Mr Annan's opening remarks at the 2009 Global Humanitarian Forum

Your Royal Highness Princess Haya,
President Ramos Horta,
President Anote Tong,
Minister Calmy Rey
Former President John Kufuor
Members of the Foundation Board
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

Can I start by welcoming you to Geneva and this very important conference.
Looking around the room, it is good to see so many people who attended the Global
Humanitarian Forum’s inaugural conference last year but also to welcome new faces here for the first time.

Your attendance and knowledge will inform our debates, help us draw up innovative
and practical solutions - and enhance the authority and influence of our conclusions

The extraordinary range of organisations and view points we represent has
significantly increased global pressure for decisive action on climate change.

Thanks to your efforts and our collective voice, the concept of climate justice has
been pushed right up the international agenda.

So has the need to take fully into account the impact of changing weather patterns on
wider development and human rights issues.

We have also worked hard to fill in the gaps in information and to drive practical
solutions, moving the debate from discussions about the abstract and the future to the
devastating impact on people now.

As the agenda for the next two days shows, we are determined to step up these efforts.

We can look forward to a range of expert speakers, workshops and focus sessions on
the issues at the heart of the human impact of climate change.

For we have, as we all know, no time to congratulate ourselves.

We are discussing the greatest environmental and humanitarian concern of our age.

We are discussing the greatest environmental and humanitarian concern of our age.
Climate change is a grave and all-encompassing threat - to our health, our security,
our prosperity and quality of life.

As a clutch of recent reports - including this month in the United States - have
demonstrated, climate change is affecting every continent and accelerating faster than
had previously been thought.

And it is having a catastrophic impact on the lives of millions of people as last
month’s report from the Forum underlined.

Commissioned by our conference last year, it tellingly brought together
comprehensive evidence of the human impact of climate change.

The findings confirmed, what we have been saying from the start, that it is the poorest
countries and poorest people who are, and will, suffer most.

This, of course, is the deep injustice at the heart of this crisis.

It is not just that climate change is going to hit hardest those who already face the
biggest disadvantages and challenges.

It is that this additional burden falls on those who have also done least to cause it.
As the report spelt out, the 50 least developed nations of our world account together
for just one per cent of greenhouse gases.

Yet it is these countries which will see the overwhelming destruction that climate
change is causing and will continue to cause.

It is this injustice – as well as the urgency and scale of the crisis – which must be at
the forefront of the minds of those with the responsibility for reaching agreement at
Copenhagen later this year.

And this is another reason why this conference is both so important and timely.

We must send out a loud and clear message on the need to slow down and reverse
climate change, to help its victims and to put the world on a path to sustainable

There must be deep, binding and fair targets to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

Those developed economies most responsible for past and present emissions must
take the lead.

Without them accepting responsibility, the rapidly developing economies will
understandably resist the changes in their economies which are also needed.

The polluter-must-pay principle should be put into practice locally, nationally and
internationally to help fund mitigation and adaptation measures.

This must include a transfer of additional resources, and technology to help
developing countries protect their citizens and grow their economies sustainably.

I have no doubt of the difficulties which must be overcome to reach agreement in

But I am equally in no doubt about the consequences if we fail.

The clock is ticking. Every year we delay, the greater the damage, the more extensive
the human misery – and the higher the cost, pain and disruption of inevitable action

So this conference must provide a powerful voice for the millions of victims of
climate change.

But we must also focus on the practical steps that can be taken to help them and our
world meet these challenges.

For as well as putting pressure on the world’s political leaders for agreement in
Copenhagen, we also have to draw attention to new challenges climate change will
bring, and how we will respond as organisations and individuals.

Challenges such as the immense extra demands that will be put on emergency aid
andhumanitarian resources by more frequent and severe storms, flooding and droughts.

One of the reasons that the human impact of climate change has not received proper
attention is because the problem it exacerbates - such as poor health and poverty -
have their roots elsewhere.

But as extreme weather events become more common, the resources and systems to
tackle these disasters will be put under new and intolerable strain.

Over the next two days, we need to discuss how we respond to these pressures.

We will need to find extra resources and put in place better coordination and
cooperation so we can provide the urgent help which will be needed.

We also must discuss how to give longer-term protection to those forced to leave their
land and communities due to climate change.

This is already happening in many parts of the world as once productive land becomes
desert or communities become even more susceptible to unpredictable and dangerous floods.

The number of displaced people (climate change refugees) is set to grow.

Their plight is as great – and more permanent – than those forced to flee conflict or

But they have no protection under international law. We must find ways of addressing

In the coming years and decades, climate change will be a major brake on
development hopes.

We must focus on how we put risk reduction strategies at the heart of national - and
international - development plans.

We also need to hammer out solutions to specific problems such as reducing the
frightening rate of deforestation which is hastening climate change and how we
provide affordable and green energy to communities in the developing world.

These are both areas where we need new partnerships and to make better use of the
expertise, networks and resources that are available.

The Weather Info for All project, which the Forum has just launched, is an example
of how the private and public sectors can work together to deliver real practical

As you will hear shortly, collecting accurate information about weather and climate
across Africa will give farmers better guidance about when to plant and harvest crops
as well as helping alert communities about severe storms.

There are, I believe, many other areas where such new and pioneering partnerships
can make a big difference to people’s lives.

This conference will explore where these opportunities are and how we can make sure
they both happen and deliver on their goals.

Over the next two days, we have to help shape the response to the human impact of
climate change at every level.

There is no doubt the challenges are immense and the penalty for failure stark.
But there are reasons for optimism as well.

There is now a consensus over what needs to be done and the urgency of our

And since the conference last year, two new factors have come into play.

A new President and new administration in the United States have demonstrated their
seriousness about combating climate change.

Given that the US is the greatest source of emissions, this raises optimism for
Copenhagen and beyond.

It is an administration which, together with every country, has been struggling with
how to tackle the severest global recession for over 60 years.

While this economic meltdown has caused severe pain across the world, the
extraordinary national and collective response also provides a way forward.

Many of the economic stimulus packages we have seen have placed a great emphasison i
nvestment in low-carbon energy and new technologies to create jobs and boost sustainable d


Indeed, we have the knowledge, the resources and the technology to reduce the pace
of climate change and safeguard people and countries from its impact.

What is needed is the vision, courage and will to act.

It is easy to place all the responsibility on our political leaders.

And there is no doubt that the decisions they make at Copenhagen will help shape the
world we leave to future generations.

But we must all accept our responsibilities as well – as leaders within our
organisations but as individuals, parents, as consumers and citizens, too.

Over the next two days, we have the chance to discuss openly and honestly how we
can make a difference

To use our collective experience and expertise to point the way to the challenges that
must be overcome but also to arrive at solutions.

We, too, must show vision and courage.

I believe this Forum is showing the way by bringing organisations and people

Over the last year, we have made a good start. But we can’t and won’t rest. There is
too much at stake.

Thank you.

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