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UN Secretary General's opening remarks at the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen

Your Majesty, Royal Highness, Excellencies, Distinguished guests,

I am delighted to be here. Perhaps more important, I am glad you have chosen to take the time to be here today.

We meet at a critical moment in human history.

Our planet is warming to dangerous levels. In December, the UN Climate Change Conference will meet here in Copenhagen to find solutions to this grave global threat.

As business leaders, you are crucially placed to ensure that government negotiators seal a deal.

We are enduring the worst economic downturn since [the] 1930s. It is essential that we do not allow this to hold back the political momentum, investment and innovation that we need to combat climate change.

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. I also believe it is the most potent game-changer for business over the next century. It is an opportunity we must seize.

Today, I want to challenge you. I want to see you in the vanguard of an unprecedented effort to retool the global economy into one that is cleaner, greener and more sustainable.

You and your colleagues have the ingenuity and vision to lead by example where others including governments are lagging behind.

With your support, and through your example, we must harness the necessary political will to seal the deal on an ambitious new climate agreement in December here in Copenhagen.

This will not be easy. Fundamental change never is. But, if we get it right, we can reasonably look forward to sustained growth and prosperity.

If we get it wrong we face catastrophic damage to people, to the planet and to the global marketplace.

Excellencies, dear friends,

Our excessive reliance on a fossil fuel-based economy is destroying our planet's resources. It is impoverishing the poor. It is weakening the security of nations. And it is choking global economic potential.

The science is clear. Global emissions must peak in less than a decade to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

Many scientists are saying that worst-case projections are already being realized indeed surpassed. This was the message from the International Scientific Congress, held here in Copenhagen in March.

We know that the safest way of reducing climate risks is to reduce emissions. We know that taking early action makes good business sense. And we know the cost of inaction will be much bigger than the cost of action now.

Some estimates say that rising greenhouse gas emissions could cause a decline of 5 per cent or more in global GDP.

Compare that with what it would take to bring down greenhouse gas emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, estimates that it could cost as little as 0.1 per cent of global GDP each year until 2030. And that does not factor in the multiple extra benefits to health and development.

Most importantly, we know we have the tools to change course.

What we need is political will, at the highest level, coupled with the right policy signals and market incentives.

In September I am convening a summit meeting on climate change at the UN headquarters in New York to galvanize this political will among the political leaders.

I am inviting all Heads of State and Government.

Business leaders will also be a part of the conversation.

A strong message from the business community to governments worldwide may make all the difference.

As business leaders, you must make it clear to your leaders that doing the right thing for the climate is also the smart thing for global competitiveness and long-term prosperity.

We may never get a better opportunity. And if the world's scientists are right, we may not get a second chance.

Your Majesty, Excellencies, distinguished guests,

We have seen how a local crisis a bank failure, a disease outbreak can quickly go global.

We live in an interconnected world. An effective agreement in Copenhagen would be a powerful vote of confidence in multilateralism. By the same token, failure would be bad news for everyone.

But there is yet another vitally important reason why we must seal a deal in December in Copenhagen.

We know that the right kind of deal will provide the regulatory certainty and long-term price signals that businesses are demanding. We know that a deal can unleash investment, stimulate innovation and facilitate the global spread of low-carbon technologies.

What is often overlooked is the impact a deal could have on global trade. Success in Copenhagen could set a powerful example: if Member States can find a way forward on an issue of such tremendous complexity, surely they can do the same in other areas, most notably the stalled Doha round of trade talks.

On the other hand, failure in Copenhagen could lead countries to turn inward in a misguided effort to handle the climate challenge on their own. We could see new, climate-related protectionist barriers.

But such go-it-alone policies simply cannot work, for climate or for trade. They would undermine the core principles of non-discrimination that the international trading system has been building over the past six decades. They could lead to trade anarchy.

So we need to seal a deal in December for these reasons, too. To protect the trading regime. To enable trade to underpin development, spread green solutions and usher in the green economy.

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Further Resources

Seal the Deal

UNEP's Resources on Climate Change

Ban Urges the Business Community to Lobby Governments to Power Green Growth and Seal the Deal on Cli
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