Ban Ki-moon says Paris climate deal the result of 9 years of nonstop work

When international negotiators reached a first-of-its kind climate change agreement in Paris this month, the United Nations' normally low-key leader, Ban Ki-moon, celebrated onstage, arms raised in victory and more exuberant than many had ever seen him before.

See Full Article

Nearly nine years had passed since, in his first days as secretary-general, Ban surprised world leaders by making global warming a top item on his agenda. Now, on the eve of his final year in office, the cheers in Paris marked the culmination of his nonstop campaign, pressed at summit after summit, with every world leader and from melting glaciers to islands at risk of disappearing.

It was an emotional moment, and looking back at the road to Paris in an interview with The Associated Press, Ban paid tribute to many people, including the leaders of the United States, China, India and France. He also spoke proudly of his own role.

No other leader in the world "has been raising, without fail, all the time, climate change," Ban said. "I have spent real passion ... and most of my time and energy on this issue."

It was quite a shift for the former South Korean foreign minister, whose main focus before becoming the eighth U.N. secretary-general in 2007 was his country's standoff with North Korea.

Ban traced his interest in climate change to his yearlong campaign to lead the United Nations, which took him to many countries and broadened his vision of global issues.

Two weeks before he was sworn in as secretary-general, Ban told Tim Wirth, then president of the United Nations Foundation, that one of his two highest priorities would be climate change, along with empowering women.

"You could have blown me away," Wirth said of Ban's choice of tackling global warming. "He had a deep commitment then, and he has stayed with it, and stayed with it, and stayed with it."

At the time, climate change was not a popular topic.

The 1997 Kyoto treaty, which required only rich countries to limit emissions blamed for global warming, was set to expire in 2012. Negotiations on a new agreement had almost collapsed, Ban said.

"I thought that I needed to revive this one," he said.

His first high-level meeting as U.N. chief was with then-President George W. Bush.

The original agenda for their January 2007 meeting didn't include climate change, Ban said, and Bush "seemed to be a little bit surprised" when he raised it.

Undeterred, Ban decided to hold the first-ever climate change summit at the United Nations in July 2007.

He invited Bush and told him that the success of the summit would depend his participation. Bush came, though he didn't address the summit.

That connection paid off at a U.N. conference in Bali in December 2007.

The United States, the lone major industrial nation to reject Kyoto, was opposing India's proposal to strengthen requirements for richer nations to help poorer countries with technology to limit emissions. In one of the most memorable moments in climate change diplomacy, tiny Papua New Guinea implored America to lead or get out of the way.

An isolated United States capitulated, and the first roadmap for addressing climate change was adopted.

"Miraculously, I was able to save this one, but I didn't know why," Ban said.

In early 2009, he finally found out.

Ban and his wife were invited to dinner at the White House in last of the last days of the Bush presidency. Bush told the U.N. chief that when the Bali meeting reached a difficult moment, he got a call from the head of the U.S. delegation asking for instructions.

Ban said Bush told him: "Suddenly, you came to my mind. Then I told the delegation head, 'Do what the secretary-general of the U.N. wants to do,'."

The secretary-general said he still feels "very much grateful" to Bush.

"That was the beginning of our success," Ban said.

But then came the disappointment of the 2009 Copenhagen climate change negotiations.

In Copenhagen, a newly elected President Barack Obama showed "great commitment," even working on proposed global text from his laptop, Ban said. But there were too many differences and negotiations ended with no agreement.

"From the failure of Copenhagen, we learned a great lesson," Ban said.

One was to have every country provide its own national action plan to combat climate change. Another was to get countries to agree to have a universal climate change agreement by 2015.

Meanwhile, Ban was travelling the world to spotlight the impacts of climate change. His visits to Antarctica and the Arctic showcased melting ice, and his visits to the Aral Sea in central Asia and Lake Chad in west Africa warned of their disappearance. He visited the low-lying Pacific island nation of Kiribati, where he found a life jacket in his room in case of inundation.

He also asked to attend annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- a first for a U.N. secretary-general -- to talk to finance ministers on the need to mobilize $100 billion in climate financing annually by 2020.

As the summit in Paris approached, Ban participated in monthly strategy videoconferences with the leaders of France and Peru and later, Germany. One key decision was to reverse the usual negotiations process and have country leaders attend the start of the summit to give impetus and clear direction to negotiators.

The Paris opening was the largest-ever gathering of country leaders, with 150 assembled, the secretary-general said.

But there were about half a dozen "spoilers," countries ready to block consensus on an agreement. Nicaragua refused to submit its national plan, arguing that rich nations should be compelled to make deeper emission cuts.

Ban recalled the moment the Nicaraguan delegation said "we will not block" a deal. The French foreign minister immediately gaveled approval of the agreement, which was later adopted unanimously.

The Paris agreement, adopted by nearly 200 nations, calls on both poor and rich countries to cut greenhouse gas pollution. It aims to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) between now and 2100.

Ban's perseverance and leadership were essential, said former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who headed a U.N.-appointed commission that published a groundbreaking report in 1987 outlining the dangers of climate change.

"This is not a one-man show, but the one man is important," Brundtland said.

Without him, "we cannot take for granted that we would be here."

Ban's priority for the rest of his term has not changed. With the climate deal imposing no sanctions for non-compliant countries, the secretary-general said he will focus on establishing a framework to ensure U.N. member states follow through on the climate change promises he worked so hard to get.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Toronto rolls out the welcome mat for Team Canada ahead of Invictus Games

    Canada News CBC News
    The team representing Canada at the Invictus Games has landed in Toronto. Ninety athletes competing in 12 sports arrived at Union Station Thursday morning, just two days before the games officially begin. The one-week competition is for men and women — both veterans and active members — from armed services around the world who are wounded, injured or sick. Source
  • Alberta not likely to follow through with spear hunt ban until fall 2018

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- Alberta does not expect to make good on a promise to ban what it has called the archaic practice of spear-hunting until at least next fall as it considers rule changes that could include prohibiting other methods of taking big game. Source
  • Pilots erred in Pence plane's skid at airport: investigators

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK - Investigators have cited failures by the pilots of a plane that overran a runway at LaGuardia Airport last year while carrying then-vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence. The National Transportation Safety Board's report on the Oct. Source
  • Canada border agent detentions of Mexicans surge to highest levels in decade

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — Detentions of Mexican nationals by Canadian border agents have surged dramatically this year to levels not seen in a decade, new figures obtained by The Canadian Press show. According to Canada Border Services Agency, the total number of detentions from Jan. Source
  • Fire call leads to 337 charges against man after numerous guns found in home

    Canada News CTV News
    PICKERING, Ont. -- A man is facing more than 300 weapons-related charges after firefighters responding to a carbon monoxide alarm at a home in a community east of Toronto found something suspicious. Durham regional police say firefighters who went to the Pickering, Ont. Source
  • Unhappy hour: Truck with 40,000 pounds of vodka overturns

    World News Toronto Sun
    CLAYTON, N.C. — A tractor trailer full of vodka has overturned on a North Carolina highway and it may take until happy hour to clean up the mess. Clayton police said on Twitter that the truck tipped on its side around 5:45 a.m. Source
  • 'Clearly, a drunk can consent' judge acquits another cabbie of sex assault

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    HALIFAX — A judge has acquitted a former Halifax cab driver accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger. The Crown alleged Houssen Milad kissed a female passenger on top of her head while driving her home to the Armdale neighbourhood in June 2016, and groped her buttock before she got out of the vehicle. Source
  • Child dies after being left in car in Toronto, 1 person in custody: police

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - Police say a young child has died after being left in a car in west-end Toronto. The child was taken to hospital in critical condition after being found in the car on Thursday afternoon. Source
  • Infant dies after being found in a vehicle in Toronto's west end

    Canada News CBC News
    Toronto police say an infant has died after the child was found in a vehicle in the west end of the city. Peel Paramedics responded to the scene near Burnhamthorpe and Mill Roads on the border of Mississauga and Toronto. Source
  • Rescuers attempting to save girl buried in ruins of Mexico City school

    World News Toronto Sun
    MEXICO CITY — A delicate effort to reach a young girl buried in the ruins of her school stretched into a new day on Thursday, a vigil broadcast across the nation as rescue workers struggled to pick away unstable debris and reach her. Source