Find us on

News & Media


“From Kyoto to Copenhagen” – Address at the opening of the Global Editors’ Forum

Copenhagen, Denmark
In an address to the Global Editors Forum Mr. Annan said that fighting Climate Change cannot be left to politicians alone.

Prime Minister Loekke Rasmussen,
President Barroso,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to join you for this crucial conference.
Your presence here powerfully underlines your commitment to combating climate change.

You represent the world’s most respected and influential media.

And your influence – on our leaders and on the public – has never been more important than in the next few weeks.

The Prime Minister has just set out what is at stake here in Copenhagen in December.

The decisions taken – or ducked – at the climate change conference will have the most profound impact on our world and on future generations.

It is why the task of constructing a post-Kyoto agreement is not one which can be left to politicians alone.

It is the responsibility of us all to create the conditions where obstacles are overcome – and to ensure that the decisions taken are followed through.

Achieving this will be extremely difficult. The negotiations ahead will be complex.

The actions that are needed to prevent damage and destruction on a colossal scale will transform not just our economies but affect every aspect of our lives.

Given the scale of the threat, progress has been painfully slow.

Fortunately the UN Summit convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon last month has finally concentrated minds at the highest possible level on what needs to be done.

Earlier this year, 2500 scientists warned that on present emission levels, the world was edging towards potentially catastrophic climate change.

Time is fast running out and there is no excuse for inaction.

No country will escape its impact, directly or indirectly.

Rising temperatures, the increase in droughts, storms and sea-levels will damage economies and quality of life, bring new health risks and add new pressures to food and fresh water supplies.

The increased stresses of climate change will see rising tensions and conflict across the globe.

Last year alone, more than 20 million people were displaced by climate-related disasters, and this number will grow.

Nor is climate change, as many of you know from your own countries, an abstract or future threat. It is happening now.

From Australia to Zambia, we are already seeing an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change.

Livelihoods are being ruined and lives lost – with the most vulnerable paying the highest price.

For it is a tragic irony that the countries which have done least to cause climate change are those which are suffering and will suffer most from its impact.

The least developed countries have contributed less than 2% of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Yet while climate change will affect us all, those in the greatest danger live in the poorest countries or small island nations, with the least resources to protect their people.

Without support, they will be left facing a catastrophic problem they simply can’t manage alone.

And this brings me to the core of my message to you tonight – and to a principle common to every continent and understood in every culture.

And that is the principle of fairness.

For as well as being universal and ambitious, any future agreement must be underpinned by climate justice.

What does this mean?

First, that a new agreement will be successful only if it is perceived by all participating countries to be equitable.

Climate justice demands that the industrialised countries meet their historic responsibility for the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

While all countries need to take steps to reduce emissions, the developed economies must take the lead by making the most dramatic cuts – something within their capability.

They must lead in ensuring global emissions peak by 2020 – and fall by at least 50% from 1990 levels by 2050.

To achieve this, industrialized nations need to commit themselves to reduce emissions by between 25 and 40% by 2020 as Japan and the EU have already pledged to do.

Fast-emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India and South Africa also need to engage meaningfully but in a way which does not prevent them improving standards of living through economic growth.

This requires them to commit to reducing their energy intensity significantly by 2020, and agreeing to emission reduction targets afterwards.

These steps by both industrialised and fast-emerging economies must be backed by national policies and targets that can be monitored and verified.

We must also ensure action to tackle climate change does not come at the expense of trapping millions in abject poverty.

Climate justice and the Millennium Development Goals are mutually reinforcing.

So developing countries, particularly the least developed, must be given the capability to catch up with the rest of the world through economic development.

Climate justice will demand a major and additional transfer of resources to help meet the cost of adaptation and mitigation measures in these nations.

They will require at least $100 billion a year for adaptation – far more than committed so far by the richer countries, but a figure around which there is a growing consensus.

These are large sums. But we have seen wealthy countries find trillions of dollars over the last 18 months to rescue their banks.

We know the money can be found.

The agreement in Copenhagen must establish a fund, governed transparently, to support the mitigation and adaptation actions of developing countries.

We must also see the widespread transfer of clean energy technologies to developing countries on preferential terms, to enable them to grow their economies in a more sustainable way.

The barriers that hamper the sharing of such knowledge, such as intellectual property rights and competitive rules, must be overcome.

Businesses and countries must put the future of the planet before short-term profits.

We are facing a huge challenge.

But thanks to your reporting and campaigning, the dangers we face from climate change are widely recognised across our societies.

Surveys suggest that public understanding of the need for decisive action is running ahead of commitments by our politicians.

We need to turn that to our advantage so that Copenhagen is a different kind of agreement – one that comes from the people rather than imposed on them.

This requires every one of us to show leadership and accept responsibility in the next vital few weeks and in the coming months and years.

And the media has a vital role to play.

Every day you reflect the priorities of your readers, listeners and viewers.  In doing so, you shape the environment in which our leaders operate.

You have already helped push climate change right up the political agenda but I urge you to step up efforts to mobilise demands for action.

As senior editors, ask your journalists to report on the impact of climate change within your own communities and in the wider world.

This should not only be done in the news and comment sections, but in the business pages and platforms as well.

Business and finance have a pivotal role to play in delivering on any agreement and making the most of the opportunities ahead.

Investment in clean energy research and infrastructure development, both in the developed and developing world, can’t be left to Governments alone.

Increase as well your efforts to inform and educate individuals about the recent advances in more efficient and less costly energy technologies, as well as carbon capture and storage.

Find innovative ways to mobilise the public to demand a deal at Copenhagen and that their countries take the lead.

Work with the whole range of civil society to mobilise the public around campaigns, such as the tck,tck,tck: time for climate justice campaign.

Keep up pressure on political leaders to attend the summit in Copenhagen in person – and to instruct their negotiators to prepare the ground for a deal in advance.

The latest reports from the meeting in Bangkok show just how important this is going to be.

Work as well to give our political leaders the confidence and courage to put aside narrow national interests and to stand up to powerful lobby groups.

Hammer home the message that climate change is a global challenge.

We have seen from the economic crisis that no country has escaped from its shock waves.

We have learnt that we sink or swim together.

So no country or region can wait for another to move first.

The United States in particular has a huge responsibility to come to Copenhagen with the ambitious and generous position the world expects from it.

President Obama has said about climate change, “the science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear” and that “delay is no longer an option”.

He expressed his determination that the US leads the world to a new era of global cooperation on climate change.

I hope the US Congress will act to support the President as he provides such leadership.  It would be tragic if his willingness to lead on the global stage was undermined at home.

We must encourage all of our political leaders – now and in the future – to ignore the tyranny of electoral cycles which restrain action.

Get them to focus instead on the impact of failure at Copenhagen on the lives of future generations.

Help them focus on the opportunities and not just the threats. Explain our collective but differentiated responsibilities.

The choice is not between being economically successful and environmentally sound.

They are two sides of the same coin.

And just as we all have a responsibility to convince our leaders to reach agreement in Copenhagen, we share a responsibility, too, to live in a more sustainable way.

Tell your readers and viewers how this can be achieved. Think about the way you run your businesses. Lead by example.

Governments can make decisions but it is us who will have to deliver them.

We will all need to modify our behaviour to reduce carbon footprints – starting with the food we eat, the transport we use, the energy we consume.

It falls to you to help get this message across.

Nor is this a campaign which finishes in December.

Copenhagen is not the end but the necessary beginning of the changes we need to see.

Through our actions and our voices, we can create such a noise that our leaders will not be able to ignore us, nor dare to.

There is a big responsibility on your shoulders. But the prize is greater still.

Through our efforts here in this city later this year, we can change the world for good.


No country will escape its impact, directly or indirectly.