UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talked extensively about climate change and sustainable development issues during his visit to the University of Maryland last week for the “Do Good Generation” event.
The Secretary-General, who in his decade-long tenure has worked extensively to raise climate change as an international priority, began by thanking School of Public Policy Dean and CGS Senior Fellow Robert Orr, his special advisor on climate issues, saying he “learned a lot” from him.
The University of Maryland took this opportunity during the Secretary-General’s visit to bestow an honorary doctorate degree in public service to Ban Ki-moon, for his decade in leadership addressing these global challenges. In response, Ban said that the University was “[...] setting a new standard in philanthropy, leadership for [its] young people.”
Ban then encouraged the attendees, particularly the students, to use their knowledge and skills to address the “urgent global priority” of climate change. He elaborated that each person can work toward progress no matter their capacity. “Implementation is not just the domain of governments, but of everyone: the business community, academic community, and civil society.” He also called on listeners to be “global citizens,” adding that, “[when] you have a global vision, you can make this world better for all.”
The Secretary-General not only stressed doing this important work, but doing it with the goal of serving others. “I call on young people to lead the way and be a Do Good generation,” he said, “Put your energy and values to the best use. Demonstrate your concern about injustice here in your communities and around the world. Think beyond yourselves.”
Ban stressed the role of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals in creating a better future, calling them “two sides of the same coin.” He encouraged the audience to view the Paris Agreement as a tremendous first step toward combating climate change, saying "[an] agreement that once seemed to be impossible is now unstoppable, inevitable and irreversible."
Ban also complemented the University's efforts in advancing the Paris Agreement. The Secretary-General mentioned the recent partnership between his office, the University of Maryland, the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, and others to co-host the Climate Action 2016 summit in May 2016 in Washington DC. The Center for Global Sustainability and School of Public Policy were key organizers of this event. Ban stated that the event, which sought to advance the priorities of the Paris Agreement amongst academics and other stakeholders in the DC area, helped accelerate climate action.
CGS Director Nate Hultman attended the event and noted that “The Secretary-General was emphatic that sustainability and climate were not only key issues for his term but that the baton will have to be passed effectively to his successor, and to the many other stakeholders -- governments, NGOs, corporations, and of course universities -- to help realize the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.”
SPP Ph.D. student Linlang He asked Ban what he would advise his successor as priority for the Paris Process and what advice he could give to students and early career researchers who wanted to support this process. He responded that it would be very important for his successor to lead by example. “When I took over my job in 2007, the discussion on climate change was very slow and almost non-existent. I travelled around the world, spoke out to the world, and beat the drum to make people listen and to move the discussion forward”, Ban said. He also stressed the importance of translating pages of written climate agreement into action and implementation effort, and encouraged not only the government, but also business community, academic world, and each member of the civil society to take ownership in this implementation process.
Ban finished his remarks by challenging the listeners to address migration and the struggles of the growing number of displaced persons around the world. "Globally, 65 million people have been displaced from their homes as of 2015, the highest number of people displaced since the end of World War II...Climate change is one of the reasons why [their] living conditions are deteriorating."