New York

10 November 2017

Secretary-General's remarks at press stakeout [scroll down for Q & A]

Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Later today, I am leaving on a trip to Asia and Europe that will include the climate conference in Bonn.  
 
The conference comes at a pivotal moment.
 
In recent weeks, a series of reports have set climate alarm bells ringing.
 
The latest data released by the World Meteorological Organization show dangerous growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the past seven decades, reaching new highs in 2016.  Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are now the highest in 800,000 years.
 
The Emissions Gap Report by the UN Environment Programme shows that greenhouse gas levels in 2020 are likely to be so elevated that it will be extremely difficult to meet the Paris reduction targets for 2030.
 
And finally, the latest National Climate Assessment of the United States shows that temperatures are “the warmest in the history of modern civilization,” and the report concludes that it is “extremely likely” that human activities are the “dominant cause”.
 
These reports send two clear messages: we need to accelerate climate action – and we need to raise ambition.
 
At the Bonn conference, I will press for progress in five ambition action areas.
 
First, emissions.  The window of opportunity to meet the 2-degree target may close in 20 years or less – and we may have only five years to bend the emissions curve towards 1.5 degrees.  We need at least a further 25 per cent cut in emissions by 2020. And carbon pricing is an extremely important instrument that must be developed.

Second, resilience.  The impacts of climate change are already upon us, and will only worsen in the short term.  We need to do more to help countries respond to climate shocks, especially the most vulnerable. Recent events in the Caribbean show how important this point is.

Third, finance.  We need to mobilize the agreed $100 billion annually for developing countries.  This is crucial to spur action and to build trust. We are far from having that entirely guaranteed.
 
Fourth, partnerships.  I am encouraged to see climate action taking hold, at all scales, at all levels, involving an ever-wider coalition of actors and institutions.  But we need to do more.
 
And fifth, leadership.  In September 2019, I will convene a Climate Summit to mobilize political and economic energy at the highest levels.  I ask world leaders to show courage in combatting entrenched interests; wisdom in investing in the opportunities of the future; and compassion in caring [for] what kind of world we build for our children.  As a former politician myself, I have no doubt that in today’s world, this is the path to progress today and a meaningful legacy for tomorrow.
 
Finally, let me add that before Bonn, I will visit the Philippines to attend the UN-ASEAN Summit.  
 
There is already good cooperation between the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. My goal is to deepen that partnership further still.
 
From Bonn, I will visit London, where I will deliver a major address at SOAS University on counter-terrorism and human rights.  
 
As the world responds to modern terrorism, our goal must be to win the fight while upholding our values.
 
Thank you very much.

 **Questions and Answers

Spokesman:  Ali?

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. I want to ask about the rising tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia and especially about Lebanon and the situation in Lebanon and the fate of our... the Prime Minister there, Saad Hariri. Do you have anything to say about that?

Do you... are you going to use your good offices in order to reduce tensions in the region?

And when are you going to appoint your new Special Coordinator for Lebanon since the situation is very dangerous?

Secretary-General:  First of all, I've been in very intense contacts the day before yesterday and yesterday at the different levels, political level and diplomatic level, with namely Saudi Arabia and Lebanon but also with several other countries of the region or with an influence in the region.

This is a matter of great concern to us. And what we want is for peace to be preserved in Lebanon. It is essential that no new conflict erupts in the region, it could have devastating consequences.

And at the same time, it is important to preserve the unity, the stability of Lebanon, and the functioning of Lebanese institutions. That is the logic of the demarches I have been doing. They are delicate, you will allow me not to elaborate on them, they will go on today.

We are indeed very worried and we hope that we won’t see an escalation in the region that would have tragic consequences.

Question: The replacement of Sigrid Kaag?

Secretary-General: We will be doing the replacement as quickly as possible.

Spokesman:  Edie?

Question: Thank you very much Mr. Secretary-General. The situation with the Rohingyas in Myanmar is still very bad. They're still fleeing the country, and the United Nations still is not able to really deliver aid inside the country. What steps can you do and can the UN do to actually help the plight of these over 600,000 people? We know that, of course, you're working in Bangladesh, but the Government of Myanmar reacted very negatively to the Security Council Presidential Statement, saying it was going to be more of a hindrance than a help.

Secretary-General:  Well, I believe that the Presidential Statement was an important step forward. I obviously am aware of the limitations that the Security Council faces, but it was an important step forward. And I would recall that there is a proposal at the General Assembly that was presented by a number of Member States whose results we are also awaiting.

In both texts, there is a number of suggestions or requests for the action of the Secretary-General, and I will be fully developing those suggestions or those requests because I can see there needs to be an absolutely essential priority.

And, indeed, we insist on the need to make sure, not only that all violence against this population stops, but also we need to insist on unhindered humanitarian access to all areas of north Rakhine State, including the northern part of this region. And we insist on the need to reassert the right of return, safe and dignifying return, voluntary return, for all the population that fled to Bangladesh and to the areas of origin not to be placed in camps, not having access to the places where they left.

On the other hand, we go on considering that it is absolutely essential to address the root cause of the problem, which relies largely on the problems related to citizenship and to the legal status of this population that has been discriminated and that is stateless at the present moment, and will go on engaging in all possible domains for these objectives to be finally achieved.

What has happened is an immense tragedy, and the levels of violence and the atrocities committed are something that we cannot be silent about.

Spokesman:  Joe.

Question:  Yes. At last... at the conference earlier this week that you addressed in Lisbon, the web summit, the subject of artificial intelligence came up. You talked about the promises and the concerns of technology, and you mentioned Stephen Hawking, who... who said that, unless we learn how to prepare for and avoid the potential risks, artificial intelligence could be the worst event in the history of our civilisation. It brings dangers like powerful autonomous weapons or new ways for the few to impress the many.

And I... I would appreciate if you can give me... give us a comment... your comment on his observation and also on the letter that he co-signed to the United Nations asking the UN to take the lead on a treaty banning such autonomous weapons. Thank you.

Secretary-General:  First of all, the Chief Executives Board, which is the gathering of all heads of agencies of the UN, together with the key elements of the Secretariat during the retreat that took place yesterday and the day before yesterday, had these questions of the frontier technologies and their impact, both positive and negative impact, on the life of our planet and on humankind as our sensitive attention and exactly to try to see what are the entry points for the UN in these kinds of areas.

It is clear when we talk about artificial intelligence but it's also clear when we talk about genetic engineering and other aspects of the most advanced technological areas in today's research, it is clear that they have an enormous potential for the good. I mean, genetic engineering, we can get rid of diseases that, of course, have terrible, negative impacts on people, but we can also produce monsters. And in artificial intelligence, we can create conditions to facilitate our life and even to allow us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals that otherwise, with the technologies of less effective dimension, would be very difficult to reach, but at the same time, as it was said by Stephen Hawking, they represent a potential serious danger for humankind.

Now, there are two things that I believe we need to avoid. One is to say, okay, these technologies are dangerous; let's stop them. This attitude is totally naive. It won't happen. Technology will go on moving as it has happened in the past.

And the second thing we need to avoid is the idea that it is possible to regulate these new technologies with the same kind of instruments that traditionally have been used by governments or inter-government organisations for these regulations, like it is the case of energy or the banking system or the insurance systems. These are areas that are evolving very quickly.

And what I believe is important is to bring together governments, academia, business community, companies involved in the sector, NGOs, civil society, and researchers themselves and try to come together based on a clear ethical framework, to come together on the definition of the new frameworks in which norm setting can be established to make sure that these technologies are used for the good.

I believe the UN can be a platform where these different sectors can come together and where I believe it will be possible to find ways to allow for the international community to guarantee that these technologies can be used for the good of mankind or the humankind but that they will not be allowed to project the kind of dangers that were referred to in the recent meeting in Lisbon.

And this covers many other areas. It covers the cyberspace in all its dimensions. It covers other technological developments. We need to make sure, as it was always the case in the past, that we are able to allow for innovation to develop itself but to have the ethical and the norm-setting mechanisms in place for that innovation not to become a nightmare.

Spokesman:  Thank you very much. Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Thank you.