Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

8 Oct, 2007

Climate Change: World Leaders Speak

In another first for travel industry journalism, Travel Impact Newswire today begins a five-part series summarising the high-level presentations by world leaders at the special UN session on 24 Sept 2007 under the theme: “The Future in Our Hands: Addressing The Leadership Challenge Of Climate Change”.


In another first for travel industry journalism, Travel Impact Newswire today begins a five-part series summarising the high-level presentations by world leaders at the special UN session on 24 Sept 2007 under the theme: “The Future in Our Hands: Addressing The Leadership Challenge Of Climate Change”. The issues, policies and strategies unveiled at the summit reflect the true spectrum of global ‘voices’ on this pressing issue and will impact on travel & tourism. The speeches, especially those reflecting the voices of the developing countries, have been edited down to keypoints and quotes, saving my readers valuable time in downloading and wading through reams of often repetitive and boring verbiage. The first set of speeches released today covers the opening session. Over the course of this week, a daily set of dispatches will cover other topics at the summit. Groundbreaking journalism and service to the travel & tourism industry, only from Travel Impact Newswire.

1. BAN KI-MOON, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UN: We Have The Technologies, But Not The Time

2. RAJENDRA PACHAURI, CHAIRMAN, INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (IPCC): Lifestyle and behavioral changes will be necessary

3. CATHERINE GAUTHIER, AGED 18: Beware the lobbyists and spin doctors





1. BAN KI-MOON, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UN: We Have The Technologies, But Not The Time

Two decades ago, here in this hall, climate change first surfaced on the world’s political agenda. The subject, proposed by the island nation of Malta, remains as evocative today as it did then — “the protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind”.

Much has happened since those early days. But the fundamental challenge remains unchanged, and has become even more pressing. Climate change, and what we do about it, will define us, our era, and ultimately the global legacy we leave for future generations.

Today, the time for doubt has passed. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has unequivocally affirmed the warming of our climate system, and linked it directly to human activity. The scientists have very clearly outlined the severity of the problem. Their message is simple: we know enough to act; if we do not act now the impact of climate change will be devastating; and we have affordable measures and technologies to begin addressing the problem right now.

What we do not have is time.

Today, the effects of climate change are being felt around the world. But they are being felt most by those who are the least able to cope. Indeed, the terrible irony for many developing countries is that, though they have contributed the least to the process of climate change, they are the ones most at risk from its consequences. For some island States and peoples this is a matter of survival. The moral imperative could not be clearer.

The adverse impacts of climate change could undo much of the investment made to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. But it is not a zero-sum game. By being creative, we can reduce emissions while promoting economic growth. This is our opportunity to: advance sustainable development, encourage new kinds of cleaner technologies, industries and jobs and integrate climate change risks into national policies and practices.

We must be guided by the reality that inaction now will prove the costliest action of all in the long term.

National action must be at the center of our response to climate change – with industrialized countries taking the lead. Fifteen years have passed since the Framework Convention on Climate Change was finalized in Rio. It has been ten years since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted. Yet most industrialized country emissions are still rising. And their per capita emissions remain unacceptably high. At the same time, support for adaptation by poor countries has fallen well short of what is required.

Addressing these shortcomings requires contributions from all countries and all sectors of society, from civil society and business, to regional and local governments. All sectors will need to be engaged if global emissions are to peak in the next ten to fifteen years, and be significantly reduced in the years thereafter, as indicated by the IPCC.

This meeting is an opportunity to infuse this process with political momentum. The crucial negotiations under the UN Framework Convention in Bali this December are almost upon us. We need to set the stage for a comprehensive agreement that tackles climate change on all fronts. And we must reach this agreement as soon as possible to ensure a global policy is in place by 2012. Our goal must be nothing short of a real breakthrough in Bali.

The essential parameters of a global framework are increasingly clear. They include:

<> Enhanced leadership by the industrialized countries on emission reductions

<> Incentives for developing countries to act, but without sacrificing economic growth or poverty reduction and fully consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

<> Significantly increased support for adaptation in developing countries, especially for least developed and small island developing states

<> Strengthened technology development and dissemination and

<> New approaches to financing, including better use of market -based approaches.

Our immediate challenge is to transform our common concern into a new consensus on the way forward. This journey begins in Bali this December. It will succeed or fail based on the strength of the leadership and commitment displayed by the people in this hall.

We hold the future in our hands. Together, we must ensure that our grandchildren will not have to ask why we failed to do the right thing, and left them to suffer the consequences.


2. RAJENDRA PACHAURI, CHAIRMAN, INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (IPCC): Lifestyle and behavioral changes will be necessary

We, the human race, have substantially altered the Earth’s atmosphere. In 2005 the concentration of carbon dioxide exceeded the natural range that has existed over 650.000 years. 11 of the warmest years since instrumental records have been kept occurred during the last 12 years and therefore climate change is accelerating. In the 20th century the increase in average temperature was 0.74 degrees centigrade sea level increased by 17 cm and the last and a large part of the Northern Hemisphere snow cover vanished.

Particularly worrisome is the reduction in the mass balance of the glaciers and this has serious implications for the availability of water something like 500 million people in South Asia and 250 million people in China are likely to be affected as a result.

Major precipitation changes are taking place. In general in the temperate regions there’s an increase in precipitation, rainfall and snow, but in the tropical, sub-tropical and Mediterranean regions there is a decline. But all of this is also accompanied by an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme precipitation events: we have seen several of those in recent years. Overall, water scarcity will increase in several parts of the globe.

There are issues of concern that regard the food security because a number of crops that the human race is dependent on are likely to see a decline in yield and productivity.

Some regions are more vulnerable than others. The Arctic region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. Sub-Saharan Africa already under a lot of stress will also be impacted by stress induced by climate change and I might say Africa as a whole will probably see 75 to 250 million people being affected by water stress by the year 2020 and that is round the corner. Small island states are under threat of sea level rise and would be affected by storm surgence and cyclones even before there is the reality of submergence. Asian mega deltas are extremely vulnerable and this includes a number of cities in Asia which are very heavy in terms of population density. Several coastal regions are in threat of coastal flooding.

There are some systems that are also vulnerable: coral reefs, tundra, boreal forest and we have assessed in the IPCC that 20 to 30 percent of plant and animal species are in danger of extinction if temperature exceeds 1.5 to 2.5 degrees centigrade.

Projections for this century tell us that at the lower end of feasible trajectories, we have a best estimate of 1.8 degrees centigrade as the increase in temperature by the end of the century and at the upper end of feasible scenarios we get 4 degrees centigrade. The inertia of the system that we have is such that climate change would continue for decades and centuries even if we were to stabilize the concentration of gases that are causing this problem today, which means that adaptation is inevitable.

Adaptation alone will not do. We need to bring about mitigation actions to start in the short term even when benefits may arrive in a few decades. And there are huge co benefits from mitigation action in terms of energy security, in terms of local environmental benefits. The cost of adaptation and impacts will keep going up as the global temperature goes up.

As far as mitigation is concerned the costs are going to be much lower than what was anticipated earlier. If we stabilize the concentration of these gases as 445 to 490 parts per million of CO2 equivalent which will give us an equilibrium increase, limit the equilibrium increase to 2 to 2.4 degrees centigrade, that will cost the world less than 3 percent of the GDP in the year 2030. This means that the prosperity that we would normally achieve by 2030 may be postponed by a few months the most. We have up to 2015 if we want to stabilize at that level, after which we will have to ensure that emissions go down substantially.

There are several measures that we have assessed in terms of policy actions, incentives for technology developments. A price on carbon is absolutely crucial. Technology by itself will not do unless there is a pricing framework that ensures that low carbon technologies are developed and disseminated on a large scale. Investments in energy infrastructure have to be in a manner that is going to be climate-friendly because these investments will serve society for a long time to come. Lifestyle and behavioral changes are important and in very simple terms that mean the use of walking, cycling, all of which will make human beings healthier and so also the planet.

My time is up and I would say: so is also the time up for inaction. I end with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, a great leader well, ahead of his time. Gandhi said: “A technological society has two choices: first it can wait until catastrophic failures expose systemic deficiencies, distortion and self-deceptions. Secondly, a culture can provide social checks and balances to correct for systemic distortion prior to catastrophic failures”. May I submit, it is time for us to move away from self-deception and go on to the second of these two choices.


3. CATHERINE GAUTHIER, AGED 18: Beware the lobbyists and spin doctors

[speaking on behalf of Greenpeace Solar Generation, the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, Environnement Jeunesse, Sustain US and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition]

I come from a country which possesses the world’s 2nd largest coral reef cover. It is home to a people proud of our diversity and culture. But my people are also among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Last year, my country faced two of the deadliest disasters from climate-related weather events, killing over 2500 Filipinos – that’s roughly twice as many people in this room today – and affected almost 800,000 families.

To avert the worst impacts of climate change, we need short, medium and long-term targets. A short-term target without a long-term goal is short-sighted. A long-term target without a short-term goal is prone to procrastination and political maneuvering – I should know, I only do my homework the night before it’s due.

Our future lies in renewable energy, not dirty, polluting industries of the past. Therefore, you must avoid the distractions pushed by industry lobbyists, and those bought by them, of so-called “clean coal” and nuclear energy. These are all things my organization, Solar Generation, has been calling for, for years.

Developing nations must highlight issues of climate justice and ecological debt. Our right to develop is dependent on a stable climate. Our actions domestically, and in the international arena, must reflect this. Industrialized nations must aggressively take the lead in ensuring deep emission cuts, financing true solutions and transferring technology to developing nations.

I challenge you to show true leadership. Commit to addressing this urgent threat and put yourselves on the right road to a strong mandate in Bali.

This is not the first time that I have had the opportunity to address leaders on the urgent need for climate action. I was one of five youth that called on you to take the first steps towards a strong post-2012 regime in my hometown of Montreal, at COP11.

In Montreal, we youth urged you to act now as there could be no more excuses. We described how youth all over the world are moving towards sustainable lifestyles and are engaging our communities to take action now.

In Nairobi, we asked you to visualize the world you wanted for your children and then to go out and create it. We urged that you stand united on this critical, potentially devastating, issue.

These messages and our commitments to be part of the solution have not changed. Talking about my future and my children’s future will never get old. You have the power to protect our future and the responsibility to do so. We must act together and we must act now.

But some things have changed. Report after report from the IPCC has told us that there is a small window in which global emissions need to peak if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. The citizens of the world now realize the potential magnitude of the problem and they will no longer tolerate elected leaders that do not act accordingly. I turned 18 this year and am now among the many that will vote for the climate.

The climate regime has changed too. We have seen it grow from the foundational work that was laid in Rio with the adoption of the Convention, to the first baby steps of the Kyoto Protocol and the first Meeting of the Parties in Montreal. But Bali is different. It can be no small step, next step, inch forward. Bali must mark the watershed of a new phase in the Kyoto Framework.

There are spin doctors in certain capitals that will try to convince you otherwise with their ‘diplomatic breakthroughs’, ‘bridges’ and ‘complementary processes’. But there is only one road to a safe climate and it leads to Bali.

I’ve grown out of the training wheels on my bike. So has the climate regime. I have nothing but my future ahead of me and you have nothing but my future to protect. Our future is in your hands.



In this very Assembly, over 20 years ago, world leaders told us that climate change was real. Since then, we have to ask: have we done enough to tackle climate change? Obviously not! And that is why we have gathered here again today.

With the political will we can overcome the threat of climate change, and doing so exercise visionary leadership on the world stage.

Beyond the serious consequences, there is an ethical dimension to climate change. Beyond the impact on ecosystems, economics and communities everywhere, we have a moral obligation to our fellow human beings.

Indeed, there has been no shortage of action. There are many initiatives this organization has taken since the Framework Convention on Climate Change came into force. But by themselves these alone are not enough in the absence of a binding global agreement.

What we need now is a stocktaking, a clear vision of the way forward and, a strategy to get us there together.

I would like to propose creating a comprehensive roadmap to guide the way forward for the UN system and its Member States: To outline the instruments we have and structures necessary to address climate change.

This process should also draw in the expertise of civil society, business and the academy to create a global movement, a true global consensus for action.

Therefore, at the beginning of the New Year (2008), I intend to convene a thematic debate, to begin to forge this consensus and drawing on this broader expertise elaborate the steps the UN family should take to enhance its contribution and coherence. The General Assembly could then consider the full range of policy implications.

We all agree that climate change is unquestionably the biggest challenge facing humanity in the 21st century. There is no more time to waste.



California is mobilizing—technologically, financially and politically—to fight global climate change. Last year in California, we enacted groundbreaking greenhouse gas emission standards. We enacted the world’s first low carbon fuel standard.

Do I believe California’s standards will solve global warming? No. What we’re doing is changing the dynamic, preparing the way and encouraging the future.

The aerospace industry built the modern economy of Southern California. The computer industry and the internet built the economy of Silicon Valley. And now green, clean technology— along with biotech—will take California to the next level.

Right now, in California, the brightest scientists from around the world and the smartest venture capitalists are racing to find new energy technologies…and the solutions to global warming.

It’s a race fueled by billions of dollars. Last year alone, California received more than $1.1 billion in clean tech investment. This amount is expected to grow 20-30% a year for a decade. More venture capital is being invested in clean tech than in telecommunications.

I have been in the labs and research parks. I have talked to the scientists and venture capitalists. I have seen their ambition. And I would not bet against it.

So, what does all this mean for the nations in this chamber? The cell phone, which started as a tool for the rich, is now widespread in the developing world. The same thing will happen with environmental technologies.

And it is in the developed world’s best interests to help the poor nations finance these advancements. When it comes to the environment, the technologies are changing the economics are changing the urgency is changing.

The consequences of global climate change are so pressing…..it doesn’t matter who was responsible for the past.

What matters is who is answerable for the future. And that means all of us.

The rich nations and the poor nations have different responsibilities, but one responsibility we all have is action. The current stalemate between the developed and the developing worlds must be broken.

It is time we came together in a new international agreement that can be embraced by rich and poor nations alike.



Evidence of significant impacts surround us — including in my own city of Delhi, where unusual weather patterns are creating challenges for future planning.

We have taken several steps to promote energy efficiency, sustainable transport, and renewable energy in Delhi, with associated benefits for reduction of air pollution, electricity demand, water availability, and employment. For example, we have the world’s largest bus fleet run on clean fuel and fast expanding the metro network, use of renewable energy for large buildings and townships, and in particular, for the new facilities to be created for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Globally many local authorities have developed and implemented a raft of programs for example ICLEI’s Cities for Climate Protection campaign to address energy efficiency, sustainable transport, waste management, and environmental protection generally, in over a decade of action “on the ground”. These too, have led to visible improvement in citizens’ lives, while having positive impacts on emissions.

While the important and necessary conversations, negotiations and debates continue within and between the nations, we urge you to directly invest in Local Authorities. Fight now so that we can all benefit from reductions of present and future emissions and better management of the local environment.

I conclude with a citation from the Holy Vedas: “Sarva Asha Mum Mithram Bhavantu’. Meaning: Live as if you are one with the trees, the rivers, the mountains and the whole Universe will embrace you like a friend.

Comments are closed.