Blog Post

From the Floor of the UN General Assembly: Statements on Climate Policy

Sep 30, 2011 | Lynann Butkiewicz

World leaders gathered in New York for the past two weeks to partake in the annual United Nations General Assembly. Just as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) may serve as an annual reminder that the global climate is changing, the General Assembly can also act as a reminder of similar issues. South African President Jacob Zuma said he would use this forum to address climate talks with other leaders and expand climate discussions outside of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP), before COP17 in Durban. There was a Leaders’ High Level Dialogue on Climate Change initiated by Zuma and Mexican President

Felipe Calderón, but some leaders also addressed climate change in their speeches to the full 193 nations present in the General Assembly.

“The success of [COP17] is highly dependent on the willingness of all Parties to reach an agreement. It does not depend on South Africa alone. As leaders we are accountable to the global citizenry, the ordinary people that suffer daily from the impacts of climate change. They hold high expectations from their leaders to be responsible and to find effective solutions to the threat that climate change presents to their Iivelihood, quality of life, dignity, and in many cases, their very survival. We dare not fail them.” – South African President Jacob Zuma

“We must continue our work to build on the progress made in Copenhagen and Cancun, so that all the major economies here today follow through on the commitments that were made. Together, we must work to transform the energy that powers our economies, and support others as they move down that path. That is what our commitment to the next generation demands.” – U.S. President Barack Obama

“We presented a concrete, voluntary, and significant emissions reduction proposal during the Copenhagen Summit in 2009. We hope to be able to make progress in the Durban meeting, supporting developing countries in their efforts to reduce emissions and ensuring that the developed countries will fulfill their obligations, with new targets under the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.” – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

“I worry that we might lose all we have achieved up to this point due to lack of necessary political leadership, and I urge the UN and its leaders to take full responsibilities for the outcomes of Durban 2011. At the same time, we have to keep perfecting the Kyoto Protocol, initiating a transition process that provides continuity to the Protocol while also allowing negotiation of broader instruments—instruments by which we have obligations based on our responsibility and capacity for action. The best path to combat climate change is to make protection of the environment economically viable . . . We are all able to contribute towards this goal. The first measures that we can implement are those that represent an economic gain in the long run for households, industries, or cities.” – Mexican President Felipe Calderón