2015 pivotal for finalizing universal climate change agreement, Ban tells Member States

Tokelau's low-lying Nukunonu Atoll, is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
UN Photo/Ariane Rummery (file photo)
Tokelau's low-lying Nukunonu Atoll, is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

2015 pivotal for finalizing universal climate change agreement, Ban tells Member States

This year is pivotal for global action on climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in New York, emphasising that all the major advances of 2014 have set the stage for success in 2015.

“Our challenge now is clear: to finalize a meaningful, universal agreement on climate change,” Mr. Ban told Member States at a briefing on relevant progress as momentum builds towards a meeting to be held in Paris this December, when leaders are expected to reach a landmark treaty.

“Addressing climate change is essential for realizing sustainable development. If we fail to adequately address climate change, we will be unable to build a world that supports a life of dignity for all,” the Secretary-General warned.

Joining Mr. Ban at the briefing was President of the UN General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, as well as the Permanent Representatives of Peru and France, who organized the gathering.

Today's briefing follows the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), held in Lima, last December where Member States reached the “Lima Call for Climate Action”, paving the way for a new, ambitious and universally-binding climate agreement to be adopted in Paris (COP21) this December.

Talks in Lima are also said to have contributed to furthering negotiations during last week's Geneva Climate Change Conference, where Parties also delivered a comprehensive and balanced text.

“Recent months have seen strong progress on climate change. At the Climate Summit I convened last September, I said we needed 'all hands on deck.' I am pleased to say that this is indeed what happened: Governments, along with leaders of finance, business and civil society, came together to announce significant new actions that can reduce emissions and strengthen resilience,” said Mr. Ban.

The Secretary-General's September Summit also catalyzed “much-needed momentum” on climate finance. Public and private sector leaders pledged to mobilize over $200 billion by the end of 2015 to finance low-carbon, climate-resilient growth. And in Lima, in December, Parties built on earlier announcements by the European Union, China and the United States to reduce their emissions. They also launched the Lima Paris Action Agenda and pledged the $10 billion needed for the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund.

The Secretary-General underscored that 2015 is particularly crucial for several landmark meetings: COP21 in Paris in December to adopt a universal text on climate change; UN special summit in September to adopt a global development agenda; financing for development conference in July in Addis Ababa, to renew commitment to global development; and next month's gathering in Sendai, Japan, to strengthen framework on disaster risk reduction.

To that end, Mr. Ban urged all pledging countries to deliver their contributions as soon as possible. “Climate finance is critical, not only for catalyzing action, but for building the political trust needed to reach a universal agreement in Paris,” he said, emphasizing that developed countries need to set out a clear trajectory for achieving the goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020. And resilience must be strengthened, especially in the small island states and least developed countries.

“We have no time to waste, and much to gain by moving quickly down a lower-carbon pathway. All countries must be part of the solution if we are to stay below the 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise threshold,” the Secretary-General said.

Also delivering remarks today, Assembly President Kutesa called on Member States to build on the “constructive spirit” that prevailed in Lima and Geneva to reach consensus on both the content and the legal nature of the final agreement.

“To successfully reach this objective, strong and sustained political will is of vital necessity,” he added, reiterating that climate change is one of the key priorities of his 69th General Assembly: a session which is striving to shape the post-2015 development agenda, financing for development, as well as a new global framework on disaster reduction.

Negotiations for all these pertinent issues must be “mutually reinforcing,” Mr. Kutesa explained, noting that his high-level event on climate change to be held on 29 June is an opportunity to ensure the necessary focus and momentum are maintained. “I encourage Member States to participate in this event at the highest political level to convey a strong message on the critical importance of the negotiation process.”

The international community must demonstrate its commitment toward delivering a final agreement in Paris that improves lives, promotes achievement of sustainable development, protects the environment and preserves our planet's integrity, he added.

“As we make the final push toward Paris, it is abundantly clear that expectations are high. The world is watching with great anticipation to see how we respond to this historic opportunity to shape the future of our planet,” Mr. Kutesa emphasized.