Secretary-General Hails History-Making Ceremony as World Leaders from 175 Countries Sign Paris Agreement on Climate Change

| April 23, 2016

Day-long Event Sees 14 States Parties to Treaty Deposit Ratification Instruments

World leaders from 175 countries gathered at United Nations Headquarters today for the official signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the historic accord reached last December, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling upon all States to quickly sign up to the treaty so it could enter into force as soon as possible.

“The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create,” said Secretary-General Ban as he opened the high-level signature ceremony in the General Assembly Hall.  Climate action could help eradicate poverty, create green jobs, defeat hunger, prevent instability and improve the lives of girls and women.  However, the window for keeping global temperature rise below 2°C, let alone 1.5°, was closing and intensified efforts were needed to decarbonize economies, he said.

Noting that today’s event had made history, he said it had involved the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day.  Among them were the following 14 States parties that deposited their ratification instruments:  Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Saint Lucia, Samoa and Somalia, as well as the State of Palestine.  The treaty must find expression in actions taken on behalf of the current generation and all future generations, the Secretary-General said.  “Young people are our future.  Our covenant is with them.”

Following his remarks, Getrude Clement, a youth leader from the United Republic of Tanzania who spoke on behalf of children, said they would feel the effects of climate change most acutely.  “This is not the future we want for ourselves,” she emphasized.  “We expect action, action on a big scale, and we expect action today, not tomorrow.”

In a similar vein General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark) pressed Member States to take bold steps to make that transformation happen now.  Among others, he congratulated the leaders of France and Peru — Presidents of the two previous climate conferences — for having shepherded a remarkable breakthrough.

President François Hollande of France said that in the run-up to the Paris Agreement, important steps had been taken by Governments, business, local leaders, civil society and ordinary citizens.  And yet, since agreement on the treaty, temperatures continued to rise and disasters had occurred, including the cyclone that had devastated Fiji, spreading drought in Africa, the shrinking of Lake Chad, and rising sea levels that threatened small islands with disappearance under the waves.

On that point, Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga of Tuvalu lamented that an average of 62,000 people were displaced due to climate change each day, a staggering figure that should ring alarm bells.  He called for an Assembly resolution establishing a legal protection system for people displaced by climate change.

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil said that developing countries like her own had achieved significant emission reductions and taken on even more ambitious targets.  She called for increasing climate financing beyond the annual $100 billion commitment, saying that international financial flows must be permanently reoriented to support measures that would facilitate solutions.

President Joseph Kabila Kabange of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, speaking for the least developed countries, said that category had been among the most progressive during the climate negotiations, with 47 of them having communicated their intended nationally determined contributions, although such efforts were not mandatory.

Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of China said that, as a responsible, major developing country, whose people owned their commitments, China would work earnestly to implement the Paris Agreement, notably by early accession to the treaty.  The Government of China would finalize the domestic legal accession procedures before the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in September, he said.

John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States, said the Paris Agreement’s power lay in the opportunity it created.  The deal had sent a message to the markets that innovation, entrepreneurial activities, allocation of capital and Government decisions would define the new energy future.  Investment in renewable energy had been at an-all time high of nearly $330 billion in 2015, he noted.

Anand Mahindra of India’s Mahindra Group said that addressing climate change was the responsibility of the private sector, given its role in contributing to the problem.  The Agreement gave business a chance to redeem itself from the “trust deficit” it faced.  Many companies had joined programmes to double energy productivity by 2030, or made a commitment to transition towards 100 per cent renewable energy in the future, he said.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Indigenous Women and Peoples Association of Chad, said climate change was “adding poverty to poverty”, forcing people to leave their homes in search of a better future.  “It is time to change your hope into promise,” she said, urging leaders to sign, ratify and implement the Agreement.  “We want you to act.”

The signature event extended throughout the day, in parallel with meetings in which Heads of State and Government offered updates on how they would integrate national climate plans into broader sustainable development programmes.  Opening the event was a brass quintet from the Juilliard School in New York City, joined by 197 children representing the States parties that have adopted the Paris Agreement.

Also speaking during the signature ceremony were the Presidents of Peru and Bolivia and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Italy.  The Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation also spoke, as did a royal Princess from Morocco.  United Nations Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio also addressed the ceremony.

Opening Remarks

GETRUDE CLEMENT, youth representative from the United Republic of Tanzania, spoke on behalf of young children in the opening ceremony, saying that climate change presented a big problem all over the planet, but it was children who would feel its effects most acutely, both now and in the future.  Climate change affected the lives of young people, their planet and their education, and children saw its negative results in their daily lives.  “This is not the future we want for ourselves,” she said, adding that children were leading their communities in taking action.  Youth leaders in the United Republic of Tanzania had visited many communities to talk about the effects of climate change and had learned how it impacted the lives of young people.  “We expect action, action on a big scale, and we expect action today, not tomorrow,” she emphasized.  “The future is ours, and the future is bright.”

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, recalled that in Paris last December, the international community had adopted the world’s first universal climate agreement, with every country pledging to curb emissions and strengthen resilience to potentially devastating climate impacts.  Today, more than 165 Governments had gathered to sign the Paris Agreement.  “This is history,” he said, describing the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day.  He commended the 14 States parties depositing their ratification instruments:  Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Saint Lucia, Samoa and Somalia, as well as the State of Palestine.  Noting that records were being broken inside the chamber today, he said they were also being broken outside — record global temperatures, ice loss and carbon levels.

“We are in a race against time,” he emphasized, urging countries to join the Agreement quickly so that it could enter into force as early as possible.  The window for keeping global temperature rise below 2 °C was closing, he warned.  The era of consumption without consequences was over and intensified efforts were needed to decarbonize economies and support developing countries in making that transition.  “The poor and vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create,” he stressed.  Climate action was not a burden.  Rather, it could help eradicate poverty, create green jobs, defeat hunger, prevent instability and improve the lives of women and girls and it was essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  He said he had worked towards this day since “day one” as Secretary-General.  “You are signing a new covenant with the future,” which must find expression in actions taken on behalf of the present and future generations to protect communities.  “The power to build a better world is in your hands,” he declared.

FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE, President of France, said 12 December 2015 had been a historic day for the whole international community.  The moment it had become clear that agreement had been reached had been an emotional one.  It was important to recall that the terrorist attacks on Paris had been the backdrop to the Agreement, he said, adding that world leaders had nevertheless demonstrated their ability to come together with a sense of partnership and responsibility to ensure that an agreement would be the fruit of the Paris meeting, as a symbolic act for the rest of the world.

In the run-up to the Agreement, important steps had been taken by Governments, business, local leaders, civil society and ordinary citizens, he recalled.  The success of the Paris meeting had compelled Governments to go even further than the promises and pledges made, and there was a need to ensure that words became actions.  Since 12 December, temperatures had continued to rise and further disasters had occurred, including the devastating cyclone in Fiji, the spread of drought in Africa, the continuing shrinkage of Lake Chad and the rising sea levels that threatened small islands at risk of disappearing under the waves.

Never in the history of the United Nations had it been possible to bring together 170 countries to sign an agreement, all together, on one day, he noted, emphasizing that there was no turning back now.  The world must accelerate action to implement low-carbon policies.  Noting that some $100 billion was needed between now and 2020, he said every country must set an example, particularly developed countries, by stepping up contributions for combating climate change.  “It is not just a question of States taking action, the entire world must come together,” he stressed.  “Everyone must feel that they have a stake in this.”

MOGENS LYKKETOFT (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, congratulated Governments for having demonstrated what true leadership was all about; society and business leaders, for keeping the pressure and momentum going; the leaders of France and Peru – Presidents of the previous two Conference of Parties - for having shepherded a remarkable breakthrough; and the Secretary-General, for his tireless commitment on the long journey to Paris.  “We must raise the level of ambition even further,” he said, calling for bold steps to make the transformation happen now.

OLLANTA HUMALA TASSO, President of Peru, said the Paris efforts went hand in hand with others under way at the heart of the United Nations, energetically promoted by the Secretary-General, to combat poverty and inequality, notably with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Against that backdrop, he said, he was grateful for his country’s important role in that process, and to the international community for its trust in his Government.  Recalling that the Lima Call for Action had been adopted in 2014, laying the foundations for the Paris Agreement, he said Peru had worked with France to craft a historic accord that must now be implemented responsibly.

The unprecedented presence of so many Heads of State and Government to sign — and some to ratify — the Agreement was proof of the worthy efforts deployed in reaching the accord, he said.  Peru had been motivated by the need to mobilize the greatest partnership in history for the benefit of climate and development.  Indeed, the Paris Agreement contained weighty obligations that the international community must assume under the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.  States would need to ramp up dialogue and cooperation, and ensure robust commitment was in place to push forward the climate financing needed for mitigation and adaptation efforts, and to shape low-carbon, climate-resilient economies.

In that context, he went on to point out the importance of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, saying it must play a full part in the run-up to the twenty-second Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech, Morocco, which aimed to promote climate action at all levels of society.  For its part, Peru was working to become a climate-responsible country, having committed to reducing greenhouse gases by 30 per cent by 2030, and to enhance adaptation actions.  Those included reducing vulnerability in terms of access to water, agriculture, fisheries, forests and health, as well as across five sectors — disaster risk management, resilient public infrastructure, the fight against poverty, gender equality and promoting private investment.  The Paris Agreement represented the tangible expression of a desire to achieve fair, secure and sustainable development for all.  “Today, we can ratify the greatest partnership against the enemy — climate change,” he declared.

JOSEPH KABILA KABANGE, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noted that the Group of Least Developed Countries had been among the most progressive in the climate negotiations and had played a significant role in building important components of the Paris Agreement.  For them, today was not merely a symbolic event; it was an important opportunity to reaffirm the positive spirit and narrative created in Paris.  Today was an opportunity to outline a timetable for ensuring the Agreement would have full force in international law and would be implemented.  Ministers from the least developed countries had met in Kinshasa earlier this month to reiterate their commitment to the Paris Agreement and had declared that their Governments would take all necessary steps required for ratification of the Agreement, as soon as possible.

The Paris Agreement created many challenges and opportunities for economies, he continued.  To reach many of the goals it set out, predictable and significantly increased financial flows and other resources would have to be put in place to enable robust action.  Resilience to the adverse effects of climate change and enhanced actions on adaptation would also be required.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo was fully aware of the need for a global effort to tackle global warming and had committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent between 2020 and 2030, he said.  That represented a considerable effort for a country that was resolutely working to rebuild itself and move ahead.  The transfer of technology, building capacity, securing financing, ensuring resilience in the face of climate change, and developing renewable energy were the main priorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, noting that it had a significant and diverse range of natural resources that made it an important partner in the fight against climate change.  The development of hydroelectric power would help meet its own energy needs, as well as those of its neighbours and beyond, he said, emphasizing that States had a duty to overcome narrow self-interest and opt for proactive, mutually beneficial cooperation.

EVO MORALES AYMA, President of Bolivia, declared:  “The Earth is not an object that can be sold,” emphasizing that his community had taught him that land was “our mother, our home that should be protected”.  He described the main enemies of life as consumerism, mercantilism, the arms race and greed — in sum, the capitalist system, which should be eradicated.  The world was witnessing the most serious disasters — temperature rise, drought, hurricanes and other extreme events — and unless Governments lived up to their Paris commitments, temperatures would rise by between 5 and 6 °C, he warned.

He went on to state that the Paris Agreement could change that reality, depending on its implementation.  It marked an important step, but it was not sufficient to save Mother Earth.  He called for examining the structural causes of the climate crisis, stressing that the rights of Mother Earth were more important than individual rights.  The environment must be protected and, as such, it was essential to adopt a universal declaration on the rights of Mother Earth, and an international climate justice tribunal.  They would judge and punish States responsible for the climate crisis, as well as businesses that caused social and environmental damage.  “If we don’t change the capitalist system in the future, we will see the destruction of humankind,” he asserted.

DILMA ROUSSEFF, President of Brazil, said that the successful conclusion of the Paris Agreement represented an historic milestone towards creating the world humanity wanted — a world of sustainable development for all, with the full achievement of the Goals enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Realizing the commitments made in Paris would demand converging action by all countries and societies towards lives and economies less dependent on fossil fuels and dedicated to sustainable environmental practices.  Developing countries like Brazil had achieved significant emission reductions and taken on even more ambitious targets, she said.  The challenge of tackling climate would require a gradual increase in the ambition of developed countries and the continuous mobilization of the appropriate means of implementation.

She went on to emphasize that it was necessary to increase climate financing beyond the annual $100 billion commitment.  International financial flows must be permanently reoriented to support measures that would translate into solutions.  Brazil was determined to intensify mitigation and adaptation actions, and in that regard, would work for a 37 per cent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025, and 43 per cent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, she said.  The country would also achieve zero deforestation in the Amazon and neutralize emissions from the legal suppression of vegetation.  Another challenge would be the restoration and reforestation of 12 million hectares of forest and another 15 million hectares of degraded pasture, he said.  Those were indeed ambitious targets, but they were based on Brazil’s understanding of the grave, negative impacts of climate change.

ZHANG GAOLI, Vice-Premier of China, described the Paris Agreement as a milestone in the global response to climate change, which his country had actively worked to conclude.  In Paris, the President of China had put forward the country’s vision and proposals, and China had played a vital role in the negotiation process.  It was a responsible, major developing country, whose people owned their commitments, he said.  “We will work hard to earnestly implement the Paris Agreement,” notably by acceding early to the accord, and would finalize its domestic legal procedures on its accession before the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit in September.  China would work with the rest of the international community for early accession in order to ensure the accord’s early entry into force.

He said China would take actions at home to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, setting a peak by 2030 and making its best efforts to peak early.  Those efforts had been included in national development plans.  Under the national five-year plan, efforts would be made to cut carbon emissions by 18 per cent, control carbon intensity and launch near-zero carbon emission projects.  It would also put in place a strict accountability system for environmental protection and ensure implementation of all targets.  More broadly, China would enhance international cooperation against climate change by taking part in follow-up negotiations on the Paris Agreement, while deepening South-South cooperation on climate change.  New projects had been launched in 2016, especially those focused on enhancing the climate financing capacity of developing countries.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, Prime Minister of Canada, said climate change represented not only a challenge that must be met, but also an opportunity that must be grasped.  It was a challenge that Canada had already begun to address, he said, noting that his Government had met with a range of stakeholders to create a plan that would meet or exceed emissions targets, and taken steps towards clean economic growth.  Canada had encouraged actions to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and invested billions in a green energy fund.  It had also signed on to “Mission Innovation”, a global partnership that aimed to double Government investment in climate-change initiatives over five years, while encouraging a more prominent role for the private sector.

“These actions are just the beginning,” he said, emphasizing that the country was not making such investments to be “nice”.  Rather, Canada was doing so because it was the right thing to do for the environment and the economy.  The humanitarian case was also clear.  It was well known that climate change would hit the poorest citizens the hardest, making it more difficult for the international community to address other challenges, such as food insecurity and the growing needs of refugee populations.  The business case was also obvious, and there were tremendous opportunities in that regard.  Canada’s ambitions would not end with those planned steps aimed at addressing the issue at home.  The country would also play a prominent role in supporting developing countries, which should neither be punished for a problem they had not created, nor deprived of the opportunities for clean growth that developed countries were pursuing.  That was why Canada would investment $2.5 billion over the next five years to help developing countries move towards sustainable development, he said.

MATTEO RENZI, Prime Minister of Italy, asked delegates to close their eyes and imagine their sons and grandsons in the General Assembly chamber for the first time.  “Today, finally, we give a message of hope,” he said.  The Paris Agreement was important, but not only for a single issue.  Its most important aspect was its political message.  “We give the message that politics is able to give hope for the next generations,” he said, emphasizing that Italy would work for implementation of the Paris Agreement in the coming months.  The international community had demonstrated that it understood the importance of delivering a collective message, and Italy would consider that a priority for its presidency of the Group of Seven (G-7) and for its role in Europe.

ENELE SOSENE SOPOAGA, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said “we need to take the Paris Agreement and mould it into an international call to action” — a “document of revival”.  Signature was the first step, to be followed by ratification to ensure its early entry into force.  He said that he had arrived today with Tuvalu’s instrument of ratification, and encouraged the legislatures of other countries also to ratify.  He welcomed the decision by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to develop a special report on the impacts of a 1.5 °C global temperature rise, saying he suspected that would have serious implications for small-island countries, such as his own.

More broadly, he said an average 62,000 people were displaced each day due to climate change, a staggering figure that should ring alarm bells.  Calling for an Assembly resolution to establish a legal protection system for people displaced by the impacts of climate change, he said that, since small island developing States required better access to climate financing, disbursement of the Green Climate Facility must be based on accessibility and level of vulnerability, rather than how well a State party could write its adaptation or mitigation proposals.  He also sought support for a Pacific island climate change insurance facility.

ALEXANDER KHLOPONIN, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, said today’s signing was a remarkable and important step by the international community towards achieving the goal of tackling global climate change.  The Paris Agreement created a reliable international legal framework that united actions of developed and developing countries, including the main emitters of greenhouse gases.  The quality of life of all of humanity and the move towards a more sustainable future depended on resolving climate issues.

The Agreement, he said, contained important provisions on the role of market-based mechanisms to provide incentives to Governments and businesses to take effective measures to address climate challenges.  His country was prepared to cooperate with all States and had laid out an ambitious set of intended nationally determined contributions, which included its intention to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 70 per cent of 1990s levels by 2030.  The preservation of forests was of major concern for the Russian Federation.  The potential of forests must be maximized, without artificial restrictions.  The Russian Federation had created a national plan to implement the Agreement, which included a long-term strategy of low-carbon development through 2050, and systemic efforts for the sustainable management of forests.  There needed to be innovative approaches based on technologies, with a particular focus placed on technical cooperation to address climate problems.  He concluded by highlighting a proposal by his Government to convene a scientific forum under the United Nations to discuss climate change challenges, including the depletion of natural resources.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State of the United States, recalled that he was a young organizer just back from Viet Nam on the first Earth Day in 1970, and a young Senator advocating in Rio de Janeiro for the first Earth Summit.  After having attended many Conferences of Parties, it was fair to say that all felt an “extraordinary sweep of joy” when 196 nations said in Paris that they would live up to their responsibility to future generations.  That meeting was a turning point in the fight against climate change, when the world had decided to heed the mountain of evidence, put to rest the debate of whether climate change was real, and instead, began to galvanize the focus on how to address the irrefutable reality that nature was changing rapidly due to our own choices.

The power of the Agreement was not that it guaranteed States would hold the global temperature rise to a target of 1.5 or 2 °C.  “It does not and we know it”, he said.  Its power was in the opportunity it created, the message it sent to the marketplace that innovation, entrepreneurial activities, allocation of capital and Government decisions would define the new energy future.  Its power lay in what it would do to unleash the private sector.  In 2015, renewable energy investment reached an-all time high of nearly $330 billion.  It was predicted that States would invest tens of trillions of dollars by the end of the century.  More of the world’s money was now being spent on fostering renewable technologies than on fossil fuel plants.

“None of what we have to achieve is beyond our capacity technologically,” he said.  “The only question is whether it was beyond our collective resolve.”  The urgency of the challenge was only becoming more pronounced.  The United States looked forward to formally joining the Agreement this year and called on all its international partners to do likewise.  Quoting former South African President Nelson Mandela, he said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

LALLA HASNA, Princess of Morocco, whose country would host the twenty-second Conference of the Parties in Marrakech, said collective efforts should focus on the Agreement’s effective implementation.  To honour its commitments, she said that Morocco would, by 2030, cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 32 per cent while meeting 52 per cent of its energy needs through renewable sources such as solar and wind farms.  It stood ready to share its know-how with others, particularly countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Noting how the next Conference would see the adoption of procedures and mechanisms for implementing the Paris Agreement, she emphasized the importance of a clear and predictable road map to raise funds for projects, thus fostering change in private investment patterns.  Countries needed to benefit from a full range of incentives, with developing States getting access to patented technology on preferential terms and solutions being found to environmental trade barriers.  Negotiations on implementing the Agreement had reflected a spirit of international solidarity and responsibility, she said, and with the commitment of all parties, the pledges made in Paris would result in specific objectives, effective mechanisms and concrete projects that would turn ambitions into reality.

ANAND MAHINDRA, private sector representative, said the transition to a greener way of life was happening after much “churning”.  Nevertheless, indisputably positive things were beginning to take place, starting with today’s signing of the Paris Agreement.  It was the first step towards visibly integrating the private sector’s future with the future of the planet.  Addressing climate change was the responsibility of the business sector given its role in contributing to the problem.  It gave businesses a chance to redeem themselves from the “trust deficit” it had faced following the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Many corporations were joining programmes to double energy productivity by 2030 or had committed to transitioning towards 100 per cent renewable energy in the future.  Investment in renewable energy options now outstripped that in conventional energy for the first time and represented an attractive business opportunity.  It would be on the best investment he, as a business leader, could make.  He welcomed the Agreement’s signing today as a sign that the inner conscious of nations and corporations had been stirred.

HINDOU OUMAROU IBRAHIM, civil society representative from Chad, said her people were nomadic pastoralists, where more than 10 million depended on a fragile ecosystem.  Thirty years ago, her mother used to walk 10 kilometres a day to collect water and food.  Today, young mothers were climate refugees.  They could not walk to Lake Chad because it was vanishing.  The land was being used by Boko Haram and her people’s rights and dignity were under threat.  “Climate change is adding poverty to poverty every day,” she said, forcing people to leave their homes in search of a better future.  Migration was a tragedy for those who had been left behind — women and children who must stay and fight the consequences of climate change on their own.  They fought for survival.

“Nature is our supermarket.  To protect it, we use our indigenous and science knowledge,” she said, noting that her people had developed a participatory treaty to help women and children manage the few resources left.  But their traditional knowledge could not solve everything.  It could not end fossil fuel or protect people from land grabbing.  Today, delegates had the responsibility to ensure international citizenship.  In her community, thousands of women and children had never used electricity.  They had seen the damage caused by fossil fuels and carbon.  For her people, true climate justice was renewable energy for all.  “Without adaptation measures, soon there will be no one to adapt.  In Paris, you gave us hope.  Now it is time to change your hope into promise,” she said, urging leaders to sign, ratify and implement the Agreement.  “We want you to act.”

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, United Nations Messenger of Peace, recalled how he had travelled the world over the past two years to document how climate change had altered the natural balance of life.  “All that I have seen and heard on my journey absolutely terrified me,” he said.  It was proven that climate change was a direct result of human action and would get astronomically worse in the future.  “You know what will happen if this scourge is left unchecked,” he warned, calling climate change a “runaway freight train” that threatened impending disaster for the world.

Although the Paris Agreement had been reached, he said, evidence proved that it would not be enough.  The planet would not be saved unless fossil fuels were left in the ground, where they belonged.  Reversing the course of climate change would not be easy, but the tools were in the international community’s hands, provided they were applied before it was too late.  Many of the steps that had been taken were already yielding fruit, but it was now incumbent upon world leaders to lead, empower and inspire.  Signing the Paris Agreement would mean nothing without bold, unprecedented action.  After 21 years of debate, it was time to declare — no more talk, no more excuses, no more 10-year studies, no more allowing fossil fuels companies to dictate the policies that will affect the future.  The United Nations was the body that could make a difference.  “The world is now watching.  You will either be lauded by future generations, or vilified by them,” he warned.  “You are the last, best hope for earth,” he concluded.

National Statements (A to L)

MOGENS LYKKETOFT (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, opened the segment, calling it an opportunity for Parties to the Convention to provide updates on how their Governments were implementing their national climate plans and integrating them into their overall sustainable development plans.  Speakers would also set out their countries’ road maps towards achieving the overall aim of limiting the global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and indicate their respective Governments’ timetables for ratifying the Paris Agreement.  In addition, he said, participants would indicate how their Governments would accelerate climate action before 2020 by drawing on the ingenuity, resources and efforts of all sectors of society.

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS CALDERÓN, President of Colombia, called climate change the greatest challenge faced by mankind.  The sooner the Paris Agreement was ratified, the faster the benefits would be seen, he said, adding that his country had recently concluded an agreement on climate change that called for effective and coordinated action, with a national policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as deforestation in the Amazon region.

He said his country was particularly vulnerable, having experienced in recent years some of the worst flooding and drought in its history.  Acting on climate change would benefit the environment, turn those who had been engaged in conflict into promoters of change, and help restore forests that had been impacted by conflict and drug trafficking.

ALI BONGO ONDIMBA, President of Gabon, called upon States to adopt economic development models that were low in carbon emissions.  Doing that would require new ways of cooperating internationally to combat climate change, he said, stating that Gabon stood ready to work with the international community to reduce global warming.  With 88 per cent of his country covered by forests, he said Gabon had opted for the mainstreaming of land management.

Politically, his State had sought to bring national legislation in line with the challenges of climate change, he said, reiterating a commitment to transition to renewable energy.  Implementation of the Paris Agreement should create a climate that was conducive to private sector investment, particularly in countries committed to a green environment.

ROSEN PLEVNELIEV, President of Bulgaria, calling the Paris Agreement a decisive step forward, said that there was “no turning back”.  Transformation would be made in all key sectors.

Having achieved its targets under the Kyoto Protocol, he said that his country had an ambitious national framework to meet the new targets it had set in compliance with the Agreement’s standards and regional goals, putting an emphasis on energy efficiency within energy networks.  It was now up to everyone to secure early ratification and implementation action.

KOLINDA GRABAR-KITAROVIĆ, President of Croatia, said that the next 10 years were critical for the future existence of the world.  Efforts to face it must not take a back seat.  Having fairly low levels of emissions, but being very vulnerable to climate changes, her country was already seeing irreversible changes in the ecosystem.

Early ratification and implementation was now a priority for the country under the standards of the Paris Agreement and action of the European Union, she said.  Strong partnerships must be built to support collective efforts; her country was participating in cooperation with countries in all regions, as climate change affected all no matter where they were located.

ALASSANE OUATTARA, President of Côte d’Ivoire, said that today was a demonstration of solidarity to deal with the effects of climate change.  His country had experienced warming and a decrease in rainfall, resulting in smaller agricultural yields and other effects.  For his country, implementing the Paris Agreement was an imperative.  A framework for that purpose was now being constructed in coordination with the country’s development plans.  The support of the international community was needed in those efforts, particularly for the dissemination of clean electricity.  Scientific and technological progress, for that purpose, must be made available to all.

JÁNOS ÁDER, President of Hungary, said that despite progress on climate agreements and investments in green technology, it appeared that climate change was accelerating.  The Earth continued to give daily warnings of the consequences of our current practices.  It was not yet time to celebrate; much progress must be made urgently.  For that reason, the largest emitters must take accelerated action.  Research into storing energy must also be a priority.  Noting that “time is our most precious non-renewable resource,” he urged all stakeholders to use it carefully.

DALIA GRYBAUSKAITĖ, President of Lithuania, praised the Paris Agreement as “a win” for the planet, the people and the economy, urging all stakeholders to take action to implement it.  Lithuania, she said, was fully committed to the European Union’s pledge to reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 and was a clear example that rapid economic growth was possible without harming the environment.  In the last 25 years, national emission levels fell by almost 60 per cent, while gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 30 per cent.  She concluded with a warning that although nuclear energy could be a component of a clean energy strategy, the safety of all related infrastructure must be in line with international law and ensure cooperation with neighbouring countries.

FAUSTIN ARCHANGE TOUADERA, Head of State of the Central African Republic, said decisions needed to be taken on measures that would limit the effects of climate change.  He recalled the commitment that his country’s delegation had made at the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to work towards reducing carbon emissions, and noted the need for financing to protect the Congo Basin forest.  It was his country’s desire to see mechanisms established quickly so as to maintain the global ecosystem.

DAVID ARTHUR GRANGER, President of Guyana, said his country was a net carbon sink, with forests that sequestered more carbon than what its population generated.  With the world’s second highest percentage of rainforest cover, Guyana commanded important carbon stocks.  Nevertheless, he said his country was committed to limiting the rise in global temperatures with ambitious initiatives in the forest and renewable energy sectors, moving closer towards a 100 per cent renewable power supply by 2025.  It would invest in such measures as timber monitoring and alternative forms of power generation.

JOCELERME PRIVERT, President of Haiti, said that after Paris, there is now a race against the clock for implementation.  It was a matter of survival of the planet.  In Haiti, hurricanes had become more devastating and droughts more extreme.  In that light, his Government was committed to measures to reduce emissions by 31 per cent by 2030.  Energy reform, reforestation and strengthening human settlements would be among the priorities in that effort.  The climate regime must be implemented along with action to reduce poverty and inequality.  He appealed for that reason for stepped-up assistance to developing countries.

ANA HELENA CHACÓN ECHEVERRÍA, Vice-President of Costa Rica, said that her peaceful, unarmed country had placed its faith in multilateralism and in international agreements such as the Paris Agreement.  She urged its early ratification.  Costa Rica had long provided a model in renewable energy, forest preservation and other measures to reduce its carbon imprint, and was continuing plans to move towards a carbon neutral economy.  All measures were taken in line with the country’s human rights and development plan.  She pledged that her State would build on its achievements and urged all stakeholders to work along with it.

JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister and Minister for iTaukei Affairs and the Sugar Industry of Fiji, said the citizens of his country and other small and vulnerable developing States desperately needed help.  The Paris Agreement was a positive first step, but it was not enough, and for that reason the Pacific Islands Development Forum was seeking a new limit on global temperature rise to 1.5°C.  He went on to call for changes to current arrangements for funding climate change adaptation, as they impeded the ability of small and vulnerable nations to gain access to appropriate financial arrangements.

GASTON ALPHONSO BROWNE, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Corporate Governance of Antigua and Barbuda, said that Caribbean countries had accumulated high debt due to increased spending to address climate change.  Adequate and predictable financing was needed to enable the region to meet climate challenges.  He also supported a proposal to swap debt for climate change adaptation.  With the financial services sector of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member States under existential threat, he appealed for a halt to the destructive practice of delinking Caribbean countries from the international payment system.

ALPHA CONDÉ, President of Guinea, said that his country was ready to go into action to implement the Paris Agreement, particularly in respect to renewable energy.  In that area, the Agreement included a framework for assistance to his continent.  African States were waiting for a clear response in their appeals for such provisions of the Agreement to be operationalized in a timely manner.  Early implementation was critical for Africa and the world.

JIMMY MORALES, President of Guatemala, said that the Paris Agreement provided hope for developing countries that had been severely affected by climate change.  His country had been battered by severe weather in many forms, causing loss of much life and harming the national economy.  Signing the Agreement was just the first step.  All States must commit to implementation.  His country was committed to managing resources in a sustainable way and to promoting a green economy for development.  More must be done to assist Guatemala and other vulnerable States to adapt to climate effects and reduce poverty while mitigating emissions.

DEAN BARROW, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Belize, speaking on behalf of CARICOM, said that small island development States had long been weathering — “no pun intended” — severe climate events spawned by an industrial revolution not of their making.  The world knew in 2009 that survival was at stake, yet it took a veritable labour of Sisyphus to finalize an agreement.  To avoid Armageddon, it was essential to maintain unrelenting pressure, with everyone playing a part and major emitters carrying their commensurate share.  CARICOM was calling for an equitable climate financing architecture and saw promise in the Green Climate Fund as an effective model for implementation.  He also said that, by depriving their domestic financial institutions of correspondent relationships, the phenomenon of de-risking was threating to lock Caribbean economies out of international trade and finance.

FREUNDEL STUART, Prime Minister of Barbados, said his Government’s signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement sanctioned the consideration and acceptance of its first intended nationally determined contribution, which was submitted in 2015 to the Climate Change Convention.  In light of recent reports that 2015 was the hottest year on record and of the study that concluded that climate forecasts underestimated the sea-rise impact of Antarctic thaw, there was no time for complacency.  The contribution of fragile island nations like Barbados would be constrained by the development of operational methods to support the Agreement’s implementation, the outcomes of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the impact of the 1.5°C temperature rise above pre-industrial levels, and by the facilitative dialogue among parties, all of which would not occur until 2018.

PERRY GLADSTONE CHRISTIE, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Bahamas, said that his Government welcomed the commitments in the Agreement, including the aim to limit the annual average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  That ceiling was the only way to ensure the survival of low-lying islands such as the Bahamas.  His country was still recovering from Hurricane Joaquin.  Climate change was threatening its very existence.  Policies and programmes towards climate change adaptation and mitigation were in the early stages of implementation due to limited capacity and other constraints.  They would operate in the wider context of the national development plan, which aimed to decrease emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030.  To implement it, the Government would continue making the necessary investments.  He called on developed countries to fulfil their financial aid pledges on concessionary terms.

KEITH C. MITCHELL, Prime Minister of Grenada, said the unique characteristics, particular vulnerabilities and special circumstances of small island developing States must continue to be a pillar in climate change deliberations.  Grenada had begun the process of integrating climate change into its national development plans and was assessing major national investments for their sensitivities to climate risks.  Grenada intended to increase emissions reduction targets over time and pursue action to fulfil commitments as an integral part of national development.  Grenada was fully committed to achieving common climate change objectives.  He presented Grenada’s instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement with the hope that it would take effect in the not too distant future.

ANTONI MARTÍ PETIT, Head of Government of Andorra, said that his country had already put in place plans to reduce carbon emissions by 37 per cent by 2020 in comparison with earlier periods.  It was now focused on reductions in the energy and transportation sectors, which combined caused 90 per cent of emissions.  There was a plan of investment for renewable energy in place that amounted to 10 per cent of the gross national product (GNP).  Educational systems and the private sector would be engaged in the effort.

PAUL KABA THIEBA, Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, welcoming the signing of the Paris Agreement, said that ratificat

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