UN Headquarters

23 September 2014

Remarks at the Climate Summit press conference (including comments on Syria)

Ban Ki-moon

Good morning, Bonjour.

It is a great pleasure to see you today. Thank you for your commitment in covering climate change discussions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I focus on climate change, let me just say a few words, with the understanding of the two Presidents. It was not scheduled, but I need to say something about the situation in Syria.

Please note that we will take questions only on climate change.

I am going to say something about the United Nations position on Syria.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For more than a year, I have sounded the alarm bells about the brutality of extremist armed groups in Syria and the critical threat they pose to Syria and to international peace and security. While the rise of these extremist groups in Syria is a consequence and not a cause of Syria's tragic civil war, there can be no justification for their barbarity and the suffering they impose on the Syrian people.

I welcome the international solidarity to confront this challenge, as demonstrated by the unanimous passage of Security Council Resolution 2170 just a few weeks ago.

Confronting terrorist groups operating in Syria requires a multi-facetted approach. This approach should be designed to address the immediate security risks, to stop atrocity crimes and, over the longer term, to eliminate the conditions in which these groups take root.

I urge the world leaders gathered in New York, especially those participating in tomorrow’s Security Council Summit on foreign terrorist fighters, to come together decisively in support of efforts to confront these groups. As the custodian of the principles of the United Nations, I would like to underscore the importance that all measures must be fully in line with the Charter of the United Nations and need to operate strictly in accordance with international humanitarian law.

I have placed the protection of civilians at the top of my agenda. In the case of Syria, there can be no genuine protection if extremist groups are permitted to act with impunity and if the Syrian Government continues to commit gross human rights violations against its own citizens. Protecting the Syrian people requires immediate action, but action that is rooted in the principles of the United Nations.

I regret the loss of any civilian lives as a result of strikes against targets in Syria. The parties involved in this campaign must abide by international humanitarian law and take all necessary precautions to avoid and minimize civilian casualties. I am aware that today’s strikes were not carried out at the direct request of the Syrian Government, but I note that the Government was informed beforehand. I also note that the strikes took place in areas no longer under the effective control of that Government.

I think it is undeniable – and the subject of broad international consensus – that these extremist groups pose an immediate threat to international peace and security.

Thank you for your attention. Now let me turn to climate change,the subject of this press conference.

I am honoured to be joined by a number of very important guests.

Climate change has been a priority for me since I took office.

We need to take action now to limit global temperature rise.

We need all hands on deck to ride this storm.

That is why I called this Summit.

This gathering is unprecedented.

More than 120 world leaders, joined by many more business, finance and civil society leaders have come to focus on climate change.

But this Summit is not about talk.

The Climate Summit is producing actions that make a difference.

This weekend hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets around the world to demand leadership – and results.

I joined the marchers here in New York.

They gave me the box with 2 million signatures.

They asked me to bring their voices into the halls of the United Nations.

That is what I have done.

Our duty now is to listen.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this morning that New York City is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Today a coalition of more than 200 mayors, representing 400 million people, will sign a Mayor’s Compact to reduce annual emissions by between 12.4 and 16.4 per cent.

Announcements on agriculture and forests will highlight a commitment by many of the world’s largest and most well-known companies to adapt their supply chains to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change.

They will assist 500 million farmers in the process.

Oil and gas companies are today announcing initiatives that will advance efforts to curb the release of methane gas, a highly potent greenhouse gas.

Some of the largest financial institutions, investors, banks and insurance companies will announce that they will shift more than 200 billion dollars toward building low-carbon economies by 2015.

Countries are also making significant national announcements.

I would now like to turn to the leaders of France and Peru, who will be leading the negotiating process toward a meaningful universal climate [agreement.]

They are here to announce their national actions to address climate change. I would like to invite President Hollande to speak, followed by President Humala.

[President Francois Hollande of France; President Ollanta Humala of Peru; Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chair of the African Union; President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Mr. Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro; Mr. Helge Lund, CEO of the Statoil Group; Mr. Mats Andersson, CEO of AP4 and Mr. David Maclennan, President and CEO of Cargill then addressed the media]

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been repeating many, many times, but let me just repeat what I have been saying. I was told that communication is repetition. Just a one-time message may not be sufficient, therefore I am again – even though you have heard a lot of eloquent speakers during this morning – but I have to repeat again.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time. It is not a distant threat. It is coming and approaching much, much faster than we may think. The United Nations was flooded for the first time in 70 years.

All of us have a stake in this fight – and all of us can make a difference.

Every action counts – large and small. The tendency is that they only look to the Governments, but now all business communities are on board, and even the individual person - they can make a difference. Just using sparingly even one single jug of water, or sparing use of electricity – all this will make a difference.

We cannot negotiate with Mother Nature. Mother Nature does not wait. So it is us human beings who have to adapt to the changing situation.

There can be no Plan B because we don’t have a Planet B. The way we consume seems to suggest that we have another planet Earth. We don’t have that luxury.

Leaders must set the world on a trajectory to limit global warming below 2 degrees Centigrade.

There is no more time for business as usual.

The more we delay, the more we will have to pay.

We need to cut emissions and work towards carbon neutrality. The United Nations has made a firm commitment that we will make all the United Nations systems carbon [neutral] by 2020. This is what we have decided just a couple of weeks ago.

We need to invest more money in tomorrow’s green economy.

We need to put a price on carbon and pollution.

And we need to strengthen resilience to the changes to come.

That means getting all hands on deck.

Again, I thank you very much for your strong commitment. Now, my regret is that I may have to run without being able to answer your questions, because I have to conclude this [Climate Change] Summit meeting. I cannot make all the leaders wait. But I have the Assistant Secretary-General who is the head of Climate Change research policy – chief policy advisor for the United Nations - Bob Orr. He will be happy to answer your questions. I hope you will understand. Thank you very much.