Distinguished guests, dear friends and colleagues,
I am very honored to be here with you today.
First, I would especially like to thank Dr. Agni Arvanitis-Vlavianos, President of the Biopolitics International Organization – one of the most important non-governmental organizations regarding the protection of the earth and the “bio”, a Greek word that means “life”, on earth – and a Peace Nobel Laureate Candidate, for her invitation to be here today. In addition, I would especially like to thank the Hellenic Chapter of the historic Club of Rome for their invitation and support to the event, as well as the Greek Office of the European Parliament for hosting the event.
The aim of the event today is twofold, because it aims to shed light to two parallel global processes that have already started and will conclude in 2015, while they shape our common future; first, in the view of the climate change negotiations, it is important to raise awareness regarding the significant impacts of climate change and how to combat them. Secondly, both State actors and the civil society should participate in the global dialogue regarding the development of the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). Both of these instruments, on climate change and the SDGs, will shape the future developmental agenda (2030 Development Agenda) and the new economic world order in the years to come up to 2030.
Our meeting today takes place on a very timely manner, since the global society stands before, first, the Annual Hearing of the Interparliamentary Union (IPU) at the UN Headquarters regarding the SDGs that will take place next week, on Nov. 18-21, 2014, and the upcoming global climate change conference that will be held on Dec. 1-12, 2014, in Lima, Peru.
Part A: The Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the overarching framework for development after 2015 and until 2030. After a rigorous international, multi-stake process that is still on, there are up to present 17 SDGs, including, among others:
Goal 1: the complete eradication of poverty;
Goal 2: the eradication of hunger, the achievement of food security and improved agriculture, and the promotion of sustainable agriculture;
Goal 3: the insurance of healthy lives and promotion of well-being for all at all ages;
Goal 4: the insurance of inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of life-long learning opportunities for all;
Goal 5: the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls;
Goal 6: the insurance of availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all;
Goal 7: the insurance of access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all;
Goal 8: the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all;
Goal 9: the establishment of resilient infrastructure, the promotion of sustainable industrialization and fostering of innovation;
Goal 10: the reduction of inequality within and among countries;
Goal 11: the restructuring of cities and human settlements in order to be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable;
Goal 12: the ensurance of sustainable consumption and production patterns;
Goal 13: the undertaking of urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts;
Goal 14: the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development;
Goal 15: the protection, restoration and promotion of sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainability management of forests, combating desertification, and stopping and reversing land degradation and biodiversity loss;
Goal 16: the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all and the building of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (the governance goal that the IPU insisted it should be included in the list);
and Goal 17: the strengthening of the means of implementation and revitalization of the global partnership for sustainable development.
In these processes, the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) serves in an exemplary way as a platform/forum to convey the voices of the ordinary people on the international level through their parliamentary representatives. If representative democracy regimes within the countries deploy all of the necessary institutions available to inform, discuss, and negotiate the SDGs with their people, then IPU could bring to the attention of the international community the voices of the peoples we all need and ought to hear, before the final adoption of the SDGs in 2015. The IPU is the body better equipped to quickly materialize a bottom-up approach to the formation of the SDGs and enhance in this way stakeholder involvement and cooperation.
Why is that? or else: what is the IPU and what is its role in the SDGs development?
What is the IPU?
The IPU is the international organization of Parliaments. It counts as the oldest international (though not inter-governmental, but rather inter-state) organization, established as early as in 1889. It represents more than 189 parliaments around the world, while the delegations of the parliaments are being comprised by all of the political parties that have been elected in their respective parliaments. The Union is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy.
Among others, the IPU, that contributed to the establishment of the UN, today supports the efforts of and works in close co-operation with the United Nations, whose objectives it shares. The IPU convenes legislators around the main global issues under consideration by the United Nations.
The IPU Standing Committee on UN Affairs, which I have the honor to chair, is a newly established committee that, among others, assists in developing the IPU’s activities around major issues and processes under the UN System, including the SGDs. There is also another committee that directly deals with the subject-matter, the Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade. Within this institutional framework the IPU is since long time closely working with national parliaments and the UN towards the development of a coherent notion on Sustainable Development and adoption of the SDGs and the Post-2015 agenda.
The Work of the IPU and the National Parliaments on the SDGs
The Quito Communite
The IPU has developed its Strategy for 2012 – 2017, which is a basic instrument that underlines the major goals of the IPU for the current five years we are going through. The promotion of the SDGs is so fundamental for the IPU, that there is a Strategic Objective 5 as part of this Strategy that specifically addresses the issue on how to build parliamentary support for the SDGs and to contribute to the post-2015 agenda.
Specifically in April 2013, in Quito, the final Communique of the 128th IPU Assembly set the tone for the IPU’s engagement in the UN-led consultations on the new set of the SDGs. The main conclusions of the Quito Communique included the need for a new economic model of development centered on human well-being as opposed to pure economic growth, and for a stand-alone goal on democratic governance.
A major stepping stone in bringing the views of parliamentarians to the UN was the November 2013 Parliamentary Hearing before the UN in NYC. To advance this vision, the IPU engaged actively in the year-long work of the UN Open Working Group on SDGs, which issued its final report in July.
We need to remember that Democratic Governance is both an end and a means of sustainable development. Democratic governance is a pillar of sustainable development.
The SGDs should be governed by a holistic, eco-centric approach, if they are to be sustainable. The first rules to include in the systems are the rules of environmental sustainability, which are not obvious in the enumeration of both the goals and targets we have up to now. For instance, there is no reference to the principle of the respect to the carrying capacity of the ecosystem, one of the main principles of sustainable development or, as otherwise placed, there is no mentioning of ‘limits to growth’, ‘planetary boundaries’ or the physical limits of Planet Earth, as the background documentation of the conference comments.
The SDGs, along with other international instruments should lead to a goal of development that we could summarize as “smart, inclusive sustainable development”. The SDGs are the overarching, ultimate goals that every other multilateral agreement should also serve. Regarding the people, we should invest in the openness and transparency in the forthcoming negotiations on the Post-2015 Agenda and the climate change negotiations. IPU is here to contribute to this! To this end, the IPU supports a parliamentary component also regarding the ongoing negotiations on climate change that will take place next month in Lima, Peru.
Part B: The Climate Change Processes
Lima should pave the way in order to reach a climate agreement in Paris in 2015. The most important outcome of the Climate Change Conference will be the draft text that will be the negotiating instrument for a binding agreement that the countries will have to sign next year, in order to replace the binding Kyoto Protocol that will expire in 2015.
In 2015, during the Climate Change Conference in Paris, the world will be attending breathless what both the traditional and new and emerging Powers will decide; namely, whether they will bind themselves with an obligatory agreement or not – a fact that will not only impose on them legal and enforceable obligations, but it will, most of all, signify their decisiveness to actually contribute to the mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
Until August, the messages we were receiving were not that encouraging. However, a seminal event just occurred that has changed our prospects on the issue and shed bright light regarding the upcoming negotiations; the seminal 2014 Climate Summit that took place on September 23, 2014, at the UN Headquarters in NYC organized by the Secretary-General of the UN, His Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki Moon. Countries have agreed on the need for a meaningful, robust, universal, legal climate agreement by 2015.
The Summit served as a public platform for leaders at the highest level – all UN Member States, as well as finance, business, civil society and local leaders from public and private sectors – to reduce climate change emissions and strongly support political will for an ambitious global agreement by 2015 that limits the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature. The UNSG asked leaders from government, business, finance and civil society to crystallize a global vision for low-carbon economic growth and to advance climate action on five fronts: cutting emissions; mobilizing money and markets; pricing carbon; strengthening resilience; and mobilizing new coalitions.
Indeed the meeting created Convergence on a Long-Term Vision. A comprehensive global vision on climate change emerged from the statements of leaders at the Summit:
World leaders agreed that climate change is a defining issue of our time and that bold action is needed today to reduce emissions and build resilience and that they would lead this effort;
Leaders acknowledged that climate action should be undertaken within the context of efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and promote sustainable development (SDGs related;)
Leaders committed to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels;
Leaders committed to finalise a meaningful, universal new agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at COP-21, in Paris in 2015, and to arrive at the first draft of such an agreement at COP-20 in Lima, in December 2014;
Leaders concurred that the new agreement should be effective, durable and comprehensive and that it should balance support for mitigation and adaptation. Many underlined the importance of addressing loss and damage (in case of natural disasters related to climate change events);
Many leaders affirmed their commitment to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) for the new agreement in the first quarter of 2015; and
Many leaders reaffirmed the objectives and principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. In addition, others highlighted that the global effort to meet the climate challenge should reflect evolving realities and circumstances.
Without significant cuts in emissions by all countries, in key sectors, the window of opportunity to stay within less than 2 degrees will soon close forever:
Many leaders, from all regions and all levels of economic development advocated for a peak in greenhouse gas emissions before 2020, dramatically reduced emissions thereafter, and climate neutrality in the second half of the century;
European Union countries committed to a target of reducing emissions to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030;
Leaders from more than 40 countries, 30 cities, and dozens of corporations launched large-scale commitment to double the rate of global energy efficiency by 2030 through vehicle fuel efficiency, lighting, appliances, buildings and district energy;
The New York Declaration on Forests aims to halve the loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and strives to end it by 2030;
Twenty-four leading global producers of palm oil as well as commodities traders committed to contribute to the goal of zero net deforestation by 2020 and to work with Governments, private sector partners and indigenous peoples to ensure a sustainable supply chain;
The transport sector brought substantial emissions reduction commitments linked to trains, public transportation, freight, aviation and electric cars, which together could save $70 trillion by 2050 with lower spending on vehicles, fuel and transport infrastructure;
Some of the world’s largest food producers and retailers committed to help farmers reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change.
Moving Markets and Mobilizing Money and New Policies
Moving markets across a wide range of sectors is essential in order to transform economies at scale. Mobilizing sufficient public and private funds for low carbon, climate resilient growth is essential to keep within a less than 2 degree Celsius pathway.
The insurance industry committed to double its green investments to $84 billion by the end of 2015, and announced their intention to increase the amount placed in climate-smart development to ten times the current amount by 2020.
Leaders of the oil and gas industry, along with national Governments and civil society organisations, made an historic commitment to identify and reduce methane emissions by 2020.
A new coalition of more than 160 institutions and local Governments and more than 500 individuals committed to divesting $50 billion from fossil fuel investments within the next three-five years and reinvest in new energy sources.
We have to restructure agriculture. The warming of the planet is already affecting yields of crucial crops. Moreover, approximately one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from land-use, making sustainable practices in agriculture critical.
We also need to rebuild our cities. Being responsible for about 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, cities can play a critical role in reducing these emissions – especially as their populations surge over the coming decades and many cities struggle with aging and inadequate infrastructure. Climate change increases the risk and stress to water, sewer, drainage and transportation systems, as well as infrastructure, as these systems are more exposed to the impact of increasingly powerful hurricanes, typhoons and other natural disasters. Clear greenhouse gas reduction goals, viable strategies, enhanced capacity and tangible financing are essential for cities to reduce emissions and become increasingly resilient.
Last, we need to rethink Energy. About 80 per cent of the world’s energy is supplied through the combustion of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. At the same time, energy demand is growing. A shift toward renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind and geothermal — along with greater energy efficiency in appliances, buildings, lighting and vehicles — is essential to use the world’s resources sustainably, diversify economies and successfully address the challenge of climate changes.
An initiative led by the United Nations and World Bank has set 2030 as a goal for doubling the global rate of energy efficiency improvement, doubling renewable energy’s share in the global energy mix, and ensuring universal access to modern energy services.
In addition, I would like to draw your attention to a development that occurred last year, in Warsaw, regarding the adoption of the Warsaw Mechanisms on Loss and Damages of developing countries, including effects related to extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Let’s remind ourselves that also the region of the Mediterranean Sea, where we all live, is vulnerable to climate change.
Countries are presently working toward a new climate agreement and a new set of sustainable development goals, two international instruments that will both be concluded in 2015. The objectives of both of these processes present an unprecedented opportunity for nature and humanity. Eradicating poverty and restructuring the global economy to hold global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius are goals that – acted on together – can provide prosperity and security for the current and the future generations.
Regarding the leaders, now it is time for them to join the race for transformative action that can drive economic competitiveness and sustainable prosperity for all.
According to Christiana Figueres, Executive Director of the Secretariat of the UNFCCC: “The only safe path forward is to arrive in a carbon neutral world in the second half of this century” – I would add: the earlier, the better. This is our common goal. We know what we want and we know how to achieve it.
Let’s bring, through our policies, the harmony all living beings need. Last, let me refer to the Rio+20 Outcome Document; let’s shape together ‘The future we want’! I welcome all of you in this joint effort!