Sustainable Development: An Agenda for the 21st Century - Excerpts from the SG's Remarks to Sydney University Thu, Sep 8, 2011

Sustainable development agenda is the agenda for the 21st century. It means connecting the dots between challenges such as climate change and water scarcity, energy shortages, global health issues, food insecurity and the empowerment of the world's women

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Excerpts from the Secretary-General's Remarks to Sydney University

Sydney, 8 September 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Around the world, sustainable peace must be built on sustainable development.

Next month, the 7 billionth citizen of our world will be born.

For that child, and for all of us, we must keep working to fight poverty, create decent jobs, and provide a dignified life while preserving the planet that sustains us.

That is why I have said that the sustainable development agenda is the agenda for the 21st century.

Above all, that means connecting the dots between challenges such as climate change and water scarcity, energy shortages, global health issues, food insecurity and the empowerment of the world's women

On the surface, these might seem like distinct issues - but they are linked. And we have to find those linkages.

In Korea, we have a proverb that says it doesn't matter how many beads you have, without a thread, you will never make a necklace.

We need to find the thread.

Tragically, today we see many examples where we failed to do that early enough or fast enough.

Look no further than the crisis in the Horn of Africa. Conflict, high food prices and drought have left more than 12 million lives at risk.

As Australia knows too well, extreme weather events such as increased floods, rains and droughts continue to grow more frequent and intense as climate change accelerates.

They not only devastate lives, but wipe out infrastructure, institutions, and budgets. Some economists predicted the flood damage could exceed $30 billion.

From the Horn of Africa to Western Europe; from Pakistan to the Pacific Islands; we see the urgency for action.

Competition between communities and countries for scarce resources - especially water - is increasing.

Environmental migrants are starting to reshape the human geography of the planet. This will only increase as sea-levels rise and deserts advance.

I know, once again, there are the skeptics. Those who say climate change is not real.

But the facts are clear: Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Millions of people are suffering today from climate impacts. Climate change is very real.

For those still in doubt, I invite them to take a trip to Kiribati.

Look into the eyes of the young boy who told me: "I am afraid to sleep at night" because of the rising water.

Talk with the parents who told me how they stood guard fearing that their children might drown in their own homes when the tide came in.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In this struggle, there is one resource that is scarcest of all - and that is time.

We are running out of time.

In the first fifty years of this century, the population will increase by 50 percent and global emissions will need to decrease by 50 percent. This is what I call the 50 - 50 - 50 challenge.

Climate change is showing that the old model is not only dated, it is dangerous.

We cannot burn our way to the future.

The skeptics may say: Why bother? No one else is acting on this challenge, why should we?

But scores of countries are heading down a lower-carbon path because they know it is good for their economies and good for the health and well-being of their people.

China has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity by up to 45 per cent in the next decade. It now produces half of the world's wind and solar equipment and is growing its capacity rapidly. It has already surpassed the United States to lead the world in installed clean-energy capacity.

The European Union has committed to cut emissions by at least 20 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020, regardless of what actions other countries take. The EU's commitment has not waivered, even in the face of tough economic times.

Mexico has launched a plan to reduce 51 million tons of CO2 next year alone. That's equal to four and a half years of pollution from all the vehicles in Mexico City.

Korea devoted 80 percent of its stimulus program to green growth, an investment that stands to deliver major economic as well as environmental benefits.

India is also in the race, planning to increase investment in the clean energy sector by more than 350 percent in this decade.

Japan is aiming to create 1.4 million new green jobs.

Denmark is moving to be free of fossil fuels by 2050.

Brazil committed to reducing its deforestation rate by 80 per cent by the year 2020 and is years ahead of schedule - even as it also continues to prove renewable energy can power a major economy.

Around the world, wind, solar and geothermal energy are becoming more cost competitive.

Local governments and large corporations are contributing as well.

Look no further than right here in Australia, the Sustainable Sydney initiative to reduce carbon emissions in this city by 70 percent over the next 20 years.

These actions are vital on their own - but they can also inspire progress in the global negotiations, creating a virtuous cycle.

This is a global race to save the planet. But it is also a race to see which countries and economies will forge the path to creating green sustainable jobs.

I hope Australia will lead the way - for your own good, as well as that of our planet.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me say a word about the global negotiations.

Once again, the skeptics will say: there is nothing to show for it.

Once again, they are wrong.

The Bali Roadmap in 2007 launched comprehensive negotiations that have led to global progress.

Starting with Copenhagen in 2009 and affirmed in Cancun last year, for the first time ever all countries agreed on the goal of limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius.

On monitoring and verification, Governments are working to strengthen accountability and openness through an agreed mechanism to ensure that all countries are adhering to their pledges.

For the first time ever, countries have made large pledges on financing.

On forests, Governments have agreed on an action plan to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation - REDD plus.

Cancun also delivered an adaptation framework to protect the vulnerable, and a mechanism for sharing green technologies.

This wide-ranging global process has given us important tools. We need to keep building, including at the climate conference later this year in Durban.

We need ambitious mitigation targets that ensure that any increase in global average temperature remains below 2 degrees Centigrade.

Moreover, given that the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires next year, a political formula must be found to ensure that a robust, post 2012 climate regime is agreed upon, and is not delayed by negotiating gamesmanship.

At the same time, climate finance, the sine qua non for progress, must move from concept to reality with delivery of "fast start" financing and agreement on sources of long-term financing.

Next year's Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development will also be an important opportunity.

We must make sustainable development for all our top priority. It is only in that broader framework that we can address climate change and the needs of our citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Whether it is securing peace or sustainable development, our chances of success have multiplied when we have grasped the promise of the future and acted together.

When the first President of the Security Council - Australian Norman Makin - gaveled that historic meeting to order 65 years ago, he said something that speaks to us today. He said:

"Cooperation rests on the will of the people of the world to work for peace. A real will to peace must spring not from fear, but from positive faith in the brotherhood of men."

In other words, in people; in nations united ; in you and in me.

A few weeks ago, I went back to my home village in Korea. I visited my high school. To this day, I remember the advice my teacher gave to me.

He said: Put your head above the clouds - but keep your feet on the ground.

Dream. Look over the horizon. Be an idealist. But, at the same time, be grounded and practical.

That is my advice to you. Be bold. Be brave. Think big.

Use your passion to make a difference - to be a part of something larger than yourself.

Don't let the cynics hold you back. You can change the world.

Let us harness that spirit ... that positive faith - to build a better world for all.

Let us all ensure a fair go for everyone.

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