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Secretary-General's Speech at Town Hall Meeting on Climate Change (29June / Inamori Hall, Kyoto University)


Dr. Hiroshi Matsumoto, President-elect of Kyoto University,
Distinguished panelists,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear young students,

Minasama ohayogozaimasu. Ogenkidesuka?

I am delighted to be here and it’s a great honour for me as the Secretary-General of the United Nations to visit to Japan for the first time after 18 months into my office. It is also a great pleasure for me to spend a day, the first day during my official visit to Japan.

In the world of consciousness, there can surely be no other cities more closely associated with the work against climate change. This is the place where the whole international community adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. It cannot be more fitting or appropriate for the Secretary-General of the United Nations to address a group of scholars and students and many people who are interested and concerned about the climate change.

I really wanted to take this opportunity here to send some very important messages to the world. Now I see here “Kyoto kara Kokuren Jimusocho eno message.” (A message from Kyoto to the UN Secretary-General). I am not sure whether I am going to give you the message or you are going to give me the message, whatever the case may be, I am willing to take all your messages. I have already received many proposals from President-elect Professor Matsumoto and other distinguished scholars and I am very much grateful for this opportunity. I am especially glad to meet with the young people here. After all, you are going to be the leader of this world in the future.

Our duty and responsibilities is to hand over this planet earth of us with more hospitable and environmentally sustainable world to the next generation. We feel strong sense of responsibility. That is why I am here and I commit myself to work together with you on this matter. As I have said many times since taking office as the Secretary-General, as President-elect Matsumoto had said, I have taken from the day one of my office this climate change issue as the most important priority of myself as well as the United Nations as a whole. This to be a complex and challenge for any country, corporation, or community to address alone, however powerful one country may be, like the United States or Japan — No.1 and No.2 largest economies, but still you cannot do it alone. This global challenge requires a global response. That is why I have been trying to galvanize a political will. We have resources, we have technologies but largely lacking is a political will at the level of leaders. That is why I am going to discuss with Prime Minister Fukuda tomorrow.

Each country and each sector of society can and must contribute. That is why I am so glad to be here with you for this exchange. Japan’s vision and innovation are crucial to the global fight against the climate change.

We all understand the grave consequences of inaction: reduced agricultural productivity, heightened water insecurity, increased exposure to extreme weather events, the collapse of ecosystems, and amplified health risks, to name but a few. We have already seen all these what’s happening around the world. Recently we have seen an unusually severe whether related to natural disasters, floodings, earthquakes, and long period of drought.

In other words, unless action is taken now, not only will the Millennium Development Goals be beyond our reach but also we risk reversals of hard-won development gains made so far.

Many experts and scholars say that they argue that action should have been taken by yesterday. But if we take action today, it may not be too late. That is what I am asking you to take action, particularly the government leaders, and it is a duty of the scholars here who should always make the politicians reminded of such responsibilities.

But along with these sobering challenges, climate change presents a unique opportunity to put the world on a different, more sustainable course; a course we can be proud to leave behind for succeeding generations to our young students present this morning. We must capitalize on this opportunity to make a historic transition to a “low carbon economy”.

Last year, we witnessed how working together can help us forge a path to collective action in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change、known as IPCC, provided the science; the Stern Report, the economics; the UN High-Level Event on Climate Change, the political leadership; Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, the public awareness. Taken together, all these contributed to rising momentum and achieving a significant breakthrough in the global response. This came in the Bali Roadmap agreed last December, which launched a new negotiations process to design a comprehensive post-2012 framework.

The Bali Roadmap was a milestone, but we cannot rest there. We need to press on and do all that we can in order to reach a global deal in 2009. We in the United Nations will do all we can to help Member States reach a successful outcome in Poznan, Poland, in December this year, and a year later in Copenhagen, Denmark.

To ensure that we are up to the task, I am focusing on the ability of the UN system to support countries in the implementation of existing agreements, and any future agreements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including in the areas of adaptation, technology and transfer, and capacity building. I expect to be able report concrete progress in Poznan in this area.

Dear friends,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Last year, on 11 December, I had the pleasure of joining Japan’s Environment Minister, Ichiro Kamoshita, in Bali in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol.

Kyoto was a historic and crucial first step by the international community to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, the process of adoption and ratification of the Kyoto Protocol has given us a good indication of the level of work ahead of us. This is important as we aim to formulate an agreement for post-2012, with a longer-term goal that is far more complex and ambitious, and which measures up to what the science is telling us.

With the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol coming to an end at the end of 2012, and the time needed for ratification processes, a new agreement must be adopted by the end of December 2009 in Copenhagen, as we have already agreed in Bali last year. The four basic building blocks of the new agreement are in place. Now the challenge is to negotiate the specifics, through the UNFCCC negotiations process. I am encouraged that the Parties to the Climate Change Convention have begun to delve into the details at their most recent meetings in Bonn and will continue in Accra in August.

Leaders must focus first and foremost on what must be delivered by December 2008 in Poznan:

  • A shared vision of what a new agreement will look like, addressing all the building blocks agreed to in Bali;
  • Second, strengthening and creating new financial mechanisms to assist developing countries in implementing agreements on adaptation and mitigation needs;
  • A fully financed and operational Adaptation Fund; and
  • Concrete examples of how to transfer low-carbon technologies to developing countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ambitious targets by all major emitters are essential to conclude the deal in 2009. I am pleased that most G8 nations are willing to set a long-term goal for greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Let me commend Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda for the impressive vision he recently announced for moving Japan to a low-carbon society — including Japan’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 per cent by 2050. This is the kind of leadership by example we need from developed countries to fulfill the larger share of responsibility they bear.

By Copenhagen, we must agree not only in long-term goals, but also in short and medium-term targets. These will provide positive pricing signals and drive market forces towards the technological changes and market transformations we need. As important, they will encourage necessary action by developing countries, making a deal in 2009 possible.

Japan has indicated that it might reduce emissions by 14 per cent from the current level by the year 2020. Today, I call on Japan to provide further leadership in developing an even more far-reaching proposal.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear young students,

The latest report of the International Energy Agency tell us that it will be possible to cut emissions by half by 2050 if we take a combination of measures that lead to improved efficiency and wide-spread use of renewable energy sources. This means implementing measures that dramatically increase end-use efficiency in buildings, appliances and so on; use of capture and storage technologies at power plants; use of renewable and fuel switching; as well as more ambitious standards and regulations.

At the same time, to enable mitigation at such a scale, we need considerable investment and financial flows, as well as technology development and transfer. The International Energy Agency report estimates that to cut emissions by half by 2050, we will need an additional investment of $45 trillion between 2010 and 2050.

I am pleased by the G8 finance ministers’ recent assertion that they are open to strengthening multilateral funds to assist developing countries in their adaptation and mitigation efforts. Developing countries rightly expect that these funds should not be at the expense of existing development finance commitments, but that they will be additional to those, and also consistent with the financial architecture being negotiated in the UNFCCC process.

Let me applaud Japan’s pledge of $10 billion through the “Cool Earth Partnership”. This will go a long way in addressing the financing gap for technology transfer and adaptation, particularly for Africa. The Yokohama Declaration and Action Plan adopted at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) are also very promising outcomes. When implemented, they will boost Africa’s economic growth; improve human security, and address environmental issues and climate change.

Public finance will need to remain the primary source of supporting adaptation action. But for mitigation, we need to rely on partnerships with the private sector, and on market-based instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, emission trading, or carbon taxes.

Japan can play a leadership role in realizing the potentials of these market-based mechanisms, now and in the future. The Clean Development Mechanism is a good start; by improving and expanding it, we can make it a vital source of financial flows for developing countries. Such market-based instruments now, and new ones yet to be developed, will also need to offer incentives for conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of foreign carbon stocks in developing countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have moved climate change up to the top of the agenda, where it belongs; we cannot now let those who depend on us down. We cannot fail succeeding generations who will endure the consequences of our actions; we cannot turn away from the most vulnerable who already face the consequences of climate change today.

I will continue to count on Japan’s exemplary partnership in the quest to reach our common goal — a deal in Copenhagen, on time, and in full. And I will look to young people here, throughout Japan and around the world — the leaders of tomorrow — to keep holding us to account. We have a responsibility to all of you.

I now look forward to listening your views and I will carry your messages.

Thank you very much. Arigatou gozaimashita.