Towards Climate-Resilient Development Pathways – Keynote address by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO (2009-2017)



Keynote address by Irina Bokova at the Second Dialogue of the China-Europe-America Net-Zero Transition Platform

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About the Speaker

Irina Bokova has been two terms the Director-General of UNESCO from 2009 to 2017. She is both the first female and the first Southeastern European to head the agency. At UNESCO, Bokova advocated for gender equality, improved education and preventing funding for terrorism, especially by enforcing the protection of intellectual goods.

Full Text

Dear participants in the second dialogue within the framework of the China-Europe-America Net-Zero Transition Platform,

I am delighted to participate again in this debate that aims to accelerate the indispensable green transition for sustainability and social progress. It is indeed quite befitting that our dialogue is being held just after the opening of the COP27 in Egypt, with the ambition to move to practical solutions in terms of both mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Just a few days ago, on the 26 October, UN Climate Change launched two reports. The first, showing that countries are bending the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions downward but underlines that these efforts remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

And the second, on long-term low-emission development, looked at countries’ plans to transition to net-zero emissions by or around mid-century. According to the report, many net-zero targets remain uncertain and postpone into the future, and critical action is needed before 2030 in order to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.

I know that many important issues will be discussed during the meeting today, but let me emphasize three points against this background.

The first is the link between the climate change action and the protection of biodiversity. Biodiversity plays an important role in regulating the climate, thus making a key contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation. At the same time, climate change affects ecosystem dynamics and the distribution and abundance of species and habitats. Therefore, biodiversity conservation and climate action are intrinsically linked.

We need an urgent and coordinated response to avoid catastrophic impacts on the environment, and the many benefits and services that humans derived from it.

The Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems alerted the world to the fact that a million species of plants and animals now face extinction – many within decades.

Albeit there is this increasing recognition that climate change and biodiversity crises are fundamentally connected, they have been primarily addressed independently and a more integrated global approach is essential to tackle these two global challenges.

In this regard, let me mention the importance of protected areas which are essential to biodiversity conservation. We know that 80% of our efforts go towards mitigation policies. The need to protect the biodiversity of the planet shows that we need more emphasis on the adaptation as well that this will help countries safeguard biodiversity.

The second point I want to make, is the impact of climate change on the efforts to achieve agenda 2030 and the role of science and innovation.

Limiting the risks from global warming to 1.5°C in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication implies system transitions that can be enabled by an increase of adaptation and mitigation investment, policy instruments, acceleration of technological innovation and science, and behavioral change. 

Education, information, and community approaches, including those that are informed by indigenous knowledge and local knowledge, can accelerate the wide-scale behavior changes.

Sustainable development supports, and often enables, the fundamental societal and systems transitions and transformations that can limit global warming. Such changes facilitate the pursuit of climate-resilient development pathways.

And the role of science-based evidence, action-oriented science, which is on the front of tackling climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and last but not least achieving the SDGs, is fundamental and needs to be strongly supported. This is the purpose of the newly launched by the International Science Council the biggest such gathering of academic scientists worldwide – Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability.

The third and my last point is the need for the right lens. Social justice and equity are core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways. This will address challenges and inevitable trade-offs, widen opportunities, and ensure that options, visions, and values are deliberated between and within countries and communities, without making the poor and disadvantaged worse off.

Strengthening the capacities and resilience for climate change of national and sub-national authorities, local community, civil society, the private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities can support the implementation of ambitious actions implied by limiting global warming to 1.5°C. International cooperation is vital, and it can provide an enabling environment for this to be achieved in all countries and for all people, in the context of sustainable development. This is why, I believe this platform and this dialogue is so important.


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