World Leaders Urge Real Action on Combating Climate Change, as General Assembly Debates Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals

21 April 2016, New York, United Nations GA Seventieth Session, High-Level Thematic Debate

Outlining early actions and evolving plans to achieve the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders called for tangible climate action, the eradication of poverty and bolstered development financing as the General Assembly convened a high-level thematic debate on the Agenda’s implementation.

Development and the climate agenda were mutually reinforcing and one could not be achieved without the other, said Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaking on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  Describing the 2030 Agenda as a blueprint to build a future enshrining the responsibility to focus on the world’s most vulnerable, he noted that it required the adoption of a new, inclusive plan as “nobody in today’s world can grow in isolation”.

In order to achieve meaningful results on the ground, financing the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals was critical, he continued, emphasizing that Governments were in the “driver’s seat” to ensure the disbursement of funds.  The United Nations, for its part, must take a tailored path to implementing the 2030 Agenda, he underlined.

With the historic signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on climate change taking place on 22 April, subsequent action would create pathways out of current crises and begin the transformation that the world desperately needed, said Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark), President of the General Assembly.  In order to make change happen, States must pay closer attention to increasing domestic resources, scaling up existing partnerships and inspiring new ones, meeting official development assistance (ODA) commitments, and advancing data collection.

During the day-long debate, heads of State and Government, ministers, and representatives of international organizations and civil society focused on kick-starting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Addressing the synergy between the Paris Climate Change Conference and the 2030 Agenda, leaders discussed national responses and concrete steps forward, many of which hinged on partnerships between a wide array of stakeholders.

Sharing his national experience, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of Colombia, said his Government’s national development plan had incorporated the Goals even before their adoption. Over the last six years, the country had managed to halve levels of extreme poverty with a view of its full eradication by 2025.  The goal now was to become the most educated country in Latin America in the next decade.

Similarly, Serge Telle, Minister of State of Monaco, said his country had already achieved most of the Sustainable Development Goals, yet the 2030 Agenda provided an opportunity to further improve.  The privileged situation of Monaco did not keep it uninformed or removed from the challenges affecting the world.  “People and problems should not be isolated,” he said.

Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon, stressing that responsible development was the “only choice”, outlined his country’s plan to provide food security, eradicate poverty, promote quality education and achieve gender equality. Several national plans had merged sustainable goals and climate change issues, including a new agriculture policy aimed at guaranteeing access to quality food.  Sustainable development could only exist in an environment of good governance, he added, emphasizing the importance of South-South cooperation.

With regard to climate change, several delegates voiced concern over its implications at the regional and national levels.  Baron Divavesi Waqa, President of Nauru, speaking on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, highlighted the urgency of mobilizing financial resources given their unique needs.  Securing private investment was increasingly difficult due to climate change, he added, noting that coral bleaching was damaging reefs and deterring tourism and fishing.

In a similar vein, Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados, spotlighted partnerships as the single most important factor in realizing the promises of the 2030 Agenda.  The sustainable development governance model adopted by the Government could be used as a guide for countries with similar characteristics and situations, he stressed.

Some speakers took up the issue of water shortage, one of the impacts of climate change.  János Áder, President of Hungary, said that, in a matter of time, fresh water supplies would be depleted.  If the international community failed to address water pollution and eliminate the degradation of arable lands, implementing the Sustainable Development Goals would be impossible.

Miroslav Cerar, Prime Minister of Slovenia, drew attention to his country’s long-term strategic guidelines and an integrated policy framework on the issue.  As one of the most forested countries in the world, with abundant fresh water supplies, Slovenia was prioritizing efforts to preserve those resources.

Also speaking were high-ranking officials from Peru, Namibia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Zimbabwe, Slovakia, Marshall Islands, Costa Rica, Samoa, Andorra, Bahamas, Fiji, Vanuatu, Ethiopia, Tuvalu, Lesotho, Netherlands, China, Montenegro, Sweden, Tonga, Albania, Nepal, Algeria, European Union, Thailand (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group), Maldives (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), Luxembourg, Demark, France, Cuba, Iran, Tajikistan, Belarus, Belgium, Panama, Jordan, Senegal, Georgia, Bolivia, Italy, Philippines, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Chile, Niger, Iceland, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Czech Republic, Brazil, Estonia, Saint Lucia, Cameroon, Argentina, New Zealand, Côte d’Ivoire, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Germany, United States, Finland, Tunisia, India, Poland, Burkina Faso, Turkey, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Latvia, Sudan, Congo, Solomon Islands, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Liberia, Nigeria, Timor-Leste, Austria, Russian Federation, Guatemala, South Africa, Spain, Greece, Bahrain, Cyprus, Bangladesh (on behalf of the least developed countries), Canada, Qatar, Portugal, Uganda (on behalf of the African States), Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia (on behalf of the Landlocked Developing Countries), and the Holy See.

Participating were representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Also taking part were the representatives of the Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (Arrow) — Malaysia, Arab Forum for Environment and Development, World YWCA and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

What: High-level debate to increase international awareness of and political momentum around the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals
When: 21 April 2016
Where: General Assembly Hall, Trusteeship Council Chamber and ECOSOC Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York
and live through webtv.un.org

For the list of speakers and detailed programme, visit:
www.un.org/pga/70/events/sdgs or see programme here

For more information on the Sustainable Development Goals, please visit website:
www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment or follow on Twitter at @GlobalGoalsUN
on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/globalgoalsUN
and using the social media hashtags: #GlobalGoals, #SDGs, #SE4All

Photo credit: Power Africa
Note: This story is based on a UN press release, the full version and can be found here