Paris, France

01 December 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at High-level meeting on Africa and Climate Change [as prepared for delivery]

Your Excellency Mr. François Hollande, President of France,
Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank Africa’s leaders for coming to Paris and joining hands for today’s gathering.

COP21 got off to a good start yesterday.  Africa has an enormous stake in its success.  Your personal engagement and ownership will be essential in producing the ambitious agreement that Africa’s people and the entire world need.

Already, your leadership has helped make 2015 a year of opportunity.

Many of you were present in Ethiopia in July for the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development.  Many of you were part of the historic gathering in New York in September for the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs.

Now, here in Paris, governments have the opportunity to secure a global climate change agreement that can pave the way towards a safer, healthier, more prosperous and sustainable future.

Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Much of its economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base, including rain-fed subsistence agriculture.  Disruptions in food or water supplies pose serious risks not only for your economies but also for political stability, particularly in fragile states.

African countries have shown great determination and vision in attempting to reduce poverty and meet demands for growth without jeopardizing sustainability.

Africa has also prioritized climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in its development planning.

African countries actively participated in the UN Climate Summit held in September 2014, including through the African Clean Energy Corridor and the Climate-Smart Agriculture initiatives.  I welcome yesterday’s announcement of the African Adaptation Initiative as well as your efforts to launch the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative. 

Sustainable energy offers huge economic opportunities. With the plummeting price of solar and other renewables, many African countries are moving quickly to embrace a greener pathway that still enables them to meet growing energy demand.

The spirit of partnership embodied by the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative will help the world achieve the objectives of Sustainable Development Goal 7 – the first-ever universal goal on energy.

Partnerships such as these, as well as the International Alliance on Solar Energy launched yesterday by Prime Minister Modi of India, deserve support and emulation.

I thank Africa for its leadership and vision, and Africa’s partners for supporting the continent’s ambitions. I hope that this support continues and is enhanced, including through South-South cooperation.

An ambitious international climate change framework will further accelerate these and similar initiatives. That is why it is imperative that governments adopt an agreement here in Paris that sends a clear signal to citizens and the market that the low-carbon transformation is beneficial, inevitable and already underway.

There is strong momentum towards a meaningful agreement.  World leaders are here in great numbers.  The business community is here, civil society is mobilized, and faith leaders have reminded us of the moral imperative to act.

But key political issues remain unresolved.  There is a lot of work to do here in Paris, and the stakes are very high, especially for the most vulnerable people and countries. 

Science tells us we have only a few years left before the window could close on our ability to prevent severe, pervasive and irreversible climate impacts.

There is still time to change course. That time is right here, right now. 

I call on all the world’s political leaders to bridge the gaps, find consensus, keep ambition high and uphold their commitment to reach the agreement the world needs to secure our common future.