Ban Ki-moon locks in world leaders’ resolve for durable climate pact

Intro

The last week has seen a renewed focus on the big issues of poverty, inequality and the all-pervading risks of climate change, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis leading a charge from New York towards a better, more sustainable future for all. Climate Week has already seen 193 countries officially adopt new Sustainable Development Goals, which have been hailed as far more collaborative, inclusive, and rooted in human rights than the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) they replace, but as it winds up Ban Ki-moon has secured broad recognition that sustainable development and action on climate change are inseparable. With public pressure for action growing and so many world leaders in New York, Ban met with a group of world leaders for lunch on Sunday afternoon, reporting back their “resolve to finalise a durable, meaningful agreement in Paris that applies to all countries” and an agreement on overarching goals for success in Paris. While progress made this week comes as a breath of fresh air, proposed national actions still remain insufficient to avoid the worst consequences of climate change (and therefore insufficient to deliver the agreed SDGs). However, what Ban’s effort shows, along with the US and China’s game-changing announcement, Brazil backing decarbonisation, and pledges by Fortune 500 companies to go 100 per cent renewable, is that the needed momentum for a robust climate agreement is building to a crescendo. The stage is now essentially set for a global agreement that can be ratcheted up over time, and one that speeds the transition to a 100 per cent renewable energy future for everyone.

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Key Points

  • There can be no sustainable development in an unsustainable world. World leaders agreeing on binding Sustainable Development Goals prioritising people and planet is a huge step forward, but this must be accompanied by ambitious action on climate change as climate impacts can undermine any and all gains in development. As Ban Ki-moon said after meeting with heads of state on Sunday and, after Brazil put its Paris plan on the table, “a Paris Agreement will need to provide a comprehensive, long-term vision of a world freed of poverty through the opportunities created by the transformation to a low-emission and climate resilient future.”
  • The UN climate conference in Paris must produce a “durable, meaningful agreement” that is not only ambitious, but can be ratcheted up over time. To avoid the worst consequences of climate change, a solution-driven Paris agreement has to be the floor and not the ceiling – and that floor can be significantly raised over the next ten weeks. Political and business leaders have several meetings coming up where they can raise the bar, and it must be raised so the road through Paris becomes a turning point for humanity, showing both citizens and business that we are already on a pathway to a future that is as inevitable and beneficial as it is clean and sustainable. 
  • As calls for climate action get louder and more diverse, leaders can no longer hide behind platitudes and weasel words. They have to deliver vision and action for the good of their people, their economies and the planet. Be it the Pope’s strong words on the environment during a historic meeting this week, a number of financial shifts away from dirty energy towards a 100 per cent renewable future, or increasing public demonstrations calling for action, to truly represent their constituents world leaders have no option but to ensure they negotiate a strong deal in Paris.

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Key Quotes

  • “A Paris Agreement will need to provide a comprehensive, long-term vision of a world freed of poverty through the opportunities created by the transformation to a low-emission and climate resilient future. Paris must be the floor, not the ceiling, for collective ambition.” – Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations
  • “Immediate, concrete and cooperative actions are necessary to turn this long-term vision into reality.” – Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations
  • “A Paris agreement must be a turning point that sends a clear signal to citizens and the private sector that the transformation of the global economy is inevitable, beneficial, and already underway.” – Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations
  • “I am confident that the Paris conference on climate change will secure fundamental and effective agreements. Solemn commitments however, are not enough even though they are a necessary step toward solutions. Concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion.” – Pope Francis

Heads of State

  • “In just two months, the world must unite around a strong global agreement. All our countries will be affected by a changing climate, but the world’s poorest people will bear the heaviest burden – rising seas, more intense droughts. We’ll be seeing climate change refugees. We need to establish the tools and financing to help developing nations embrace clean energy, adapt to climate change and ensure that there is not a false choice between economic development and the best practices that can save our planet.” – Barack Obama, President of the USA
  • “We also call on countries who have not presented their national commitments to do so, because they cannot wait until the last minute” – Ollanta Moisés Humala Tasso, President of Peru
  • “Everyone is convinced that there will be an agreement in Paris the question is what kind? In Paris, it is not about signing just a text, but a text that commits us for decades, that concerns all countries with a legal weighting and that every five years we can evaluate what has been done.”  – François Hollande, President of France
  • “What the president and I know is we must provide the idea that warming will not go beyond 2 degrees at the end of the century.” – François Hollande, President of France
  • “I welcome the fact that today the whole world has become aware that our planet is ill… we need to pull our efforts and resources in order to combat climate change and keep the warming below 2 degrees. We cannot really have a post 2015 program unless we tackle the issue of climate change.” – Thomas Boni Yayi, President of Benin & UN Chair of LDCs

From NGOs

  • “The post-2015 development agenda pledges not to leave anyone behind. We urge governments not to be left behind in the transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy that their citizens, cities and businesses are already driving and demanding.” – Wael Hmaidan, Director, CAN-International
  • “The long term vision of a 100 per cent renewable energy supply for all is now the single most pressing issue of the Paris climate agreement. While the progress we have made this week has been significant, it is not enough.  The long term decarbonization concept favoured by political leaders such as Chancellor Merkel, Obama, Hollande, Cameron, Renzi, Abe and Harper and Rouseff by now ensures we will phase out coal, oil and gas over time, starting now. But while we know that there are no technical and economic barriers to achieving 100 per cent renewables for all by 2050 worldwide, even progressive governments this weekend have not committed to that mid-century goal.” – Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director
  • “The UN Secretary General’s climate lunch today – together with the US-China announcement last week – has made it increasingly clear that world leaders are starting to agree on the ingredients that will make up a new treaty on climate change due this December. Those ingredients include a goal to decarbonise the economy well before the end of the century, a way to periodically ramp up climate action, a support package to meet that goal and a plan to increase the resilience of communities. The challenge will now be to make sure the ingredients selected are baked into a cake that’s robust enough to avoid the worst climate impacts.” – Wael Hmaidan, Director, CAN-International
  • “Change is in the air. After years of pushing, we are approaching a real turning point on global climate action. Country leaders used today’s meeting to affirm their solidarity behind the core components of a universal climate agreement this year. These include a long-term goal for the transformation of the global economy, a requirement for countries to increase their efforts every five years, and assurance that finance will be available to help developing countries. Now is the time for Heads of State to declare their vision for what the Paris deal should look like.” – Jennifer Morgan, Director of the Global Climate Programme at the World Resources Institute
  • “Leaders must send a powerful signal to citizens and investors alike that they are committed to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, and that this requires an agreement in Paris that accelerates the shift away from fossil fuels towards a global economy powered entirely by renewable energy resources by the middle of this century.”  – Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists
  • “We welcome that the Heads of States at their meeting in New York have made clear that they are ready to take responsibility for a successful climate deal in Paris. They acknowledged that the agreement must signal the need for phasing out emissions from coal, oil and gas globally. The threshold for success of the deal is to avoid a dangerous global temperature rise of  1.5DegC/2DegC. IPCC scenarios show that this has to happen until mid-century.” – Christoph Bals, Policy Director of Germanwatch

From Business

  • “The United Nations and world governments have shown far sighted leadership in agreeing the sustainable development goals. However everyone gathered at the UN this week agrees that if we do not tackle climate change there will be no sustainable development. Leading businesses fully support Ban Ki-moon’s call for bold and decisive action on climate – it is time to go all in.” – Steve Howard, IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer
  • “The business community understands that the low-carbon economy is the only way forward, and is asking for the long-term planning security to help us drive that transition. We support a strong international framework and welcome the signal from these Heads of State that we are moving towards an ambitious agreement.” – Richard Gillies, Kingfisher Chief Sustainability Officer

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