On August 25th 2020, Chairman Ban Ki Moon was invited to the Alpbach Forum to an open discussion with environmentalist Vanessa Nakate. The event was focused on how global citizens must adapt to the changing environment, with direct solutions to the current sustainability issues that we face.
“Tackling climate change is an urgent international problem that needs an international solution. Impacts from climate change are being felt around the world and the most vulnerable populations are facing the brunt of the consequences. To put it very bluntly, our Earth itself is running a fever.” Chairman Ban stated, later emphasizing that we must all step up as global citizens and take action.
Chairman Ban also addressed the need for immediate adjustments in our society. “We must develop low-carbon strategies for everything from food and water systems to transport plans and we must design climate resilience into our infrastructure, including how we produce food. By investing in climate-adaptation strategies now, we can protect against the worst impacts of the risks and dangers that lie ahead.” He stated.
During the discussion Chairman Ban also spoke about women empowerment and its importance to advance as a society. “All around the world, in every country, women and girls still struggle to exercise their full human rights. Women are particularly vulnerable in times of global crises – this is also the case for climate change. As we enter the final decade to implement the SDGs, it is more essential than ever that we empower and include the voices of youth and women in the process.” He stated, highlighting the importance of inclusivity of global citizenship education in our future education system.
Chairman Ban concluded his speech through underlining the crucial role of youth and women leaders that will insure the success in sustainability throughout our international community. He applauded Ms. Nakate and the numerous young world leaders for their commitment to sustainability issues and international engagement.
Below is the full script of Chairman Ban’s speech and responses during the discussion
Dear Ms. Nakate,
Dear Global Citizens,
Thank you for your kind welcome.
It is a pleasure to join you, Ms. Nakate, and all of today’s online participants for an intergenerational discussion on sustainability and the climate crisis.
As we gather today, we are witnessing an unprecedented time in history. The Coronavirus pandemic has presented the global community with a multitude of challenges, resulting in unparalleled changes to the way we live, the way we think and the way we interact with each other.
COVID-19 has moved swiftly around the globe, spreading sickness, economic hardship, and societal strife. But as we rush to address our current emergency, we must not be blinded to the increasingly urgent need to protect ourselves and future generations against the ever-present emergency: climate change.
Tackling climate change is an urgent international problem that needs an international solution. Impacts from climate change are being felt around the world and the most vulnerable populations are facing the brunt of the consequences. To put it very bluntly, our Earth itself is running a fever.\
It is our job as global citizens to step-up and act for a more sustainable planet, leaving no one behind.
This means investment and action to combat climate change, to improve climate resilience and to push for climate adaptation.
We must develop low-carbon strategies for everything from food and water systems to transport plans and we must design climate resilience into our infrastructure, including how we produce food. By investing in climate-adaptation strategies now, we can protect against the worst impacts of the risks and dangers that lie ahead.
The Paris Climate agreement is the result of decades of careful work and a solution that will benefit everyone long-term. It clearly outlines the steps necessary to combat climate change in a meaningful and sustainable way.
It is therefore a grave mistake by the United States to withdraw from this agreement at this critical juncture.
It is ironic that, while the US steps away from multilateralism, the world at large is waking up to the climate crisis. The EU is creating a Green Deal for a more sustainable economy and China is greening its infrastructure spending as leaders across the global realize that we are running out of time and options.
Civil society actors, particularly youth and women like you, Ms Nakate, are speaking out and galvanizing others to address climate change and to develop innovative and sustainable solutions. I applaud all these young leaders for their wisdom, their passion, and their hard work in combatting climate change.
This task is not small – it is bigger than any one individual. We must present a united front and demand that governments take the necessary actions to roll back climate change and help those who are already affected.
Today, I am joining an incredible young activist from Uganda. Ms. Vanessa Nakate is a powerful voice for the climate justice movement and serves as an example to others of what global citizenship means.
We will not succeed in tackling the climate crisis without including diverse voices and leaving no one behind. This means voices from the global south, from Africa and elsewhere.
Despite having roughly 15% of the world’s population, Africa has contributed the least as a region to climate change. However, it is poised to be the region most affected by it.
In Africa, climate change will bring about an increased incidence of extreme weather events as well as a rise in infectious diseases.
Africa faces serious environmental challenges and extreme vulnerability to climate change.
But the region also has enormous potential for sustainable growth and environmental conservation.
Therefore, it is essential that the global community works together to combat climate change and in building resilience and driving adaptation.
This year marks a milestone in the history of the Sustainable Development Goals. We only have 10 years left for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and still crucial funding is missing, inhibiting its global success.
As we enter the final decade to implement the SDGs, it is more essential than ever that we empower and include the voices of youth and women in the process.
Half of the planet is under the age of 27.
Today, the world is home to the largest generation of youth in history, with 1.8 billion worldwide. This generation is one of the greatest determinants of whether the Sustainable Development Goals will be achieved, and a climate crisis can be successfully addressed.
Half of the world is made up of women.
All around the world, in every country, women and girls still struggle to exercise their full human rights. Women are particularly vulnerable in times of global crises – this is also the case for climate change.
Women often face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women.
Women and men are affected differently by climate change. For example, in many countries in the global South, men work away from the home while women often cultivate small plots of land for growing crops to feed their families. This is then highly impacted by climate change such as droughts.
Women also face additional barriers to basic education, employment, and land-owning, which in turn leads to their exclusion from decision-making processes, also when it pertains to climate change.
Climate action that neglects half of the population, is not sustainable. Therefore, it is essential that we push for gender-responsive policies when addressing climate change – policy-making that includes the voices of women and recognizes their powerful role as stakeholders who can also act to combat climate change.
Women and youth are not only the victims of inequality and climate change, they are our best chances for achieving the sustainable development goals and securing the future of our planet.
With this in mind, in 2018, former Austrian President Heinz Fischer and I founded the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens in Vienna, Austria. We established the Centre for the purpose of empowering youth and women within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Centre focuses much of its work on education, SDG 4, and empowering youth and women through opportunities to grow and thrive as global citizens.
Furthermore, especially given current times, we are seeking to promote Global Citizenship Education (GCED).
Global citizenship education seeks to develop knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes learners need for securing a world which is more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure, and sustainable.
This includes education on the climate and 21st century skills needed to provide for a sustainable future for humanity and for our planet.
It works by empowering learners of all ages to understand that the challenges we face are global, not local issues.
Education lies at the heart of promoting sustainability and ensuring our collective future.
Dear Global Citizens,
The question pertaining to today’s discussion is how we can “save the world” – it is not a small question. The answer lies in each of us taking responsibility for the future of our planet and its inhabitants.
Young people represent the future of our planet. And their active engagement in transforming our world into a more sustainable and peaceful place is vital.
Youth are catalysts for change, marching in the streets, demonstrating, and raising their voices, even when faced with great adversity.
YOUR engagement and the empowerment of youth and women worldwide is critical to ensuring the success of our international community.
Hand in hand, we must fight for human rights and the protection of our planet. We must aim to fuse forces along the lines of what we have in common, rather than what divides us.
I look forward to exchange with, you, Ms. Nakate, and to the following discussion.
Be global citizens. Act with passion and compassion.