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Paris Climate Change Agreement ‘a Triumph for People, Planet’, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly on the outcome of the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), in New York today:

I thank you for inviting me to brief you today.  Seventy years ago, the United Nations was created from the ashes of the Second World War.  Seven decades later, in Paris, nations have united in the face of another threat — the threat to life as we know it due to a rapidly warming planet.

Governments have ushered in a new era of global cooperation on climate change — one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity.  In doing so, they have significantly advanced efforts to uphold our Charter mandate to “save succeeding generations”The Paris Agreement is a triumph for people, the planet, and for multilateralism.

For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb their emissions, strengthen resilience and act internationally and domestically to address climate change.  Together, the countries of the world have agreed that, in minimizing risks of climate change, the national interest is best served by pursuing the common good.  I believe it is an example we could gainfully follow across the political agenda.

I would like to congratulate President Hollande and COP21 President, Minister Laurent Fabius, for bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion.  They stayed committed to the Conference despite the tragic events of 13 November in Paris.

And, I would like to also thank, most importantly, Mr. President [Mogens Lykketoft], yourself, you have been to the meeting twice in two weeks and always with us.  Thank you very much for your leadership.

I would also like to thank UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] Executive-Secretary, Christiana Figueres, and her staff, for their outstanding contribution to this historic success.

And, I would like to thank Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly, for his support and leadership.

The victory in Paris caps a remarkable year.  From the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, from the historic Sustainable Development Summit in New York to the historic climate conference in Paris, this has been a year in which the UN has proven its ability to deliver hope and healing to the world.  Member States have demonstrated that, acting together, they can achieve something no one nation could achieve alone.

Since my first days in office, I have called climate change the defining challenge of our time.  That is why I have made it a top priority of my tenure.  I have spoken with nearly every world leader about the threat climate change poses to our economies, our security and our very survival.  I have visited every continent and met communities living on the climate front-lines.

I have been moved by suffering and inspired by the solutions that will make our world safer and more prosperous.  From Bali to Poznan to Copenhagen, Cancun to Durban to Doha, from Warsaw to Lima to Paris, I have participated in every United Nations climate conference.

The three Climate Summits I convened mobilized political will and catalysed innovative action by Governments, business and civil society.  The Action Agenda, along with the commitments made at last year’s Climate Summit, show that the answers are there.  The private sector is already investing increasingly in a low-emissions future.  The solutions are increasingly affordable and available, and many more are poised to come, especially after the success of Paris.

The Paris Agreement delivered on all the key points I called for.  Markets now have the clear signal they need to scale up investments that will generate low-emissions, climate-resilient development.  All countries have agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and given the grave risks, to strive for 1.5°C.  This is especially important for the nations of Africa, small island developing States and least developed countries.

In Paris, countries agreed on a long-term goal to cap global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible in the second half of the century.  One hundred and eighty-eight countries have now submitted their intended nationally determined contributions, which show what they are prepared to do to reduce emissions and build climate resilience.  Currently, these national targets have already significantly bent the emissions curve downwards.  But, collectively, they still leave us with an unacceptably dangerous 3°C temperature rise.

That is why countries in Paris pledged that they will review their national climate plans every five years, beginning in 2018.  This will allow them to increase ambition in line with what science demands.

The Paris Agreement also ensures sufficient, balanced adaptation and mitigation support for developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.  And, it will help to scale up global efforts to address and minimize loss and damage from climate change.

Developed countries have agreed to lead in mobilizing finance and to scale up technology support and capacity building.  Developing countries have assumed increasing responsibility to address climate change in line with their capabilities.  Governments have also agreed to binding, robust, transparent rules of the road to ensure that all countries do what they have said they would do.

Working with a spirit of compromise and constructive agreement, Governments in Paris have forged an ambitious, credible, flexible and durable agreement rooted in the principle of solidarity.  In acknowledging this historic achievement, I would be remiss if I did not recognize, too, the leadership and vision of the business community and civil society.  They have highlighted both the stakes and the solutions.  I salute them for their outstanding display of climate citizenship.  Now, with the Paris Agreement in place, our thoughts must immediately turn to implementation.

By addressing climate change we are advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Paris Agreement has positive implications for all the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are poised to enter a new era of opportunity.  As Governments, business and civil society begin the mammoth project of tackling climate change and realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations will assist Member States and society at large at every stage.

As a first step in implementing the Paris Agreement, I will convene, as requested by the Agreement and by the Convention, a high-level signing ceremony here in New York, on 22 April next year.  I will invite world leaders to come to help keep and increase momentum.

By working together, we can achieve our shared objective to end poverty, strengthen peace, and ensure a life of dignity and opportunity for all.

For information media. Not an official record.