New York

28 September 2006

Remarks by the Secretary-general introducing Al Gore's lecture, "An inconvenient truth"

Dear friends,

I am delighted to welcome you to another in our series of public lectures. I am especially pleased to see such a large turnout, since this evening event is a break from our tradition of lunchtime talks.

We have a real treat in store for us tonight. Our guest needs no introduction. His long career in public service earned global renown and recognition. But lately he has taken a new role, and become one of the most unexpected movie stars of the year.

It is not every day that a documentary on a grim subject can compete with thrillers, comedies and love stories. But the success of “An Inconvenient Truth” –it is both a best-selling book and one of the highest-grossing documentaries in American film history –has been quite remarkable. I believe it shows there is a real concern about climate change, and most of all a real hunger to do something about it.

The carbon-based economy is in many respects an uncontrolled experiment on the global climate, with serious risks for all countries, rich and poor alike. We need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which means altering how we live and do business. We need to adapt to the climate change that is inevitable because of the massive accumulation of past emissions.

We are far from helpless in the face of this challenge. There are many things we can do to reduce risks and protect ourselves from the extreme weather associated with climate change.

We also need to re-frame the debate. Climate change still tends to be perceived as an environmental concern. But it has profound implications for jobs, growth, health and almost all other aspects of human well-being, including security. Until we properly understand the full nature of this threat, our action will fall short.

Al Gore has been doing his best, and with great passion, to avert such a disaster. He is of course no recent convert to the cause, but rather one of its long-time leaders. His book, “Earth in the Balance”, remains as relevant today as when it was published 14 years ago. And just last week, as Richard Branson himself has said, it was Al Gore who inspired him to make his pledge to invest a remarkable $3 billion over the next decade in efforts to find alternative energy sources and to fight climate change.

But Al Gore is not only a champion of the environment. He is a good friend of the United Nations. And may I add, on a personal note, that he is also showing that there is life after public office. Perhaps I shall take to the road with a slide show of my own at some point!

For now, let us hear what our guest has to say on an issue of vital importance to our common future. After his presentation, he has kindly agreed to take a few of your questions, and then stay on to sign copies of the book. I hope you will all take advantage of his presence here tonight to become more “climate conscious” and join this fight.

Thank you very much. Al, you have the floor.