High-Level Meeting on Climate and Sustainable Development for All - Part 2

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28-Mar-2019 02:33:34
Only 11 years left to prevent irreversible damage from climate change, speakers warn during General Assembly high-level meeting.

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Ambition, Urgency Needed to Address Global Emergency, Secretary-General Says

Just over a decade is all that remains to stop irreversible damage from climate change, world leaders heard today as the General Assembly opened a high‑level meeting on the relationship between the phenomenon and sustainable development.

The meeting — held pursuant to General Assembly resolution 72/219 (2017) — will run through 29 March with a focus on protection of the global climate for present and future generations, in the context of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet,” General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador) warned the gathering in her opening remarks, stressing that 11 years are all that remain to avert catastrophe. Highlighting the meeting’s theme, Ms. Espinosa called for an intergenerational approach to climate change. “Climate justice is intergenerational justice,” she said, calling on States to act collectively and responsibly.

Pointing to intensified calls by youth leaders for action on climate change, she said that 2019 must be a year of climate action at all levels. Drawing inspiration from the thousands of students worldwide demanding tangible action, she called on world leaders to make 2020 the last year carbon emissions increase due to human activities. To achieve these goals, people worldwide must change their patterns of consumption, she said, noting that, every year, 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted as some 2 billion people suffer of hunger and malnutrition.

Further echoing the global youth’s call to action was United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who said young people are demanding that today’s leaders act on behalf of future generations. “We must address this global emergency with ambition and urgency,” he stressed, remarking that climate change threatens decades of development progress and plans for inclusive sustainable development.

Noting that “hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions” of people have been affected by cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, he said such events are becoming more frequent and will become worse without urgent, immediate action. He announced the convening of a climate action summit, calling on leaders to meet in New York on 23 September with concrete, realistic plans to enhance nationally determined contributions by 2020.

Pointing to agents of change, he stressed the importance of the role of women as key decisions makers, adding that the summit will assemble Governments, the private sector, local authorities and other organizations.

Addressing the real‑life impact of climate change was Shedona Richardson, youth representative of Grenada. To her, climate change and global warming were ambiguous terms until her life, and that of her fellow Grenadians, was forever altered by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. “That was the day mother nature fought back after being treated so unkindly for so long,” she said, adding that the international community is failing to act as small island developing States face the existential threat of climate change. Addressing the heads of State and Government present at the meeting, she said: “Our future is in your hands, do not let the hope of the world be in vain.”

Immediately following opening remarks, the Assembly held a fireside chat that touched on the achievements of the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — held in Bonn, Germany, and Katowice, Poland, respectively, as well as the expectations for the Twenty-fifth conference to be held in Chile from 2 to 13 December.

During that discussion, Fiji’s Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, who served as President of the Twenty-third Conference of the Parties, said that, while the gathering featured disagreements and finger pointing, the spirit of cooperation and understanding prevailed. Michał Kurtyka, Secretary of State at the Ministry for Energy and Environment of Poland and President of the Twenty‑fourth Conference, said that a people-centred approach to climate change mitigation emerged in Katowice. For her part, Carolina Schmidt, Minister for Environment of Chile and President of the upcoming Twenty-fifth Conference, said discourse must now shift towards change and action with the understanding that climate change and poverty are linked.

The meeting also featured two panel discussions: one on synergies between climate and sustainable development agendas and another on means of implementation.

During the first discussion panellists, Member States and civil society representatives asserted that the time for discourse has passed. “Now is the time for action,” said Krishnee Appadoo, youth representative of Mauritius, pointing to the direct impact climate change is having on small island developing States, women and young people. Such action must be based on a new narrative that promotes systemic change, said Manish Bapna, Executive Vice-President of the World Resources Institute.

Throughout the second discussion, panellists stressed the need to promote technology transfers, provide targeted development assistance and create favourable financing packages that allow vulnerable States to adapt to, and mitigate, climate change. Panellist Javier Manzanares, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund, said helping developing countries access climate financing is the Fund’s priority and over the past three years its portfolio has included 102 projects worth $5 billion.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 29 March, to resume the high-level meeting.

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