Copenhagen, Denmark

23 October 2013

Secretary-General's opening remarks at meeting on climate finance

I thank the government of Denmark and Minister for Climate, Energy and Buildings, Mr. Martin Lidegaard, for inviting me to this important meeting.

We face a looming deadline and a historic opportunity.

By the end of 2015, United Nations Member States have pledged to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, establish a new framework for sustainable development, and complete a legal global agreement on climate change.

We have two overarching and complementary objectives – to eradicate extreme poverty and hold global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

Achieving them means giving equal balance to the three dimensions of sustainable development –economic, social and environmental.

Climate change is having growing impact in all three areas.

Addressing it is an imperative.

It is also one of our greatest opportunities.

Ambitious and decisive action, if sped up and scaled up at every level, including through an agreement in 2015, can unlock the huge investment necessary for mitigating climate change and powering sustainable development.

Clean energy; sustainable production and consumption, and environmentally sound transport and urban planning are good for people and good for the planet. 

They can support access to clean water and sanitation, improved public health, greater equality for women and marginalized communities.

They can also provide a boost to our economies.  

In September next year, I will host a Summit on Climate Change that will bring together global leaders from Government, business, finance, knowledge institutions and civil society.

It presents a unique opportunity to leverage unprecedented financial, political and organizational capital to transform development.

Climate finance lies at the heart of tackling climate change.

Rapid progress is crucial for scaling up action on the ground and mobilizing support for an ambitious 2015 climate agreement.

Today’s meeting can help to move public-private finance from policy conversations to concrete actions.

Previous meetings have identified a range of barriers to sustainable investment.

These include what we call perverse subsidies, uncertainty about the predictability of electricity tariffs or government energy policies.

We have to break down these barriers. 

We need to create bankable projects at scale and financial mechanisms that will support them.

We must focus on high-impact opportunities for unlocking clean investments.

We must close the viability gap between green and carbon-intensive projects.

And we must reduce or eliminate the risks currently associated with low-carbon investments.

I see three areas for action.

First, public finance.

The rapid development of low-carbon infrastructure needs large injections of public capital. 

Climate finance is an investment in the future and must not be taken hostage by short-term budget constraints or profit considerations.

The rewards can be considerable.

As well as reducing emissions, we can light rural clinics and schools, empower local businesses and invigorate economies. 

There is another reason why channelling public finance at scale is crucial.

This brings me to my second point: private finance.

Private investment is essential to meet the growing demand for energy in the developing world.

Smart public financing can encourage local and international private investments.

Investors and companies need to join forces with the public sector.

I have been meeting with key representatives of all asset classes to discuss how they can contribute.

We need in particular to win over institutional investors that collectively manage more than 70 trillion dollars of assets.

The bulk of these investments are high-carbon assets.

Less than 1 per cent of pension fund assets are invested in sustainable infrastructure projects.

These investors have the power – and I believe the responsibility -- to do their part in transforming the global economy and setting us on a safer path.

My third point concerns the Green Climate Fund.

We need to bring it into operation as soon as possible.

The Fund cannot be expected to be the exclusive conduit for climate finance. 

But it will be an important part of a public-private framework that supports low-carbon investment and fair access to climate financing in developing countries.

It can strengthen national ownership and enable countries to develop the expertise and institutions needed for using climate finance effectively.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

More public finance.

More private finance.

Better mechanisms for channelling investments to where they are most needed.

This is what we need.

We cannot afford to delay.

The climate clock is ticking.

The longer we wait, the greater the costs – to communities, to businesses, to economies and the planet.

You are here because you see the big picture.

I appreciate your efforts.

Now, I urge you to do even more.

I count on you to lead by example within your governments, industries and networks.

Let us work together to recruit a growing alliance of influence dedicated to concrete action on climate finance.

Together we can rise to the climate challenge and build a more equitable, more secure world for future generations.

Thank you.