Climate change threatens peace and prosperity, says UN secretary general

Summit seeks joint engagement by countries, civil society and private sector

By Aarthi Gunnupuri
Published: Wednesday 24 September 2014

World leaders gather in the UN General Assembly Hall for the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Summit 2014 (Photo courtesy: UN)

Reminding all nations of their joint responsibility in arresting the effects of climate change, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of a low carbon climate for a resilient future. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the climate summit in New York on Wednesday (GMT), he reiterated that “our response will define our future.”

“No one is immune to climate change,” he said as he referred to his first-hand experience of its devastating effects, when Hurricane Sandy  hit New York, flooding even the United Nations.

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Who said what and pledged how much

Francois Hollande, president, France: “Our commitment is to be clear, we need to do everything we can, so that we can curb and contain the increase in temperature below 2°C… We need to define a development model for the next 30 years to enable access to goods for the people of the world and at the same time conserve the planet…Each one of us must bear in mind the failure of Copenhagen, today we have an obligation to succeed.”

France pledged US $1 billion USD for the Green Climate Fund. (France, however, has a history of mixing its grants with loans).

Barack Obama, US president: "We recognize our role in creating this problem and our responsibility to solve it… We are the first generation to feel impacts of climate change and the last generation that can do anything about it."


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Cutting emissions was a top priority and the secretary general said he hoped for a carbon neutral existence by the end of the century. He also called for the pricing of carbon, saying, “There is no more powerful way to drive the market transformation we need.”

Ban Ki-moon invited countries to make more contributions to the under-funded Green Climate Fund. “We must meet the broader $100 billion-a-year pledge made in Copenhagen,” he said.
He also laid special emphasis on the unity of purpose and action by world leaders, civil society and the private sector. “We need all hands on deck,” he said, a phrase he used several times at meetings and press conferences during the course of the day.

Peru, which will host the next chapter of climate talks in December, and France, which will host the signing of the new climate deal in 2015, shared the dais at another press meet during the day. Their joint appearance was symbolic of the “developed v. developing” debate that has stalled the progress towards a common UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).
While French president, François Hollande, admitted the urgent need to tackle climate change, President Ollanta Humala of Peru said his and other developing countries affected by climate change were already paying the price. “The El Nino phenomenon struck our territory and we are obliged to reconstruct our countries. These are costs we must shoulder,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the French president had announced a $1 billion contribution to the cash-starved UN Green Climate Fund. “We can’t limit ourselves to words and expressions of regret,” Hollande said.

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