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2015, A Defining Moment for Sustainable Development - Speech

On 19 January 2015, HE Antony Phillipson delivered a speech at an event discussing important events of 2015.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

HE Antony Phillipson gave opening speech at 2015, A Defining Moment for Sustainable Development forum.
HE Antony Phillipson gave opening speech at 2015, A Defining Moment for Sustainable Development forum.

Thank you for coming to Eden Hall this evening to discuss some of the most important events of this year.

We have titled this event ‘2015, A Defining Moment for Sustainable Development’. In 2000 the Millennium Development Goals were created by the UN as a set of 8 international goals for reducing poverty, tackling illness, protecting the environment and improving human development.

In 2015, these aims will be updated and replaced with a new set of goals, likely to be called the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, all parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have agreed to negotiate a new global deal by 2015 to be announced at COP21, the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties, in Paris in December 2015. This will be a crucial meeting for global efforts to address the climate change challenge.

2015 will also see the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa which will review how development initiatives are financed.

The UK has long placed a high priority on this agenda. Prime Minister David Cameron has been involved in the process to update the Millennium Development Goals since 2012, when the UN Secretary General asked him, President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and then President Yudhoyono of Indonesia to co-chair a high-level panel of eminent persons to look at the issue. The report of the panel was released in May 2013.

This report, titled ‘A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development’ recognised that the years since the millennium have seen the fastest reduction in poverty in human history: there are half a billion fewer people living below an international poverty line of $1.25 a day.

At the same time, child death rates have fallen by more than 30%, with about three million children’s lives saved each year compared to 2000. Deaths from malaria have fallen by one quarter. This unprecedented progress has been driven by a combination of economic growth, better policies, and the global commitment to the MDGs, which set out an inspirational rallying cry for the whole world.

But the report also said that we must go beyond the MDGs to achieve more success over the next 15 years.

Because in hindsight, the MDGs did not focus enough on reaching the very poorest and most excluded people.

They were silent on the devastating effects of conflict and violence on development.

The importance of good governance and institutions that guarantee the rule of law, free speech and open and accountable government was not included, nor the need for inclusive growth to provide jobs.

These areas are what my Prime Minister has called ‘The Golden Thread’ of development.

The MDGs also fell short by not integrating the economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable development as envisaged in the Millennium Declaration, and by not addressing the need to promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

The result was that environment and development were never properly brought together. People were working hard – but often separately – on interlinked problems.

Since the release of the report discussions have continued.

In December 2014 the UN Secretary General issued a Synthesis Report bringing together many ideas for inclusion in the new framework. The UK continues to call for an ambitious and effective final document, with focused, stretching and measurable targets.

We continue to call on other developed countries to meet the target of spending 0.7% of their national income on aid, as the UK is doing and is committed to continue doing, even in a climate of tight finances at home.

Some argue that aid money would be better spent elsewhere. However, the target still continues to have the support of the Government and that aid plays an important role in improving the welfare of the world’s poor which is in our national interest. But aid is only part of the picture, this is why the Prime Minister has focused on ‘The Golden Thread’ of good governance as well.

Coming back to climate change, I’d like to highlight the importance of developments in international negotiations this year for achieving a global deal within the UNFCCC. The ultimate goal of these negotiations is to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting the global average temperature increase to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The UK is working with EU member states and other countries, like Singapore and my EU colleagues and I had a good discussion with Minister Balakrishnan last week, to secure an ambitious legally binding deal in Paris at the end of this year.

Whilst there is still much work to be done this year, progress has been made and a global deal is possible.

We are seeing momentum building and businesses calling for a global deal as demonstrated at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York last September where over 100 world leaders and over 800 business leaders reiterated their commitment to a global deal this year.

We have seen some of the biggest players starting to take a lead with the EU, China and the US all making climate mitigation announcements towards the end of last year.

We know there is no longer any doubt over the science of climate change, as shown by the latest findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 5th Assessment Report published last year.

We also know that the economics stack up. The global New Climate Economy report published last year demonstrates that actions to tackle climate change are those that are also needed to facilitate economic growth.

Furthermore, the transition to a low carbon economy can improve the ‘quality’ of growth – not only net economic benefits to countries at all levels of income, but also new jobs, cleaner air, better health, lower poverty and more energy security.

In his speech at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York last September, Prime Minister David Cameron described climate change as ‘one of the most serious threats facing our world.’

A threat not just to our environment, but also to our national security, global security, poverty eradication and economic prosperity. We must achieve a global deal in Paris this year, we simply cannot put this off any longer.

If we do so it will not be because of governments alone. Another consequence of the connected global world we live in is the importance of a whole range of actors including international organisations working together with government and business on poverty and climate change issues.

The UK has some of the most effective and highly regarded NGOs.

Save the Children began in the UK in 1919 as an initiative to combat starvation in Europe following World War One. It now works in over 120 countries around the world and its regional Headquarters is here in Singapore. I’d like to thank Save the Children for supporting this event today and for funding your dinner.

WWF was originally conceived by a Czech writing to a Brit after a series of articles in the Observer, another Brit then came up with the name….

But we don’t claim a monopoly…two important Singapore groups are also involved this evening with the Centre for Liveable Cities with whom we are building an excellent relationship, and last but not least, ONE (SINGAPORE), an organisation committed to combating poverty in Singapore and around the world and who suggested this event in the first place.

I am delighted now to hand over Michael Switow, the co-founder of ONE (SINGAPORE) who will chair this evening’s event. I look forward to the presentations, the questions from all of you, and most of all the ongoing engagement on this crucial agenda.

Thank you.

Further Information

View photos from the event on Flickr.

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Published 20 January 2015