in the way we all in solidarity will work together for the future, there will the capacity to [benefit from] what science is already demonstrating, what technology is already demonstrating: that the green economy is the good economy, is the profitable economy, and that those who will not bet on the green economy will have a grey future, and will inevitably have a secondary role in the global economy of the future. Katowice will be another important step in that way.
Q: Sometimes there is a big difference between the ambitions and declarations and the actual realization of those purposes and so I would like to ask you if there any mechanism which would allow us to make countries responsible for their commitments.
SG: I have three reasons to be optimistic in relation to the question that was asked.
One, I’ve been in politics for most of my life before getting into these new activities and when being in politics, I learned that the action of governments is largely dependent on what they expect about votes and what are the positions of the public opinion.
And I see the public opinions clearly gaining conscience that the dangers of climate change are starting to threaten them directly. I mean, we see public health for example, dramatic impacts on public health due to climate change and to pollution in general. The last report of the World Health Organization (WHO) is quite dramatic.
And we see the storms, even in countries like the United States, which has recently an absolutely dramatic hurricane in Florida.
I feel that more and more, public opinions and young people, very strongly, are understanding that this is very dangerous and are starting to ask their Governments to be accountable in relation to climate action.
The second reason why I’m optimistic is that technology is evolving extraordinarily in favour of the green economy in general and this is amazing.
When I was in Government, we approved legislation to allow for a more speedy development of renewable energy, but we still had to introduce some subsidy component. What we see today is that those renewable energies that we were trying to promote, solar, wind, etc. are now in my own country more profitable than the traditional forms.
And the same is happening, I mean, we will have soon batteries with the capacity to store energy that will facilitate the use of renewable energies. We are moving into electric mobility… I mean technology is in [our] favor and this is very important because that changes the economic plan.
And third, because I see a huge dynamism in civil society and the youth dynamism. We had appealing to this Summit a letter from, I suppose, 30 CEOs of some of the most important companies in the world.
They were telling us that we need to act and to act more quickly. The business community is understanding the need for change and is understanding that the need for change is also good for business, and the civil society is very actively engaged, and the cities and the regions are showing the way so all this makes me believe that the political will would tend to increase and that we will be able to defeat climate change.
Q: […] You spoke this morning about the implementation of the Paris agreement but also about “just transition” with President Duda. We are facing in France a “Yellow Jacket” movement which precisely started with carbon tax opposition, so do you think it’s a kind of illustration that there is a lack of dialogue to explain this energetic and ecological transition?
SG: I’m not in a position to make any specific comment about a situation that I have not followed from the beginning and I don’t know exactly its details. 
As a general principle I tend to be very supportive of the thesis of [Jurgen] Habermas, that considers that one of his ideas is that one of the characteristics of modern democracy is the interflux of communication between the political society and the civil society and the fact that that interflux of communication impacts on political decisions allowing for a good understanding between political establishment and public opinion. But as I said, this is a general principle, I cannot comment specifically on a situation whose origins I do not know exactly.
Q: […] Do you think religions have a role to play in the field of climate change?
SG: I do believe that if one is a believer and one believes that the world is created by God, it must be terrible to see human beings destroying God’s creation. So I think it’s perfectly normal that a religion that believes in the work of the Creator is totally against the destruction of the work of the Creator that human beings are [carrying out at present]. So I think it is perfectly normal that his Holiness the Pope, not only this Pope, it comes from the past, have a very positive position in relation to climate action.
[…] It’s not only Christianity, I was speaking to Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi of India recently and asking him what was his motivation for his very strong commitment to climate action and he said it’s in the Vedas, the founding books of Hinduism. I think this is felt in all religions, so I don’t think we should be surprised by his Holiness’ position.