Climate + Energy

UN Secretary-General’s Remarks at COP22 Press Conference

Image: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) is met by Nasser Bourita, Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco, in Marrakesh. UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to begin my day with a meeting with the distinguished members of the media. Thank you for covering this very important meeting on climate change.

Mesdames et Messieurs, Nous avons parcouru un long chemin au cours de la décennie passée. Chaque pays a conscience que le changement climatique est une réalité. Les enjeux sont plus grands que jamais. Le moment est venu d’agir ensemble pour protéger notre planète avec une détermination plus grande encore. Les émissions continuent de s’accroître. Les effets du changement climatique vont en s’intensifiant. Le temps joue contre nous. Les cinq dernières années écoulées ont été les plus chaudes jamais enregistrées – et l’année 2016 sera presque certainement plus chaude encore.

Ladies and gentlemen, No country, however resourceful or powerful, is immune from the impacts of climate change. That is why we have seen overwhelming support for the Paris Agreement. It entered into force with breath-taking speed, Countries realize it is in their own national interest to take action now. Now 109 countries have joined, as of today. It is increasing day by day. Maybe hour by hour. I urge all the rest to ratify as soon as possible. We have much to gain by acting now. I strongly urge all countries to increase the level of ambition in their national climate plans over the next two years. I also call on other sectors of society to accelerate their climate efforts. Cities, citizens and CEOs were crucial to mobilizing political support for the Paris Agreement. They are also among the most visionary and ambitious actors building low-carbon, resilient economies that will prosper in a climate-changed world.

Businesses can do more to seize the many potential opportunities. There has been tremendous progress. In the growth of renewables. In green innovations. In thriving public-private partnerships working to transform key sectors of our economy from land use and agriculture to sustainable transport. And in mobilizing voices of every age, from every nation, in support of a safer, clean energy future. I call on civil society organizations to continue to keep governments accountable to their promises. Ladies and gentlemen, I have made climate action a priority since my first day in office. Addressing climate change is critical to protecting our planet, safeguarding the most vulnerable and advancing shared prosperity.

It was truly a privilege to make this journey with so many partners from around the world who are committed to leaving a healthier planet to future generations. I am confident that my successor, Secretary-General Designate Antonio Guterres, and the United Nations will continue to advance this cause with energy and resolve for the sake of our planet and all people. I am also very glad to be here with Executive Secretary of UNFCCC [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change], Ms. Patricia Espinosa who has just taken up her new job of this very important organization. Former Foreign Minister of Mexico, I count on your leadership. And I hope you will give her good support. We also have a new Executive Director of UNEP. He is also very experienced person. So we have a very good team.

As you may know, this is my last COP. I have one and half months to go as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I will never cease, even after my retirement, to work with the United Nations and my colleagues, and world leaders to make sure that this climate change agreement is in full implementation and to make this world and people safer and healthier and more prosperous. Thank you.

[Question on UN and Morocco relationship]

SG: First of all, I have deep admiration and respect for His Majesty King Mohammad VI and his government leaders and people. I have a long experience and relationship starting since my days as a student, 1984, starting with my first visit to Morocco. Now as Secretary-General I have been working very closely with the Moroccan government, diplomats and political leaders, including King Mohammad VI. I am looking forward to my meeting, bilateral meeting, with him today, possibly. And I am grateful for His Majesty convening this very important COP meeting, immediately after the Paris Agreement. This is the first meeting, most crucial meeting, to make sure that the world is united governments, business and civil society. And I have already seen such great excitement and passion among Member States. This is the leadership Morocco has been showing. Morocco is a very important country, Member State of the United Nations, not only on the African continent or in the Middle East but as a whole, providing many young men and women to keep peace and security around the world. And Morocco has been showing a great example based on democratic institutions, making sustainable development and championing climate change actions. Now I sincerely hope that here in Marrakech, we will set another very important commitment, a passionate commitment, to make this world better for all – and I count on His Majesty’s continuing leadership and guidance on this matter. Merci. Shoukran.

[Question on election of President-elect Trump]

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a telephone conversation with President-Elect Donald J Trump.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a telephone conversation with President-Elect Donald J Trump.

SG: As you may know, last week I spoke to President-elect Mr. Trump and I brought up many issues, peace and security issues, including the issue of Climate Change. I remain very optimistic about our effort to combat climate change. Look at what we have achieved. The Paris Agreement has come into force in record time. Never in the history of the United Nations, any convention, agreement or treaty has entered into force in such a short period of time. And it also has the highest number of Member States, State parties, 193 [signatories] out of 197 State parties [to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]. So it has established a lot of records, in fact.
The global unity around climate change once seemed to be unthinkable but now it has become unstoppable. Look around us! It’s not just governments and business CEOs and civil societies have shown their such strong commitment to address and working together. They have mobilized for a better future.
The global business community is now fully on board and moving forward to decarbonize and lessen their carbon footprint. For example, let me just say something about the United States as an example. We are working with closely with some of the largest American corporations on climate-related issues. For example, General Mills and Kellog have committed to eliminate commodity-driven deforestation by 2020. Individual US states and major cities, like California, State of Washington or major cities like Las Vegas or Nashville, I think they have also pledged to reduce carbon emissions. Now these American companies and local governments have understood the severity of the climate crisis and are moving forward. They are moving forward because consumers are demanding it, people are demanding it and companies know going toward a low-carbon economy, that’s the answer for their business future. Every member of the United Nations has signed on to Paris Agreement. Delegations were not forced to sign. They signed on because they believe that it’s in the interest of their own country, and it’s in the interest of the whole world and planet Earth.
As you know, this is my last COP and tenth COP. I have never missed one and I have been participating on all 10 COP meetings and I have been travelling all around the world. Whenever I was able to see the impact of climate change, starting from Antarctica and Arctic and Lake Chad and Brazilian Amazon River Basin, etc. – so many places, you name it – I have been convinced by seeing for myself that climate change is happening. As distinguished scientists of IPCC have already made it clear several times that climate change is happening much, faster and it is caused by human behaviour it is only natural that we have to change our behaviours to keep this only planet Earth environmentally sustainable for our succeeding generations.
This is what I really wanted to say. When I talked to Mr. President-elect, Mr. Trump. I raised this issue and I am looking forward to another meeting in person with him and will discuss on all matters of our common concern including climate change. I thank you.

[Question on possible US federal action against the Paris Agreement]

SG: I think I have explained at length about our expectations and our hope that newly elected President-elect Mr. Trump will really hear and understand the seriousness and urgency of addressing climate change. It is not only just a few countries. I think most of all the countries, 193 now, they have signed and more than 75 percent of global greenhouse emissions accounted for by 109 countries [that ratified]. So it’s wholehearted commitment by the whole world. Then as President of the United States, I am sure that he will understand this, he will listen, he will evaluate his campaign remarks. We have seen many such campaign rhetorics not only in the United States but in many parts of the world.
As President Obama said in his press remarks, press conference, yesterday, that he may have to understand the reality, the reality of the whole world’s problems, including particularly on climate change. I am sure that he will make a good, wise decision, and I’m going to discuss this matter more in person on this matter.
It’s not only me as a Secretary-General. I’m sure that he will listen to all the voices coming from governments and people around and business communities. Thank you.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive-Director UNFCCC: The secretariat has the mandate to follow up on the Paris Agreement, the follow up on the Convention, to foster the implementations of the commitments that have been signed under the Paris Agreement. The fact is that the Paris Agreement has come into force and is now obligatory for a 109 countries that have ratified it. We are expecting in the coming days and weeks that many more will come to deposit their instruments of ratification. So, in that sense, for the Secretariat, we do have this motivation to continue working on that. We have a clear framework, we have a clear scenario and clear objectives. So we will continue going in that way. As the Secretary-General has just said, in that sense, this process that was unthinkable sometime ago is now unstoppable.

[Question on whether the SG had the impression that President-elect had changed his position on climate change.]

SG: I can only speak for myself. And I do not disclose what the other party has spoken. However my sense is that as a very successful business person in the past, before being elected, I believe that he understands that there are market forces already at work on this issue and that we need to harness these forces for the good of the planet and all the species in this planet. I have been saying that, as I said earlier, what once seemed to be unthinkable has now become unstoppable. It has turned around the corner so now people are moving toward the right direction. When you see that more than 3,000 distinguished scientists around the world have repeatedly issued assessment reports that climate change has been happening – unless we try to do our best technological, scientific, economic and our political forces concentrated to address this climate phenomenon, then we will have to regret not only for our succeeding generations but for our planet, which we have only one planet. As I said often, we don’t have plan B because there is no planet B. We have to work very hard, very seriously and urgently. This what I am telling, not as only Secretary-General, but as one the citizens of this world. I think you and I, and all of us have a common moral responsibility. And I am asking political leaders, they should have strong political responsibility and moral responsibility. Their mandate may be limited – four years, eight years, ten years – but our planet Earth, our world is eternal. So we have to address this climate change phenomenon. Thank you very much.

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