Today, Dec. 7, at the Earth to Paris forum at COP21, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke urgently on the need to curtail carbon emissions. In an interview in the packed room at Petit Palais, he railed against those who would choose not to act – softly, yet forcefully.
Speaking to a teenager interviewing him, Yugarta Srivastava from India, Moon said, “Six years ago she appealed to me, saying, ‘ this is my world, please make it a better world.'”
Yet, he pointed out, it’s six years later and he is at yet another climate conference. The world is facing the threat of droughts, flooding, severe water and food shortages, life-threatening tornadic activity and temperature spikes.
Moon spoke, perhaps most dramatically, when recalling how on one island in the Solomon Islands, he and his wife were given life jackets at their hotel – not because they were going on a sea cruise, but because the island is gravely threatened by going underwater because of climate change.
“It’s a small island of 30,000 people, and they are looking for other land to immigrate to. Otherwise they will sink. .. I had a town hall meeting. One girl asked, ‘What will happen to us?’ and a boy said, ‘I am afraid to sleep – because I will drown in sleep.’”
Moon said, “The highest point in this country is two meters above sea level. We have to show solidarity to these people We have to provide money.”
Ban Ki-moon says any agreement must “promote human dignity.” Further, he sees four prongs to battling climate change and coming up with an agreement among the 184 nations represented at COP21:
- Keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees C: “Unfortunately, our world and our planet Earth has a fever…If you have a fever in your body, what do you do? Go to a doctor and get a prescription. The prescription [for Earth] should be a minimum of two degrees Celsius [cap].”
- The agreement must be “flexible”: “It has to have flexibility. There are many things changing – we have witnessed, experienced, a global financial crisis in many countries,” said Moon. “This agreement should be able to adapt through [and with] changing economic situations.”
- Provide money to those in need, such as small islands and countries: “…People living in small islands like Kilibas (sic) and the Solomon Islands, where there are many South Pacific islands practically sinking .., We are working hard to provide [money], to mobilize and provide $100b dollars per year by 2020. This is solidarity.”
- Credibility and transparency: “Then, we have to have credibility. Once member parties sign this agreement it has to be implemented… [There has to be a} transparent mechanism of monitoring and reporting, and very fine mechanisms.”
On Friday, the conference participants – which include 150 heads of state such as Pres. François Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel from Germany – will try to reach an agreement to curtail global greenhouse gas emissions so that by eight and a half decades from now, the world isn’t 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer.
Moon mentioned in his remarks that while over a hundred leaders have attended these conferences before, the commitment has never been so great: “As Secretary General I have been attending many conferences and normally, maybe 150 leaders come, but they come on different days over a two-week period. Never on one day, at one time, in one place have 150 world leaders gathered. They have shown strong political will, showing to their negotiators [the need to have this] agreement signed by this week, Friday.”
He further urged everyone to fight climate change in small ways, by biking rather than driving, eating sustainably, and saving water. “One drop wasted by 7 billion people becomes a huge ocean,” he said. “And say no to plastic!”
To stay abreast of any webcasts from COP21, which ends Friday, readers can visit the State Department site. Watch the videos from Earth to Paris here. You can also watch tomorrow at the same site.
Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted the Secretary-General as stating that there needs to be $100m, not $100b per year by 2020 in the agreement to help some countries fight climate change.