Rio de Janeiro

20 June 2012

Secretary-General's remarks to Rio+20 Conference Ceremonial Opening Session - as delivered

This is a historic day.  A major step towards the future we want.

President Rousseff, let us once again thank you for your leadership, and your election as President of this conference.

You have taken on a profound challenge.

For on this day, ladies and gentlemen, we gather in Rio de Janeiro to shape the future of humankind.

Let us not mistake this for hyperbole … mere rhetoric. To the contrary, we are here to face an existential reality.

Twenty years ago, the Earth Summit put sustainable development on the global agenda.

Yet let me be frank: our efforts have not lived up to the measure of the challenge.

For too long, we have behaved as though we could … indefinitely … burn and consume our way to prosperity.

Today, we recognize that we can no longer do so.

We recognize that the old model for economic development and social advancement is broken.

Rio+20 has given us a unique chance to set it right … to create a new model … to set a new course that truly balances the imperatives of robust growth and economic development with the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable prosperity and human well-being.

President Rousseff, you have brought the world to Rio.

To all the distinguished Heads of State and Government who have come such a long way to be here, I say thank you for your engagement at this all-important moment.

To the thousands of representatives of civil society and business, I offer you a special welcome.

We absolutely need your partnership.  We cannot succeed without you.

Together, we are here to join forces in a great global movement for change.

Ladies and gentlemen, Excellencies,

As we look around our world, what do we see now?

Too much political strife.  Grave economic troubles.

Widening social inequalities.

A planet increasingly under stress, from climate change to growing scarcities of life’s vital resources — fresh water, clean air, affordable food, fuel and decent jobs.

Twenty years ago, there were five-and-a-half billion people in the world.

Now there are more than 7 billion.

By 2030, we will need 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water — just to continue to live as we do today.

Beyond a shadow of doubt, we have entered a new era … a new geological epoch, even, where human activity is fundamentally altering the Earth’s dynamics.

Our global footprint has overstepped our planet’s boundaries.

The lives and well-being of all humankind – particularly the poorest and most vulnerable – are increasingly in jeopardy.

That is why I have made sustainable development as my #1 priority.

Achieving that goal demands one thing above all: that is leadership – and your leadership.

And that is why we are here.

We are here to build a global movement for change: Heads of State and Government … business leaders … all the major groups of civil society — we need to work together.

We have made history this week.

You are about to agree an outcome document that can guide our efforts for sustainable development in years to come.

But, we need to keep our eyes on the prize. We need to act with vision and commitment … commitment and vision in the largest sense.

Let us not forget the scarcest resource of all:  That is time.

We are running out of time.

We no longer have the luxury to defer difficult decisions.

We have a common responsibility to act in common cause … to set aside narrow national interests in the name of the global public good and the betterment of all.

As I stand here with you today, I am full of hope:

Because we are here, together. 

Because we know what we must do, and we have shown the world that we can agree on what is important.

I commend all those who have come to Rio with commitments for change.

These will be a significant legacy of this conference — billions of dollars worth of actions and investments that will have the power to transform lives across the globe.

But this movement for change also needs a firm mandate, and you will provide it in the Rio+20 outcome document.

I thank the two co-chairs for guiding the negotiations. 

The negotiations have been long, and they have been hard; very difficult.

Yet we have made significant progress, especially in the final stages. 

I commend Foreign Minister Patriota of Brazil for his able diplomacy, and I particularly thank President Rousseff for her strong leadership.

I am pleased that Member States have agreed to launch and take ownership of a process to establish universal sustainable development goals -- SDGs. 

These SDGs will build on our advances under the Millennium Development Goals, and they will be an integral part of the post-2015 development framework. 

As Secretary-General of the United Nations I will spare no effort to implement the mandate given by the Member States to realize our vision of sustainable development goals that build on the success of the MDGs.

I commend clear decisions and strategies on jobs, food security, energy, water, oceans, transport and cities.

And I am glad to see a clear emphasis on gender empowerment and quality education throughout the document.

We must now decide on the institutions we need to guide us to economic, social and environmental well-being.

Your Majesty, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

We have made significant progress.  Now is the time to take the final big step.

Let us follow up on Rio+20 with strong commitment and action.

Now is the time for action.

Let us not ask our children and grandchildren to convene a Rio+40 or Rio+60.

Now is the time to rise above narrow national interests – to look beyond the vested interests of this group or that.

It is time to act with broader and long-term vision.

Here at Rio+20, we can seize the future we want.

Let us not pass it by.

Let us make Rio our legacy … a foundation that future generations can build on.

Like most of you in this chamber, I am more than my title … more than simply Secretary-General of the United Nations.

I am also a father and a grandfather.

And like you, I want a world where our children, our succeeding generations, can prosper and be happy …

A world where all people can have a decent job and live with dignity…

A world where everyone can breathe clean air, drink safe water and have enough to eat …

Where everyone can live, confident in tomorrow.

That is the future I want – that is the future you want, and we want.

And together, we can take a giant step to that future —right here and right now.

I count on your leadership.

Thank you very much.  Muito obrigado.