London, England

29 March 2012

Secretary-General's video message to Planet Under Pressure Conference

Your Excellency Mr. David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science of the United Kingdom, Dr. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, Dr. Lidia Brito and Dr. Mark Stafford Smith, Conference Co-Chairs, Ladies and Gentlemen and all those joining this event by webcast,

I welcome the initiative of the International Council of Science and the global research programmes that have worked together to organize this conference.
Climate change, the financial crisis and food, water and energy insecurity threaten human well-being and civilization as we know it.
The scientific community can help us make sense of these complex and interconnected challenges, including by strengthening our understanding of “planetary boundaries” and “critical thresholds”.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is just one example of what we can do together.
But policy makers often fail to turn to scientists for advice, or discount it too easily owing to electoral or other political considerations.
At the same time, scientific advice is sometimes unclear or even contradictory.
Scientists themselves often work in silos, ignoring broader factors.
My High-level Panel on Global Sustainability has just recommended that I consider naming a chief scientific adviser or establishing a scientific board to advise me and other organs of the United Nations.
As I take this recommendation forward -- with support from Director-General Bokova -- I also intend to engage the scientific community on other projects, such as the Global Sustainable Development Outlook report.
I am also ready to work with the scientific community on the launch of a large-scale scientific initiative.
I welcome the State of the Planet declaration issued today by the Co-chairs of this conference. Its timing, two months before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, could not be better. Rio+20 is a major opportunity to advance the policy–science interface.
I look forward to working with the scientific community towards a more coherent, science-based and effective approach to today’s global challenges.
Thank you.