Remarks by the President of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Secretary of State H.E. Michał Kurtyka at the Opening Ceremony of COP24 in Katowice, Poland.
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Katowice. I suppose many of you wondered why this location for the 24th UN climate summit. Let me tell you, we did not just consider the quality of the venue. There is more to the story… and it is a story of transition.
When in 12th century the early settlers came to this area little did they know that their village would grow into a major industrial city. A region with glory time stemming from an abundance of natural resources. This city flourished due to large mineral deposits in the nearby mountains. Salt and coal. Silver, gold, copper and iron. These minerals gave the Silesian region its identity and economic security. The culture and mentality based on the mining trade still prevails here today and is well cherished.
Yet, epochs based on these resources all came to an end. Not because there was nothing left, but because of a technological and societal change. The region had to move-on many times before, as it is moving on today.
And today, the world is a global village. We are all interdependent and we have to come together to protect our planet. To do this the world must act in unity. To do this the world needs to pursue a path of a deep, but just transition. The way we think, the way we move around, the way we consume, the way we earn our living or the lifestyle we choose. The way the cities are designed, the way buildings are built, the way we care about our natural resources such as forests.
It is truly a beginning of a new era.
What does this mean for a region like Silesia, of which Katowice is the capital? How does one tell the population of 5 million in over 70 cities across the region – just move on. Your world is that of the past.
First, they need a vision and hope. Just like all of us need a vision of a different world. A climate friendly world. And a confidence we can get there. Just like the vulnerable communities need hope that the world will act to prevent their inundation, and will stand ready to offer a helping hand.
Second, they need reassurance they won’t be alone in this transition. Just like the people of the world facing prolonged periods of drought need reassurance they are not alone in a transition to a low carbon future. Right after my statement we will witness a strong signal of one such reassurance from Ms. Kristalina Georgieva of the World Bank. I am very grateful for that.
Third they need the rules, transparent, implementable and the system of support for the road they are asked to take. Just like the global community needs the right global policy environment to move forward with its climate action.
Climate change is a global problem, and we can only solve it if we come together.
You are here today. You have made this long journey because you understand the true meaning of this climate summit.
Think of that evening back in 2015. You may have been there. Or you may have only heard about it. The world, us, we all came together in a major push towards securing the global climate action. An unprecedented move. An unprecedented amount of political good will.
Today that world seems distant.
We are now in 2018. Only three years later and our global political circumstances are so different. Today we see that the wave of optimism and global cooperation which carried us to and through Paris - crested, broke and is now tumbling. The societies of the world don’t seem to be as global minded as they appeared to be back then. Global cooperation is strained.
International perspective is crucial for climate action and I am encouraged by the G20 statement supporting the successful outcome of this conference. But this approach must be balanced with a national perspective. For a good, pragmatic reason.
When politicians have trust and support at home they can be bold in their global undertakings. Those who want to effectively act on climate change must be credible and empowered.
And then you need to care.
So the question is - do we care about our achievement? Do we care about the Paris Agreement?
By being in Katowice at this COP24 today you show to the world you do care. You care about finding solutions to the challenge of deep and just transition. You care about the deteriorating ecosystems. You care about the survival of nations and safety and security of all.
Without success in Katowice there is no success of Paris. Because, simply put, the framework will not be operational. The Katowice outcome is crucial for the world moving forward with global response to climate change. It is critical for building up confidence. The time to finalize the Katowice rulebook is now and it is up to all of us, present and committed. Without a solid outcome here we put the planet in danger, the credibility of our work at grave risk, the Paris Agreement in the sphere of mere aspiration.
What kind of a product will the Katowice COP24 outcome be? I see it as balanced. Enabling. Fundamental.
We are tackling a wide array of issues. The main challenge lays still in forging the new paradigm for – very broadly speaking - burden sharing. We agreed in Paris we will do it - taking into account different national circumstances - but we did not agree on how to do it.
Katowice is about agreeing a set of new guidelines for the world - to unlock the truly global, just and transparent action. The spirit of Paris is here with us. Let us live up to it.
We will also hold the Talanoa Dialogue in the context of the recent IPCC report. A Dialogue we are conducting hand in hand with our dear Friends from Fiji – the Presidency of COP23 - a country with such a different perspective, but with such similar concerns. We see you Fiji. We stand with you. We stand with the world. I know the world stands with us.
Honorable Heads of States and Governments,
As the President of this COP in Katowice, the COP which must operationalize the Paris Agreement, I ask you to give an impulse to your Ministers and your Negotiators. Please tell them:
Be ambitious. But be realistic. Be firm. But hold compromise in no less regard. Be focused. But dare to see and acknowledge another’s perspective. Finally, be thorough. But stay pragmatic.
Get this climate summit across its finish line and deliver a joyous message to the people of the world. We have brought the 2015 Agreement to life in Katowice. We have vision, we have hope, we are committed. We act.
Nothing happens twice. Today is always gone tomorrow. This is our chance.