This event was probably the highlight of the COP so far. At the start, the Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, addressed the audience, underlining the delicate and complex environmental issue we are trying to deal with in this conference. He argued that mitigation should not be associated with high costs, and that shale gas might be a sustainable solution. The audience was not impressed.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, started by presenting his condolences to the Philippines, and emphasising the urgency of action: 'the climate science is clear and that we must rise to the challenge. The scale of our action is still limited, but there’s hope and opportunity. We need to reduce our footprint and walk towards carbon neutrality. Our targets must be bolder and we must send the right policy signals for investment. Plan not only for your country but for your neighbour and your neighbour’s neighbour, for your children and your children’s children'.
John Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly, spoke next: "We in this room, the UN family, must reach a deal by 2015 and we cannot ignore the need for real implementation and progress. There is currently a wealth of knowledge and experience to limit emissions. We have good solutions, but we need to deploy them faster. Outside this room the world is becoming increasingly frustrated by the pace of these negotiations. Why are we not fulfilling our roles as leaders? Push back and say yes! We will act today! Right here, right now! Do not do it for yourself, do it for the present generation and for the ones to come". The Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christina Figueres, spoke next, with characteristic passion: "The Conference of the Parties must respond to the need for climate action and we have a strong case for it (e.g. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). We need to focus on what is feasible and necessary and we need courageous leadership. I know you can, I know we can, so let us do it.
The President of Tanzania Mr. Jakaya Kikwete followed: "Africa suffers more than any other continent, despite having the smallest carbon footprint, less than 1t/year and not likely to exceed 2t/year by the end of 2030". This is a key point in terms of health equity: those least responsible are those who's health is most vulnerable to, and most affected by, climate change. This is of course also true in terms of future generations, a point which has been highlighted by extensive work on intergenrational equity by YOUNGO, but this area is still largely absent from draft texts.
It is clear that there is a strong and urgent case for action, and that equity needs to be a central part of the agreements made. Now we must push hard to ensure that real and meaningful progress is made in the last week of the talks, and in the next two years leading up to 2015.