New York

22 September 2009

Secretary-General's remarks to United Nations Leadership Forum on Climate Change

Good afternoon

Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Ministers, Your Highnesses, Excellencies, Distinguished guests,

Former Vice President Al Gore, Prime Minister [Lars L√łkke] Rasmussen of Denmark,

I am delighted to be here.

First of all, I apologise for being late. I have been held up by all these continuing bilateral meetings with Heads of State and Government.

I appreciate your participation in this forum.

Never before has the United Nations brought together so many Heads of State, together with leaders of the business community. This is a great event. I am very much encouraged, and thank you very much for your commitment and leadership and participation in this climate change summit meeting.

This morning you must have witnessed yourselves how much energy and dynamism the leaders have demonstrated during this very brief opening session. I am sure that during this morning's roundtable, leaders must have demonstrated this commitment. I hope during this afternoon they will do the same.

Several leaders from developed countries, Japan and the European Union, have again reaffirmed their strong commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. It was an historic and strong commitment and particularly from Japan. You should remember how difficult it might have been for you, Prime Minister [Yukio Hatoyama] -- who has been in his office only six days -- and has changed the whole dynamic!

I was very much encouraged by such a pool of energy and dynamism, and I appreciate all the distinguished heads of state and government for your strong commitment and demonstrating your political leadership so that negotiators will get clear guidelines and directions.

Your presence speaks to the urgency of the challenge before us. It highlights the tremendous opportunity we have to build political momentum to seal a deal on climate change this December in Copenhagen. I count on the leadership of Prime Minister Rasmussen. I hope you have strong shoulders.

Time is short. We need bold leadership from all sectors of society.

I hope your discussions today will help policy makers to develop the arguments for decisive action.

A low-carbon economy can be achieved, and can be economically viable, with the right policy signals.

An agreement in Copenhagen will help to fundamentally transform the global economy. It can spur innovation, unleash investments on an unprecedented scale and power green growth across the planet.

I have spoken with many business and civil society leaders in the past few years. Many are already taking bolder steps. Making the right investments. Developing innovative solutions.

They understand, you understand, that the short-term cost of action is far outweighed by the long-term price of inaction.

They understand that doing the right thing for the climate is also the right thing for global competitiveness and long-term prosperity.

My friends, we face a phenomenally complex challenge, including a negotiating process with many actors and interests. But the overall choice should be clear to all.

It is a choice between sustainable growth and economic turmoil, a choice between inclusive global markets and trade anarchy, a choice between a healthy planet and environmental catastrophe.

Failure is not an option. There is no Plan B. We must seal the deal in Copenhagen.

And again, I wish you all a productive forum and discussions; most importantly, your strong leadership and commitment.

Thank you very much.