The Secretary-General: Leading on Climate Change
Calling climate change “the defining issue of our time”, the Secretary-General has made addressing climate change among his top priorities as UN Secretary-General and an important component of his Five Year Action Agenda. In his very first address to the General Assembly Hall as UN chief, the Secretary-General warned that the effects of climate change are being felt around the world, with poor populations suffering the most. To spur action, he has fought tirelessly to ensure that climate change stays at the top of the leaders’ agendas. Mr. Ban has also launched a number of initiatives to fight climate change on the ground.
Moving the world forward
Under the leadership of the Secretary-General, governments have advanced international efforts to fight, mitigate and adapt to climate change.
At the Climate Conference (COP) in Cancun in 2010, governments adopted the Cancun agreements, forming the basis for the largest-ever collective effort to reduce both emissions and to address the long-term challenges of climate change, as well as to take concrete action now to step up the global response. The Cancun agreements include the most comprehensive package ever agreed by Governments to help developing nations deal with climate change, including through finance, technology and capacity-building support. Importantly, governments recognised developed countries’ goal of mobilizing jointly USD100 billion per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.
In Durban in 2011, governments made good on their promises in Cancun and again responded to the Secretary-General’s call for action. The Durban Platform set the path towards a new legally binding agreement applicable to all; committed governments to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol; and launched the Green Climate Fund. Governments also enabled the establishment of a Technology Mechanism to promote access by developing countries to clean, low-carbon technologies, and an Adaptation Committee to coordinate adaptation activities on a global scale. They welcomed progress on the fast-start finance provided by developed countries as part of their commitment to provide new and additional resources approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010–2012.
“As we convene here in Bali, the eyes of the world are upon us – this is a historic moment long in the making.” – Ban Ki-moon, December 2007
These major steps in Cancun and Durban grew out of the pivotal 2007 COP in Bali – the first Climate Conference under the Secretary-General’s leadership. In Bali, Parties focused on long-term issues, adopting a Roadmap to enable full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action. The resulting Bali Action Plan addresses the four key building blocks of the global response to climate change: mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing.
Action on the Ground
Progress at the global level must be coupled by action on the ground. While working to build consensus for action at the international level, the Secretary-General is also leading a number of initiatives that promote effective action at the local and national levels to tackle climate change.
In September 2011, the Secretary-General launched his Sustainable Energy for All initiative, to drive action and mobilize commitments to positively transform the world’s energy systems. Sustainable Energy for All is working to achieve three objectives by 2030: universal energy access, doubling energy efficiency rate, and doubling renewable energy share. Over 60 countries have joined the initiative; tens of billions of dollars have been mobilized to advance its three objectives; and more than 150 specific commitments have been made by governments, donors, private sector and civil society organizations to support the initiative. More than one billion people will benefit from increased access to modern energy services, a number that will increase as additional public-private partnerships are formed.
The Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge is working towards a future without hunger. However, our ability to ensure all people enjoy their right to food now and in the future is increasingly challenged by climate change, so the Zero Hunger Challenge is committed to making all food systems sustainable. Currently agriculture and food systems contribute to the production of greenhouse gases – but they can also be harnessed to mitigate the effects of climate change. The Challenge urges farmers, agribusinesses, cooperatives, governments, unions and civil society to: establish standards for sustainability and be accountable for their observance; encourage the universal adoption of sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture practices; pursue cross-sectoral policies; and implement the responsible governance of land, fisheries and forests.
The Secretary-General is actively leading by example, ensuring that the UN’s operations are continuously monitored and improved—not just in terms of what the UN delivers, but how it delivers. This means “greening the blue”, making the United Nations more efficient in its operations. The Secretary-General has committed to move the UN to a paperless office environment by 2015. The newly renovated UN Secretariat building, whose plans the Secretary-General approved, is more efficient and sustainable and is designed to reduce energy consumption by 50 per cent and cut by 45 per cent the UN’s carbon footprint.
Face-to-Face with Climate Change
The Secretary-General has witnessed first-hand the impacts of climate change, from the North Pole to the rainforests of the Amazon to small Pacific Islands to Antarctica. In 2007, he was the first UN chief to visit Antarctica and Chilean Patagonia, bringing global attention to the effects of climate change on the world’s largest wilderness. He has since visited the rainforests of the Amazon and has seen the retreating ice sheets in the Arctic Ocean. In 2011, the Secretary-General was the first UN Secretary-General to visit Kiribati, focusing the world’s attention on this small Pacific island nation suffering on the climate frontline.
“Many countries are dealing with climate change. But here, climate change threatens your territory, your culture and your very way of life.” – Ban Ki-moon, during his visit to Kiribati, September 2011.
The Secretary-General also speaks regularly on the issue of climate change at universities, think tanks and research institutes around the world, urging leading thinkers to play their part in addressing climate change.
Mobilizing Climate Finance
Addressing climate change – to both reduce greenhouse emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change – requires significant and stable financing. The Secretary-General has made climate change finance one of the priority areas for his second tenure. He is working with governments to meet their agreement to mobilize of US$ 100 billion per year by 2020 in new and additional finance, and is committed to helping operationalize the Green Climate Fund so that the Fund can play a major role in delivering long-term climate finance.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been working with the private sector, which has the creativity and resources, to advance the role of business in addressing climate change.
“The business case for sustainability is strong and getting stronger.” – Ban Ki-moon, December 2007
Financing for climate change is one of the top priorities of the Secretary-General’s work. He encourages and urges investors to lend their support for climate change initiatives to provide solutions to climate-affected communities around the world.
Galvanizing the Private Sector
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been working with the private sector, encouraging businesses to draw on their creativity and resources to address climate change.
In 2007, the Secretary-General launched “Caring for Climate,” providing a framework for over 400 business leaders to advance practical solutions to climate change and help shape public policy, as well as public attitudes. Pledging to advance low-carbon solutions and bring the green economy to reality, from 2009-2010 the total carbon emissions for all Caring for Climate signatories was lower than the EU-15 group of large economies. Many Caring for Climate signatories have established themselves as climate champions within their organization and beyond.
Climate Change and Sustainable Development
Addressing climate change is critical to achieving sustainable development. Recognising this connection, the Secretary-General is committed to action that both advances sustainable development and tackles climate change. At the Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, he called on world leaders to step up their political commitment to sustainability. Under the Secretary-General’s leadership, Member States in Rio agreed to clear and practical measures for implementing sustainable development and addressing climate change, including by promoting more sustainable agriculture, enhancing resilience to climate change, improving energy efficiency, addressing ocean acidification, and enhancing strategies that integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into decision-making. Find out more about the voluntary commitments made at the Rio+20 Conference.
“Now, more than ever, we need to connect the dots between climate, poverty, energy, food and water. These issues cannot be addressed in isolation.” – Ban Ki-moon, December 2010