The United Nations General Assembly kicked off on Tuesday, September 20 in New York City. Over 140 Heads of State were expected to attend in a yearly tradition of speeches made to the 193 members States of the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. This year marked the 71st session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) convened under the theme “The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world,” including Goal #13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
This high-level week with world leaders was an opportunity for the Kingdom of Morocco to promote the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) set to take place in Marrakech, November 7 to 18, 2016. Salaheddine Mezouar, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation was on hand for a series of side-events and bilateral meetings aimed to reinforce and promote Morocco’s climate initiatives including those on energy, agriculture, capacity building, adaptation and finance, to discuss global warming issues affecting the most vulnerable countries and island states, and to mobilise the international community for an ambitious global climate action agenda in Marrakech to implement the Paris Agreement.
On September 21, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hosted a special event to encourage Parties to ratify the Paris Agreement. The Kingdom of Morocco was among approximately twenty countries to deposit their instruments of ratification to the Agreement here in New York. For the Paris Agreement to enter into force legally 55 countries equaling 55% of global emissions must deposit their ratification documents. According to the UNFCC, as of today, 29 Parties have ratified the Agreement accounting for 40.12%
During his opening remarks, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of the climate change agenda. “With the Paris Agreement we are tackling the defining challenge of our time. We have no time to lose. I urge you to bring the Agreement into force before the end of year. We need 26 countries more countries equaling 15% of global emissions for entry into force,” he stated.
US President Barack Obama, during his last speech to the UNGA, called on the international community to keep working together to solve global issues including climate change. “The Paris Agreement gives us a framework to act, but only if we scale up our ambition,” he stated.
UNGA President, Peter Thomson, the first from a Pacific Island nation (Fiji) underscored the need to act on climate change to avoid its negative impacts. “We are steadily moving towards the ratification of the Paris Agreement. We must not delay any further.”
Brazilian President, Michel Temer affirmed his country’s commitment to fighting global warming, ‘Tomorrow I will deposit Brazil’s instruments of ratification of the Paris Agreement.”
As the first African Head of State to address the UNGA, Idriss Déby Itno, President of Chad highlighted the importance of working with the international community to fight global warming on the continent. “It’s not about giving charity to Africa, it’s about true partnership with Africa to tackle climate and global challenges.”
The traditional roll call of speeches to the UNGA start with United Nations Secretary General followed by the President of the UNGA, President of Brazil (first Member State to speak in the general debate since the 10th session of the General Assembly) and President of the United States (host country). For all other Member States, the speaking order is based on the level of representation, preference and other criteria such as geographic balance.