Secretary-General urges addressing Climate Change crisis together
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the United Nations Association of the United States of America Global Engagement Summit, in New York on 22 February:
Welcome to the United Nations. I am very grateful to Kathy Calvin and the United Nations Foundation for making this happen. I also thank Teta Banks, and the leadership of the United Nations Association of the United States [of America].
I want to congratulate you on the seventy-fifth anniversary. We will have next year the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary at the United Nations.
I hope there will be lots of occasions for interaction with the peoples of the world starting by the peoples of the United States of America in order for the United Nations to be able to reform and to be more able to respond to the aspirations and the needs of the peoples of this world.
Now before we start our conversation, allow me to make three very quick points.
First, a simple thank you — to you all as Americans.
Even at the height of the Second World War, the United Nations Association of the United States of America’s founders knew that grassroots American support would be essential to create an organization that could win the peace.
Among them was Eleanor Roosevelt, who had such a profound influence in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and who worked so hard to build your organization after she retired as United States Ambassador to the General Assembly.
Throughout the history of the United Nations, since its founding in San Francisco in 1945, United States leadership and generosity have always been indispensable.
It is no coincidence that the first words of the United Nations Charter, “We the peoples” echo the United States Constitution. I believe the United States Constitution starts by “We the people”. Here it is “We the peoples”, but it is the same inspiration.
I recall from my time as High Commissioner for Refugees the importance of United States support — the largest donor in humanitarian aid around the world. The largest contributor to the United Nations core budget and to our peacekeeping operations.
Over the years, the United States has played a critical role in helping to provide multilateral answers to global challenges.
I always say that United States engagement in the world is one of the strongest forms of support to the United Nations and to our activities. So, I’m very happy to be with all of you here today.
And then we need multilateralism and the engagement of the United States more than ever because we live in testing times. From climate change to migration to terrorism to the downsides of globalization, our challenges are more and more global, and more and more integrated. But, the responses are more and more fragmented, despite the fact that no single country or organization can address these issues alone. It’s a kind of a paradox.
As our threats become more global our capacity response becomes more fragmented. That is why we are facing the enormous difficulties and problems we are facing in today’s world. But of course, saying this is simply not enough.
Because there is a trust deficit out there in the world. As inequality grows, people in all regions are questioning the effectiveness of international cooperation and organizations like the United Nations.
The biggest challenge for Governments and for institutions like ours is to be able to show that we care — that we care especially for those people that feel like they are being left behind with the technological progress and globalization in the Rust Belts of this world — to show that we are able to mobilize solutions that respond to people’s fears and anxieties with answers, with concrete answers for the problems we view.
We need to demonstrate that the United Nations is standing up for people left behind and is connected to their needs, aspirations and everyday problems. And I believe the United Nations is delivering.
In the last two months alone, we won approval of the work programme of the Paris Agreement on climate change in Katowice. Many people thought we would not be able to do it, but it was
possible to bring together all countries of the world. We didn’t solve the climate change problem, but at least we approved the work plan and the Paris Agreement.
We adopted also the Global Compact for Migration and the global compact on refugees.
And in our surge of diplomacy for peace — supported by the United Nations — we are trying and we are starting to succeed in some very important situations of conflict resolution.
You have seen that it was possible to broker a ceasefire in Hodeidah in Yemen. Let’s hope it brings peace and the political agreement.
We have recently had an important peace agreement in the Central African Republic. South Sudan it was possible to bring together the two leaders and to finally look for the possibility of peace in this country where people have suffered so much.
And, the United States was so strongly engaged for the independence of South Sudan. I believe that peace in South Sudan has a huge meaning for the population of the United States.
But, to deliver more, we need to have a United Nations that is more nimble, more effective, more cost effective and is more able to overcome the bureaucratic problems and impediments that always exist in international organizations. To do all this we need you.
When I look out on all of you from dozens of states and universities around this country — I see ambassadors. Ambassadors for understanding, cooperation and connecting the world of the United Nations with the grassroots.
There is no more important issue today than — in this context, and I would single out this problem because it is probably the most dramatic that we are facing — we need together to address the climate change crisis. And, I know you agree with me.
A recent United Nations Foundation poll found that climate change is a top priority for young Americans. Climate change is unfortunately running faster than our efforts to slow it.
There is good news because there are solutions at hand in the pipeline. There is technological evolution that makes more and more the green economy — the economy of the future.
But political will is still lagging behind. That is why I am convening a climate action summit in September here in New York to raise ambition — ambition for mitigation, for adaptation, for financing, for innovation to really defeat climate change.
Today, I am asking for your help in sounding the alarm and highlighting the solutions.
I am going to tweet a call for #ClimateAction, and I want you all to respond on Twitter, highlighting the steps you are taking to beat the climate challenge. I will feature some of your responses on my Twitter account — that [way] we will be together in this very important endeavour.
I firmly believe that we can win this race if we all pull together. And, the same argument goes for all our other challenges — all other challenges we face in today’s world.
You are all committed multilateralists. I thank you for your service as ambassadors for a better world. I feel inspired by your energy and by your engagement. Keep it up. Because we need you more than ever.