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UN Climate Summit

UN Climate Summit

Published on September 25, 2009
United Nations Summit on Climate Change

Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic

New York, 22 September 2009
Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic
photo : L. Blevennec (

Today, we have only 87 days left to succeed or fail. From the unanimous scientists, we know that global warming is a reality. No one can dispute this reality.

We know that we have to limit it to 2° and that if we don’t succeed, it will be a disaster. There’s no more disputing this. We are, regardless of the differences between us, the last generation that can take action. For the first time, we have to decide, not for our countries, not for our regions, not even for our continents, we have to decide for the planet.

To sum up, we have to choose between disaster or the solution. We are deciding for the whole planet and what we don’t decide, those who follow us will no longer be able to decide. Rarely has a choice been so crucial for the future of mankind.

Secretary-General, let’s look clearly at the situation we are in. We are today on the path to failure if we go on as we are. There’s no point in being hypocritical, no point in indulging in diplomatic or political tinkering. There’s no point even in my inflicting a grandiloquent speech on you 87 days from Copenhagen. We need proposals, action, and people to take responsibility.

We know perfectly well what the four principles are which will make Copenhagen a success:

- Reducing global emissions by 50% [below 1990 levels] by 2050;

- For the developed countries, we don’t need a reduction of 50%, but one of at least 80% by 2050;

- For the emerging countries, the growth of their emissions must be reduced, with technological and financial assistance from the developed countries; I’ll come back to this.

And finally, somehow or other, we’ll have to pay for the most vulnerable countries, those of Africa and the small island States, there’s no other choice.

What do we lack? Today we lack two things: will and confidence.

A lot of leaders are afraid of being asked to choose between growth and environmental protection, that’s understandable, confronted as they are by poverty and unemployment. But no one has to make this choice, and in Europe we are proving that you can move from high carbon growth to sustainable growth. We’ve proved this in Europe with the energy-climate package and we’ve proved it in France with the creation of environmental taxation.

No one will have to choose between unemployment and the environment, between hygiene and protecting the planet. As for good news, there isn’t much, but I want to salute the leadership of the new Japanese government, which has made some very strong commitments, as has China. But today we have to go far further.

I want to propose the establishment of an efficient mechanism to finance those who need it and to carry out technology transfers. If we don’t do this, the emerging countries won’t join us. And they have to join us because they too are accountable for the planet’s future.

Mexico has proposed a universal contribution, France supports it. The European Commission has estimated at €100 billion the potential annual cost between now and 2020 of helping the developing countries adapt to the new concept of sustainable growth – we are ready to do this. Really, developing and emerging countries, I tell you we are ready to make the financial and technology transfers. You yourselves must do what’s right for the planet.

I have to be frank: in France and Europe we are taxing polluting companies; no country will be able to get out of doing this. Either we all do it and we’ll help you with the financing and we’ll help you through technology transfers; or we don’t all do it and in that case we’ll be compelled to levy a carbon tax at Europe’s borders. Faced with the gravity of the situation, we can’t have one part of the world protecting the planet and another part of the world groundlessly refusing to do so – that’s not being equal to the challenge. For the moment, there’s no will to do this. We all have to do it, and we, the developed countries, will help you financially and technologically.

I also want to say that France will make proposals with Brazil and the Congo Basin countries on the forestry issue. 20% of emissions are due to the destruction of the forest. We have to help the countries with the world’s largest forests, which play a huge role in environmental protection, to maintain, protect and even develop them. That’s active solidarity. I’m thinking of the Amazon, the Congo Basin forest and of course the Siberian forest. Forests belong to mankind.

Finally, I’m keen for us to take a special initiative for Africa. Only 17% of Africans have access to primary energy, we can’t leave Africa in this situation. Basically, we, the developed countries, will have to pay and to transfer technology; you, the emerging countries, will have to commit to reducing your emissions without this damaging your growth; as for the poor countries, they must be at the heart of the Copenhagen strategy. But all of us will benefit from this new growth.

Finally, I shall end by making proposals. The first is that we at last decide to create a single world environment organization. Making a success of Copenhagen isn’t everything, we also have to be able to manage the consequences of the decisions taken in Copenhagen. There are around 60 scattered organizations dealing with the same questions, let’s create a world environment organization, decide in principle to do so in Copenhagen.

Secondly, I propose that we, heads of States of the main economies, which account for no less than 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, meet in the middle of November, i.e. between your meeting, Secretary-General, and Copenhagen, to stop grandstanding, making speeches which aren’t followed up by results, playing diplomatic games, and put concrete proposals on the table.

As you will have understood, ladies and gentlemen, France is absolutely convinced that time isn’t on our side, time is our judge, we are already living on borrowed time. Let’s face up to our responsiblities, not in speeches but in action, France and Europe are determined to do this. Thank you./.

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