Statement by the President at the official opening of the Climate Summit and the COP24 Leaders' Summit
Statement by the President of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Andrzej Duda
at the official opening of the Climate Summit and the COP24 Leaders' Summit
Excellency, Mr Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Honourable Prime Minister of Fiji, COP23 President,
Honourable Presidents and Heads of Government,
Honourable President of the United Nations General Assembly,
Honourable COP24 President,
Honourable Madam Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All Distinguished Guests,
I am delighted to welcome you, the world leaders, at the opening of the COP24 Climate Summit and the at accompanying Leaders' Summit, taking place here in Katowice, in my home country: Poland.
The 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, inaugurated in the year which marks centenary of Poland's regaining independence and of its resurgence in international arena, has a double significance for me. First, because the organising the Climate Summit is proof that today our country is actively working for peaceful cooperation between states, based on the principles of respect of international law, equality, solidarity and mutual respect, very much the same way as the reborn Poland did one hundred years ago.
Second, as it was the case a hundred years ago, also nowadays Poland is ready to take its share of responsibility for international security, including also climate dimension of the latter. We are ready to support the negotiations scheduled for the next two weeks, ahead of adoption of decisions of key importance to our own future and to that of next generations to come.
It would probably be difficult to celebrate this great anniversary in a more concrete and meaningful way. Using this opportunity, I would therefore like to thank you that through decision of the 22nd Session of the Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: COP22, hosted in November 2016 in Marrakech, it is Poland that can host this year's climate summit.
Poland, like few others, has considerable experience in this area. It is for the fourth time that we chair the Conference, and the third time that we host it. The previous Climate Summits that have been organised in Poland are: COP14 in Poznań in 2008, and COP19 in Warsaw in 2013. This year in turn, we meet in the heart of the Upper Silesia: in Katowice. This city is a model example of how a consistent policy of transformation, albeit sensitive to the human factor, helps to create favourable conditions for the development of innovative enterprises in a place which is hub of heavy industry and mining. What is more, Katowice is currently one of the greenest cities in Poland, where forests occupy over 40% of the total urban area.
Is it not surprising, but concurrently symbolic, that this year's COP24 conference will take place precisely in a venue of an old coal mine?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The guiding principle of COP24 is: Changing together. It has a double dimension. First, negative consequences of climate change are being felt in all regions of the world, albeit to varying degrees. To halt them requires coordinated action and cooperation by all parties to the Climate Convention, undertaken in the spirit of the Paris Accord.
The second dimension of the Conference’s motto has a positive aspect to it: through international, solidarity-based cooperation, through positive multilateralism, economic, scientific and social development can be achieved at global level. In other words: I am convinced that technological progress, which translates into pollution of our planet, and thus climate change, can at the same time serve the purpose of cleansing natural environment, improving living conditions of people all over the world and providing opportunities for sustainable development.
However, I would like us to recall how we have reached the point in which we are now, how long and sometimes bumpy the road has been. For global climate policy, the first moment of key importance was the Kyoto conference in December 1997. It was there that the first global agreement on emissions was reached, which took into account the asymmetry existing between developed and developing countries.
Poland is a good example of a country which proceeds in line with sustainable development: over the years our economy's carbon footprint has declined while our GDP continues to grow. Poland managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% compared to the base year 1988 (the Kyoto Protocol requirement being 6%), ensuring energy security and the development of industry based on efficient coal technologies.
Therefore, the use of a country’s own natural resources, i.e. of hard coal in the case of Poland, and dependence on such resources for the sake of one’s own energy security does not clash with climate protection and progress achieved in this vein.
I would like to emphasise once again that in Poland, greenhouse gas emissions are constantly falling, and that Polish economy is reducing its emissions, while at the same time it keeps developing at a dynamic pace.
The second milestone, which ushered in a qualitative change, was the Paris conference of 2015: COP21, which provided that all countries would pursue their climate policies in the spirit of Common But Differentiated Responsibility.
Today, three years after Paris and one year ahead of next year's autumn Climate Summit to be convened by the UN Secretary-General, the world is facing another historic test. Here in Katowice, we the world leaders, must prove our readiness to fully implement the plan we designed back in 2015.
The Paris Agreement was a political document that defined the fundamental tenets of world climate policy. In Katowice, we are confronted with an undertaking which is much more complicated. We have to create a kind of "instruction manual" - the Katowice rule book - which will tell us how to implement the principles of the Paris Agreement. Without success in Katowice, the Paris agreement will not meet the hopes and expectations that were placed in it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am convinced that, as members of the international community, we all want the Katowice package to be comprehensive and embracing all areas of the Paris Agreement, but also be in line with Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved. According to the latter, climate policies and actions must take full account of the interdependence between all elements of the climate system - atmosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, as they were defined in the Convention.
The particular role of synergies between the UNFCC (The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the UNCBD (The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity) and the UNCCD (The United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification) should be highlighted. It is important to take joint actions with the view of mitigating of emissions, securing CO2 sequestration by natural resources, halting soil degradation and achieving climate neutrality, as well as effective and efficient adaptation to climate change.
Actions aimed at halting negative climate change, understood in such a way, will also contribute, among other things, to combating poverty and eradicating hunger. The modern world, despite its technological progress, is still struggling to satisfy mankind’s most basic needs. Millions of people live without safe access to water, food, energy or education. Elimination of these injustices and giving everyone a chance for sustainable development is one of the most important challenges we have to face. The full implementation of the Paris Agreement is not only the responsibility that has been vested in all of us; it is, above all, an opportunity for peaceful and sustainable development in the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
According to the concept advocated by the Polish Presidency, the responsible climate policy is the one built on a solid foundation, underpinned by balance between nature and technology, and that with due recognition of human dignity as a superior value. Poland as a country would like to point out that, on the one hand, natural resources management cannot clash with protection of nature, and on the other hand, it must not cause harm to the community.
Poland translated this concept, contained in the triad: man-nature-technology, into the language of international documents, to be an input to the climate policy in the global dimension.
The three complementary declarations that we have prepared include:
- Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration, in which its signatories reaffirm that the social aspect of the transition to a low-carbon economy is key to achieving broad public acceptance of the changes taking place;
- The Silesian Ministerial Declaration "Forests for Climate" - whose parties pledge to take action to preserve and improve the condition of greenhouse gas absorbers and tanks, including primarily forests. In other words, our aim is to create the conditions for CO2 emissions which will be balanced out with their absorption by ecosystems, so as to curb its growth, to stabilise it, and then reduce its concentration in the atmosphere. Sustainable and multifunctional forest management is of key importance in this respect. And the Polish experience in forest management can be cited as an example to be followed world-wide.
- Driving Change Together - Katowice Partnership for Electromobility - which draws attention to the significant challenge related to emissions caused by transport. This sector is responsible for around 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Electromobility Partnership focuses on technological and organisational change, steering the world towards zero emission transport.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Paris Agreement has united us in the fight against a common threat. While here in Katowice, let us recall how back in 2015, without major exceptions, we adopted a global climate agreement based on autonomously defined national contributions - Nationally Determined Contributions; NDC’s.
It is my profound deep conviction that there is no other option available to our countries than to implement the Katowice rule book package. Our presence here demonstrates that there is an actual political will to implement them.
Over the next few days, negotiators from all over the world, gathered here in Katowice, will be facing a great challenge. Let me assure you that Poland, as the host of COP24, is very much counting on our common success. The success that in the future may determine security, quality of life and development prospects for all countries of our globe.
I am convinced that it will be the case, and I wish we could all see this happen.
Thank you for your attention.