Climate change dominates opening of 71st session of UN Assembly

Friday, September 23, 2016

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NEW YORK — The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) kicked off on Tuesday here with more than 140 heads of state and government and a yearly tradition of speeches made to the 193 member states of the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations.


This year marks the 71st session of the UNGA, convened under the theme ‘The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world’, with particular focus on Goal #13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.


This high-level week with world leaders is an opportunity for the Kingdom of Morocco to promote the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) set to take place in Marrakech, November 7 to 18. Salaheddine Mezouar, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, will be on hand for a series of side-events and bilateral meetings aimed at reinforcing and promoting Morocco’s climate initiatives, including those on energy, agriculture, capacity building, adaptation and finance, discussing global warming issues affecting the most vulnerable countries and island states, and mobilising the international community for an ambitious global climate action agenda in Marrakech to implement the Paris Agreement.


United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hosted a special event to encourage parties to ratify the agreement. According to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, as of Tuesday, 29 parties have ratified the agreement, accounting for 40.12 per cent of global emissions. The Kingdom of Morocco will be among approximately 20 countries to deposit their instruments of ratification here during this week’s proceedings, inching closer to the 55 per cent necessary for legal entry into force when the agreement takes effect and becomes legally binding for those countries that have joined.


During his opening remarks, Ban underscored the importance of the climate change agenda.


"With the Paris Agreement we are tackling the defining challenge of our time. We have no time to lose. I urge you to bring the Agreement into force before the end of year. We need 26 more countries equalling 15 per cent of global emissions for entry into force," he stated.


US President Barack Obama, during his last speech to the UNGA, called on the international community to keep working together to solve global issues including climate change. "The Paris Agreement gives us a framework to act, but only if we scale up our ambition," he stated.


UNGA President Peter Thomson, the first from a Pacific Island nation (Fiji), underscored the need to act on climate change to avoid its negative impacts. "We are steadily moving towards the ratification of the Paris Agreement. We must not delay any further."


Brazilian President Michel Temer affirmed his country’s commitment to fighting global warming, saying: "Tomorrow I will deposit Brazil’s instruments of ratification of the Paris Agreement."


As the first African head of state to address the UNGA, Idriss Déby Itno, president of Chad, highlighted the importance of working with the international community to fight global warming on the continent. "It’s not about giving charity to Africa, it’s about true partnership with Africa to tackle climate and global challenges," he said.


The traditional roll call of speeches to the UNGA starts with the United Nations secretary general, followed by the President of the UNGA, president of Brazil (first Member State to speak in the general debate since the 10th session of the General Assembly) and president of the United States (host country). For all other member states, the speaking order is based on the level of representation, preference and other criteria such as geographic balance.

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