Reminding the world that the sooner action is taken to tackle climate change, the greater the benefits for all, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday said that for the nearly nine years, he has been at the head of the Organization, he has travelled the world to the front-lines of climate change, and spoken repeatedly with world leaders, business people and citizens about the need for an urgent global response.
“Why do I care so much about this issue?” Mr. Ban asked in an opinion piece published in some 70 countries’ media outlets ahead of the UN climate change conference, known as COP21.
“First, like any grandfather, I want my grandchildren to enjoy the beauty and bounty of a healthy planet. And like any human being, it grieves me to see that floods, droughts and fires are getting worse, that island nations will disappear and uncounted species will become extinct,” he explained.
The UN chief recalled that Pope Francis and other faith leaders have reminded the global community that “we have a moral responsibility to act in solidarity with the poor and most vulnerable who have done least to cause climate change and will suffer first and worst from its effects.”
Second, as the head of the United Nations, Mr. Ban said he has prioritized climate change because no country can meet this challenge alone. “Climate change carries no passport; emissions released anywhere contribute to the problem everywhere. It is a threat to lives and livelihoods everywhere. Economic stability and the security of nations are under threat. Only through the United Nations can we respond collectively to this quintessentially global issue,” he insisted.
While admitting that the negotiation process has been slow and cumbersome, the Secretary-General underlined that the world is seeing results. In response to the UN’s call, more than 166 countries, which collectively account for more than 90 per cent of emissions, have now submitted national climate plans with targets.
If successfully implemented, these national plans could bend the emissions curve down to a projected global temperature rise of approximately 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
“This is significant progress. But it is still not enough,” warned Mr. Ban. “The challenge now is to move much further and faster to reduce global emissions so we can keep global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius. At the same time, we must support countries to adapt to the inevitable consequences that are already upon us.”
He said acting soon can lead to greater benefits for all: increased stability and security; stronger, more sustainable economic growth; enhanced resilience to shocks; cleaner air and water; improved health.
“We will not get there overnight,” the UN chief stated. “The climate change conference in Paris is not the end point. It must mark the floor, not the ceiling of our ambition. It must be the turning point towards a low-emission, climate-resilient future.”
Meanwhile, around the world, momentum is building, he said, pointing out that cities, businesses and investors, faith leaders and citizens are acting to reduce emissions and build resilience.
“The responsibility now rests with Governments to conclude a meaningful, binding agreement in Paris that provides clear rules of the road for strengthening global ambition. For this, negotiators need clear guidance from the top,” he stressed, noting that the leaders of G20 nations, who met earlier this month in Antalya, Turkey, showed strong commitment to climate action.
More than 120 have confirmed their participation in Paris, despite heightened security concerns in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
“I see four essential elements for Paris to be a success: durability, flexibility, solidarity and credibility,” the Secretary-General continued, giving an explanation for each point, before reiterating that the UN stands fully ready to support countries in implementing such an agreement. An agreement, which he said will also accelerate progress towards all of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“That is why I care so deeply about climate change,” he concluded. “My message to world leaders is clear: success in Paris depends on you. Now is the time for common sense, compromise and consensus. It is time to look beyond national horizons and to put the common interest first. The people of the world – and generations to come – count on you to have the vision and courage to seize this historic moment.”