During the general debate of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Heads of State and Government as well as Vice-Presidents, ministers and other high-level officials addressed climate change, among other issues.
The statements to the UNGA, which were delivered from 28 September to 3 October 2015 in New York, US, tackled, inter alia: the 2015 agreement; the long-term global goal; climate finance; climate impacts and losses; and mitigation pledges.
The general debate followed on the heels of the UN Sustainable Development Summit, during which the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted.
3 October 2015: During the general debate of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Heads of State and Government as well as Vice-Presidents, ministers and other high-level officials addressed climate change, among other issues. The statements to the UNGA, which were delivered from 28 September to 3 October 2015 in New York, US, tackled, inter alia: the 2015 agreement; the long-term global goal; climate finance; climate impacts and losses; and mitigation pledges. The general debate followed on the heels of the UN Sustainable Development Summit, during which the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted.
The Philippines called for a new, legally binding agreement that is universal and equitable, and ensures “a bright and low-carbon future for the next generation.” Grenada, the Bahamas, South Africa, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago and others also called for a legally binding agreement. Brazil called for: strengthening the UNFCCC, fully implementing its provisions and respecting its principles; ambitious obligations, including financial and technological support to developing countries in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
Sweden said the agreement should, over time, keep global temperature rise as far as possible below 2°C compare to pre-industrial levels. South Africa called for the new climate agreement to also include means of implementation (MOI), loss and damage, and response measures. Barbados stated that Caribbean countries stand “on the edge of a yawning abyss opened up by climate change,” and, along with all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, Tuvalu and others, urged countries to take action in line with the aim of keeping average temperature increase to well below 1.5°C.
Noting that her country is one of the few developing countries to commit to an absolute emission reduction goal, Brazil pointed to its pledge to reduce its emissions by 43% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. She said Brazil is investing in low-carbon agriculture and has reduced deforestation in the Amazon region by 82%. She explained that Brazil aims to ensure a ratio of 45% of renewable sources in its energy mix. Suriname underlined that his country is one of the few carbon negative countries in the world, noting that approximately 94% of Suriname is covered by rainforest.
Canada noted: the importance of ensuring the proper financing of climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts; the need for an effective agreement to address both mitigation and adaption; and his country’s aim to reduce emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. He recalled Canada’s pledge of US$300 million to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), in addition to a prior investment of US$1.2 billion under fast-start financing, which has supported climate-related projects in over 70 developing counties. The UK recalled his country’s announcement to increase its support to climate finance for vulnerable countries to US$9 billion over the next five years.
Trinidad and Tobago said climate change is closely linked to development, noting his country has submitted its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Madagascar said the new 2030 Agenda would “set the world on the path to sustainability” and that a vital first step on that path is an agreement at the Paris Climate Change Conference. He recalled his country’s commitment to reduce emissions by 14% and to increase its absorption capacity by more than 30% by 2030. Sweden noted that climate change can work as a conflict multiplier, threatening peace as well as the chances of achieving the SDGs, and said Sweden will become one of the first fossil-free nations in the world, with zero net emissions by 2050.
Belize said efforts to tackle climate change have been “less than ambitious,” and finance and technology are “conspicuously wanting.” Saint Kitts and Nevis called for considering not just adaptation and mitigation, but also disaster response, recovery and insurance, and underscored the financial burden of climate resilience initiatives. He welcomed the establishment of a SIDS facility that would serve as a clearinghouse for implementing climate-related projects in SIDS.
Jamaica urged improving resilience in the face of natural disasters. Saint Lucia said that SIDS face growing insecurity as climate change “unleashes increasingly deadly and destructive disasters.” Urging the international community to take action on climate change, Dominica stated that Tropical Storm Erika wiped out 90% of Dominica’s gross domestic product (GDP) and caused an estimated US$483 million in infrastructure losses. Papua New Guinea highlighted threats posed by climate change not only to human security, survival and development, but also to the entire global ecosystem.
The Federated States of Micronesia expressed the hope that the Paris Climate Change Conference would resolve disagreements over allowable emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by developed countries, and urged more cohesive action to “prevent the potential genocide of Oceanic peoples and cultures.” Antigua and Barbuda said all industrialized countries should accept their responsibilities as the main contributors to climate change.
The EU recalled its pledge to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. China urged developed countries to fulfill their historical responsibility, honor their emission reduction commitments and help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. India, noting “a duty for common action,” urged keeping in mind the larger historical contribution of some and the differentiated responsibility of others.
Denmark noted the establishment of a climate investment fund to promote private climate investments in developing countries and emerging markets, and noted that Danish pension savings contribute to financing the largest African wind farm in Lake Turkana, Kenya. Turkmenistan proposed setting up a climate change center for Central Asia, noting that such a center with a UN mandate could monitor and analyze the environmental processes occurring in the region, and issue relevant recommendations to Central Asian Governments.
Tuvalu lamented that the UN does not sanction climate change migrants as refugees. He said the new climate agreement must, inter alia: recognize that climate change is a human rights issue, as well as an urgent security and existential issue; include an architecture for loss and damage; reduce emissions or pay to clean, mitigate and aid the most vulnerable without the means to adapt; and be reassuring for the private sector to transition and invest in clean energy and climate-resilient approaches. He also called for a review mechanism to determine whether cumulatively emissions are decreasing, not increasing. [UNGA General Debate Website, with links to speeches] [UN Press Release, Latin America] [UN Press Release, Canada] [UN Press Release, Turkmenistan] [UN Press Release, the Philippines] [UN Press Release, Grenada] [UN Press Release, Island States] [UN Press Release, Madagascar]