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Sustainable development on a warming planet?

24 April 2014
Sustainable development on a warming planet?

Opening Remarks for Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

Sustainable development on a warming planet?

Palais des Nations, Assembly Hall
Thursday, 24 April 2014 from 16:00 to 18:00

Your Serene Highness, Prince Albert of Monaco
Professor van Ypersele
Director General Narain
Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the Palais des Nations for this unique event on our changing climate and its implications. A special welcome and a warm thank you to our distinguished speakers for being with us and for sharing their expertise and their passion for a sustainable future. All three have made outstanding contributions to the fight against climate change. Through the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, His Serene Highness has been an eloquent and effective voice for sustainability, not least the protection of our oceans and their biodiversity. As a Head of State, he has shown great leadership and vision, which has inspired others. As the Vice-chair of the IPCC and a prominent academic, Professor van Ypersele has advanced our collective understanding of the scope of the challenge. As an outspoken activist and researcher, Director General Narain was among the first to raise the alarm and energize for a stronger response. We are fortunate to have all three with us. Thank you also to the Permanent Missions of Belgium and Monaco for bringing them here and engaging us all in discussion. Climate change is truly a global challenge and I am therefore particularly pleased to welcome those who follow us via webcast around the world.

This event could not be more timely. Only two weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report on the mitigation of climate change. The report demonstrates how global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and concludes that urgent action is needed to limit the mean increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius.

There can be no doubt that climate change is the defining issue of our era, with serious and far-reaching consequences for development and security. The title of today’s event poses a question to us all: can we realistically hope to achieve sustainable development on a warming planet? The answer to that is clear: climate change is simply the single greatest threat to a sustainable future.

The policy-makers of tomorrow understand this. A couple of weeks ago, I took part in an event for some 300 interns here in Geneva and they unequivocally identified climate change as the central challenge for the United Nations in the years to come. We therefore need to make sure that the policy-makers of today act effectively and with the necessary level of ambition to confront the devastating impact of climate change.

The IPCC message is that despite the extent of the challenge, we have the solutions to reduce emissions. With the right mix of technology and climate policy, we can transition to a low-carbon future while enabling economies to grow. It is an opportunity for real change that we must seize.

Governments have already pledged to reach a universal legal climate agreement by 2015. The Climate Summit that will be hosted by the Secretary-General on 23 September of this year will be an important opportunity to generate further momentum for such an agreement. And I hope that the exchanges today can feed into these global debates.

I welcome the choice of Geneva as the venue for today’s discussion. Not only is the IPCC based here, but many members of our United Nations family and our partner organizations are actively engaged in mapping the impact of climate change, developing the solutions we need, strengthening mitigation and adaptation efforts for greater resilience, and raising awareness globally.

I am sure that this collective experience will come through in the moderated debate today. I wish you an enlightening and enriching event, and look forward to listening to our remarkable speakers.

Thank you very much.