UN General Assembly thematic debate entitled "Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work"
11 February 2008
Special guest at the debate was Sir Richard Branson. The following is an excerpt from his book "Business Stripped Bear" where he shares his experiences of the event hosted by Dr. Srgjan Kerim.
“Early in 2008, I accepted an invitation to address the UN's two-day workshop on climate change, where I was made UN Citizen of the Year by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for my work on climate change. As the owner of several airlines, even I can see the irony in that! …So I arrived in New York with Jackie McQuillan and Jean Oelwang, determined to make a public plea for the creation of an Environmental War Room. …
The President of the UN General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Macedonia, chaired the session. As I remember it, this went under the banner ‘Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work.’ Srgjan was a gracious host. …
On 11 February, Srgjan introduced the session: ‘I am very much encouraged in that the climate is changing – in terms of the political climate at least – and that people have replaced ignorance with awareness. Awareness is now our ally but that's not enough. We are not talking about long-term planning and the world of tomorrow. We're talking about the emergencies of today.’ He explained that the United Nations was talking about partnerships and that a negotiation process was going on among member nations on setting up targets on greenhouse gases.
But he said that only partnerships that included the business world, the media, the non-governmental organizations, and academics (such as those who made a contribution with the IPCC, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and helped politicians understand the magnitude of the problem) would work. He stressed that the UN could not do it all by itself.
The chairman said that when he was preparing for his role as President of the General Assembly he had read about climate change – and he acknowledged the creation of the Virgin Earth Challenge. ‘It is not by chance that they are here; they inspired me,’ he said. ‘I invited them . . . this is why we are here together.’
However, unlike the UN report, he believes that the world will then stabilize at this five-degree rise and that there will be survivors. But much of the lush, comfortable world that we now enjoy will be gone. It will erode into a largely featureless desert. The loss of life is likely to be gigantic, and we will be in a world where not nearly enough food is grown, or enough fresh water is available, to support a large population.”
Citations from Sir Richard Branson's Book "Business Stripped Bare"
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe