New York

29 June 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at Opening of the General Assembly High-Level Event on Climate Change

I thank the President of the General Assembly for his leadership, and for organizing this timely and important high-level event.

Our journey towards bold climate action is at a critical moment.

Five months from tomorrow, COP21 will open in Paris.

Today, we have come together to take stock of what we have pledged, what we have delivered, and what else we must do to ensure that world leaders and their governments adopt an ambitious, universal agreement in December, in Paris.

Today I would like to share my thoughts on what I hope to see in that agreement, and on how I plan to support this process.

In many ways, the stars are aligned as never before.

The world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases have announced ambitious climate actions and are showing leadership based on mutual respect and collaboration. Other major economies in the G7 and G20 have announced their intention to act.

Since 2009, the number of national climate laws and policies has nearly doubled, with three-quarters of the world’s annual emissions now covered by national targets.

The world’s three biggest economies – China, the European Union and the United States -- have placed their bets on low-carbon, climate-resilient growth.

The price of renewable energy sources is falling dramatically, and in some places has reached price parity with fossil fuels. The world is now using more renewable electric power each year.

Investors and insurers are starting to integrate climate risk into their decision-making. A growing number of CEOs, including a select few from the oil and gas sector, are revamping their energy systems, strengthening resilience and calling for a price on carbon.

Citizens, civil society and faith leaders, most recently His Holiness Pope Francis, are demanding action and reminding us of the moral imperative to protect the vulnerable and care for our common home.

I take this opportunity particularly to thank His Holiness Pope Francis for his adding his spiritual and moral strength.  And I also thank Cardinal Turkson who has been working very hard, and I thank him very much. 

These efforts demonstrate that the world is hungry for – and capable of – serious steps that can meet the climate challenge.

However, the pace of the UNFCCC negotiations is far too slow. It’s like snails, moving [at] snail’s pace. The key political issues are still on the table. With only ten days left, negotiating days, I really count on leaders, Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers to exercise their political direction so that this negotiation will move much faster.

Now is when true leadership is needed from the highest levels. Heads of State and Government must give clear guidance to their ministers and negotiators so that they take personal responsibility for the outcome in Paris. The success or failure of the world’s first truly global climate agreement will happen on their watch.

As science is telling us loud and clear, we have only a few short years in which to do what is needed to have a reasonable chance of staying within the internationally agreed temperature rise threshold of 2 degrees.

If we fail, we will condemn our children and grandchildren to a future of climate chaos.

If we succeed, we can set the world on course for greater stability, better health and stronger economies that benefit all.

Alongside the current COP Presidency of Peru and the incoming COP Presidency of France, I will be engaging with leaders on a regular basis.  

All countries can and must be part of the solution.

With that in mind, allow me to highlight what I believe a meaningful agreement could include. 

First, it must provide a strong signal to governments and markets that the world is committed to building a low-carbon future, and that there is no going back. 

Second, an agreement must be durable so that it provides the private sector with the predictability and policy frameworks it needs to invest in clean energy and climate-resilient approaches.

Third, it must be flexible so that it can incentivize and incorporate more ambitious, science- based nationally determined targets over time.

I applaud those countries that have submitted their INDCs, and I urge others to follow suit as soon as possible.

Those INDCs currently on offer provide a floor, not a ceiling for ambition, and are critical for building momentum and trust. However, it is already clear that these INDCs will not be sufficient to place us on a less-than-2-degree pathway.  An agreement must therefore enable countries to regularly review progress towards this goal, and encourage more ambitious, nationally determined targets to meet it.

Fourth, an agreement must uphold the principle of equity, support the adaptation needs of developing countries, and demonstrate solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable countries through a focused package of assistance.

Fifth, a new agreement must have clear mechanisms for measuring, monitoring and reporting progress in a transparent manner on a full range of actions.

Sixth, credible climate financing is essential.

I strongly urge developed countries to provide a politically credible trajectory for mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 to support developing countries in curbing emissions and strengthening their resilience.

It is imperative that developed countries provide greater clarity on the public finance component of the $100 billion before Paris, as well as on how they will engage private finance.  I will proactively engage with leaders from both the global north and south to make sure this goal is met and is considered credible by all.

An agreement must also acknowledge the need for long-term, very significant financing beyond 2020. I welcome the recent announcement by Germany to double its climate finance support by 2020, and encourage other developed countries to follow this example.

The Green Climate Fund must also be up and running, with funds that can be disbursed before Paris.

Taken in sum, this finance package should build trust and help unlock the additional trillions in financing needed to build low carbon, climate resilient economies.

Alongside an agreement, I will continue to work with the COP Presidents and the UNFCCC Executive Secretary to advance the Lima Paris Action Agenda.

This Action Agenda builds on the many successful partnerships that were showcased at last year’s Climate Summit.  Public, private and civil society partners are achieving real results on the ground – and in the atmosphere.

The Action Agenda is not a substitute for an ambitious agreement, but a complement to it. It is also fully consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals by providing solutions at all levels, from the local to the global, on transport, cities, and energy, among others.

Let us always remember that climate change and sustainable development are two sides of the same coin. The two agendas are mutually reinforcing: progress on one benefits the other, from food security to health, from energy security to water and the full scope of human need and endeavour. Development cannot be sustainable if it does not address the challenge of climate change.

As we move from Addis to New York to Paris this year, I will meet with and convene all actors, public and private, needed to support a comprehensive sustainable development agenda.  I pledge to you that I will spare no effort to ensure that the world leaders who are responsible for an ambitious agreement in Paris -- and the financing needed to implement it -- are directly engaged.

I encourage you to quicken the pace and raise your ambition as the December conference draws near.  

A climate change agreement in Paris will not be the end point, but it must be a turning point in how the world collectively responds to the defining challenge of our time.

Thank you for your leadership and commitment.  Let’s work together to make this world better.