Helen Clark Remarks: Climate Leaders Summit Copenhagen, Denmark

Dec 15, 2009

Remarks by Helen Clark, Administrator
of the United Nations Development Programme
On the occasion of the Climate Leaders Summit

15 December 2009, Copenhagen


Thank you for the opportunity to address this distinguished audience of premiers, governors, mayors, and business leaders on climate change.

We meet in an age of multiple crises – from climate change to the economic recession, to the recent experiences of high food and fuel prices, and now a flu pandemic. These are all problems without borders, and they are of concern to us all.

At this time the world needs more than ever a reinvigorated multilateral system which can help deliver improved living standards for the poorest and most vulnerable people and nations, and at the same time act to preserve the integrity of the ecosystems of our planet.

We all benefit when developing countries have vibrant economies, are well governed and peaceful, have educated and healthy populations, and can support the fight against climate change.
Making that happen requires dedicated resources, unswerving political leadership and the strongest possible partnerships among all who can contribute to making a difference for the better – governments at all levels, multilateral organizations, the private sector and civil society.

All these factors are needed to tackle climate change - the defining challenge of our generation. The science is clear that there is an urgent need to act forcefully now to mitigate and adapt to its effects. There are indications that climate change is now taking place faster than was previously predicted.

Without doubt, the brunt of its effects is being borne by the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing countries. For them, climate change is not an abstract danger which might occur in thirty or fifty years’ time – it is a growing problem of the here and now.

In many parts of the world, families and communities have crops wiped out by prolonged drought, or homes destroyed by floods and storms. Infrastructure is being devastated by typhoons and landslides.

Successful climate adaptation, coupled with stringent mitigation, holds the key to human development prospects for the 21st century and beyond. 

We stand at an important crossroads in our planet’s future. What happens here in Copenhagen is fundamental to whether we are able to put our common interests first, to protect our planet and foster inclusive and green development.

The new climate agreement needs to be fair, ambitious, and comprehensive. It should lead to reductions in emissions, and the development of less carbon-intensive production and consumption. It should support developing countries to adapt to the climate impacts which are already inevitable, to reduce deforestation, and pursue low carbon energy and growth. 

The role of sub-national and municipal officials and authorities in this agenda is essential. It is estimated that they are responsible for implementing the majority of climate adaptation solutions, and that mitigation measures accounting for between 40 and 70 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions are influenced by their decisions.

These officials and authorities are the ones who must act to conserve forests, protect water supplies, and defend coastlines from erosion.  In many places they are helping to support the switch to greener technologies and renewable energies.

Many governors and mayors have blazed a path on sustainable development for others to follow.  Many are established leaders in the fight against climate change, often taking more ambitious action than their national governments.

UNDP is proud to be working across the globe to reinforce impressive efforts to think globally and to act locally.

Working with eight regional associations representing more than 1,000 regions, UNDP, the UN Environment Programme, and other UN agencies, in partnership with The Climate Group, are developing a programme to support sub-national governments taking  meaningful and urgent steps towards low-carbon development. 

Called “Territorial Approaches to Climate Change”, this programme aims to support sub-national authorities to identify and develop projects which can meet local needs, while building both climate resilience and the infrastructure needed for low-carbon growth.

Specifically, it will help sub-national authorities learn from experience and from each other.  It will support the implementation of projects by matching them with existing and newly available financing, such as ODA, carbon finance, or public-private partnerships, so that they can be implemented.

Through this programme, UNDP already helps disseminate and share expertise and experience accumulated by sub-national governments which are adapting to and mitigating climate change. We are particularly pleased that our support has helped make possible the signing this afternoon of more than a dozen partnership agreements, in which national and sub-national governments commit to supporting their peers in developing countries.

UNDP is also supporting community-based adaptation initiatives around the world.  For example, the UNDP-implemented Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme supports more than 11,000 community-led initiatives in 120 countries, in co-operation with NGOs, communities, and indigenous peoples.

I also want to emphasise the role of the private sector in tackling climate change. UNDP already works with private sector organizations on development.  We want to enhance this partnership to include work on climate issues too, including in support of adaptation and mitigation measures adopted at the sub-national level.

UNDP supports developing countries to access carbon finance, and to develop strategies for low carbon growth and energy access, adaptation and disaster risk reduction.  These strategies need to be at the very heart of national development plans.

Integrating what we do on climate and broader environment issues with what we do on development is essential. There is no simple choice to be made between fostering growth and development or protecting our climate and ecosystems.  Both objectives are essential and fully compatible.

I commend the leadership which those present today have already shown.  You will make further commitments here today all aimed at making sure that we live and develop in the future in better balance with our ecosystems.

Many of the states, provinces and regions with which UNDP is in partnership are represented in this room today.  We look forward to strengthening our joint work, and to expanding our collaboration with many more of the regions present.

Those represented here today stand at the frontline of the battle against climate change. Your strong voice and your increased actions will drive a sustainable and prosperous future for us all.

Thank you.

UNDP Around the world