Thank you for inviting me to set the stage for this important discussion.
Climate change has been at the top of my priority list since I took office in 2007.
It will remain so for the simple reason that it touches so many other issues on the UN agenda – the Millennium Development Goals, peace and security, sustainable development and because it touches so many people. Indeed, all people.
If there is one message that I would like you to take from today’s debate, it is this: climate change is not an environment issue for environment ministers only – it is a challenge for all areas of government and policy making – finance, energy, transport, foreign relations and more.
It is essential that we abandon silos and work together to join the dots to meet the climate challenge.
Last month, United Nations headquarters was forced to close its doors for three days, for the first time in the history of the UN, as Hurricane Sandy reached the end of its destructive march through the Caribbean.
From Haiti to New York, people are still picking up the pieces.
The storm was one more in a long and growing list of climate related disasters. At this very moment, the people of the Philippines are suffering from a typhoon. I send my condolences.
Hurricane Sandy reminds us that no-one is immune. But we were also reminded that climate change hits the poor first and worst.
Last year, I visited Kiribati in the South Pacific.
My room had life jackets for me and my wife – for good reason.
A high tide and storm surge would have washed us away.
I was introduced to a boy who had a clear simple message.
“Please help us address this climate change. Our homes and our way of life may be swept away overnight.”
I have seen the impact of rising seas.
I have seen glaciers melting in the Arctic and Antarctic.
And I have seen the encroaching desert.
I welcome the focus the Government of Qatar is bringing at this conference on the issue of desertification, land degradation and food and water security in the drylands.
This is where the effects of climate change are particularly evident and dramatic.
Drylands occupy more than 40 per cent of our planet’s land area.
The people who live there are among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable to hunger.
They have little resilience to intensifying cycles of extreme drought and flood.
Last year, famine struck parts of Somalia. Ten million people across the Horn of Africa needed emergency relief.
This year 18 million people in the Sahel are struggling through their third drought in less than 10 years.
The Sahel crisis also points to the broader threat climate change poses to development, peace and security.
Diminishing water resources, degraded grazing grounds and declining agricultural yields increase the potential for conflict.
Droughts, such as we recently saw in the United States, Kazakhstan, Russia, Brazil and India, also raise prices in the marketplace – again with potential economic, political and security ramifications.
The impacts of climate change are with us already.
They will continue to intensify even as we develop mitigation strategies.
We must therefore act as best – and as fast – as we can.
Reversing land degradation and improving water security will be central to improving food and nutrition security for the 9 billion people who will inhabit the planet in 2050.
This will mean reforming agricultural practices, which waste water and are a significant contributor of greenhouse gases.
Making all food systems sustainable is at the centre of the Zero Hunger Challenge I launched at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June.
We must promote efficiency throughout the food chain, reduce inputs and waste, and nurture the soil.
We must increase investment in sustainable agriculture, and manage risk by improving our ability to forecast weather and by developing climate-resilient crops.
And we must build innovative partnerships among farmers – small- and large-scale -- governments, businesses, academia, international organizations and civil society.
Partnerships will also help us address the energy challenge.
On the one hand we must reduce greenhouse emissions.
On the other, we need to provide modern energy services to everyone on the planet so we can achieve sustainable equitable development.
My Sustainable Energy for All initiative is an attempt to balance these two needs.
Partnerships will also be crucial to low-carbon sustainable development, reducing emissions from avoided deforestation… transferring crucial technology and know-how to where it is most needed.
Strategic partnerships can unlock the key to long-term financing for climate change mitigation and they can show the way to turning the climate challenge into the climate opportunity.
They say necessity is the mother of invention.
The need is clear.
And I believe the inventions, and the innovation that we need to create the future we want, already exist or are in the minds of the leaders of tomorrow.
What we need is leadership. As we look forward, I will be engaging the world’s leaders and working with them – individually and collectively – to make the big decisions we need.
To this end, in consultation with Member States, I plan to convene world leaders in 2014 to mobilize the political will for a final agreement in 2015.
My message today – to everyone here – is embrace ambition in the negotiations,
and in the solutions, and let us all reap the benefits of a cleaner, more secure, more sustainable future.
Thank you for your leadership.