On video chat, Ban Ki-moon is almost unnaturally kind. “Thank you for your interest in my life story and my philosophy,” he says, smiling calmly. At 76 years old, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations – who completed his last term in December 2016 – still wears the familiar rimless glasses from thousands of news wire photos. One of the most famous features is Ban and two other diplomats shaking hands in celebration of the ratification of the Paris climate accord on December 12, 2015.
Ban likes to say that he is a “child of war” and a “man of peace”. As a child, he fled the city of Cheongju with his family during the Korean War: in his new memoir, Resolved: United Nations in a Divided World, he recounts the 15-mile journey to safety on foot with his father, siblings and mother, who had just given birth three days earlier. As an adult, his calm, unadulterated political strategy eventually led him to the position of Secretary General of the United Nations, where part of the job is to mediate between warring powers (Russia, Ukraine) and navigate sticky diplomatic situations. Iran nuclear deal).
But one of Ban’s most important interventions may be in the fight against rising temperatures, which may seem hopeless, and at times fruitless. Since 2006, when he first ran for secretary-general, Ban has been vocal about the threat of climate change. He is joined by Jane Goodall and Al Gore in New York City Climate March; His permanently affixed smile has participated in several international negotiations on global warming, including the cause of the Paris Agreement, which Ban called “my proudest achievement”.
He summarizes his philosophy on how to stop the world from boiling over in three words, which are simply as simple: passion, compassion, and perseverance. “I’ve been very determined,” he says, still smiling.
Leading the United Nations is a strange job. The Secretary-General simultaneously has a lot of power, and almost none at all. According to United Nations, the role is that of a “Chief Administrative Officer” who takes care of pencil-pushing and personnel management; However, former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, imagined the situation More eloquently, call it the “world moderator”. The Secretary-General has some enumerated powers, but is expected to use his “good offices” – that is, his relationships and the prestige of the United Nations – for world leaders and to serve as a mouthpiece for the organization. to do. whole.
Perhaps it is this ambiguity in the position of the Secretary General that makes it so strange to talk to Ban about climate change. Many people think of a warming planet as a technological problem, fraught with questions about electricity generation, gas-guzzling cars and jet fuel-burning airplanes – but for the former secretary general, all of those complexities Diplomacy was distilled into: a promise here, a private dinner there. In solution, they noted that international negotiations on climate change after the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (the turbulent predecessor of the Paris Agreement) had become a sort of “Gordian knot” with China, India and the United States absolving all responsibility . His only recourse was to do what the Secretary General always does: talk. “I talked about some aspect of climate change, basically everywhere I went, from one-hundred-watt radio stations in Central Africa to security forms in Central Asia,” he writes. “I don’t shy away from raising climate change, even with known skeptics.”
The result was a series of encounters with world leaders who seem both lucky and capricious. In the memoir, Ban recalled one of his first meetings with President George W. Bush, in which Ban’s UN advisers as well as the Secretary-General dared to summarize climate change. Bush reacted defensively, pointing the finger at China instead. After the embarrassment: Ban invites Bush to a climate summit, where the US president declined to speak; Later, Bush left an informal UN dinner as soon as he made his remarks.
However, despite a poor start, Ban and the former president became friendly over the years, and at a crucial moment in international talks on climate change in Bali in 2007 – when countries are struggling to draw up a “road map” of what would become Were. Paris Climate Agreement – US Representative calls on Bush for advice. “Do what Ban wants,” the president reportedly told him.
The same patient approach appeared to be working on President Barack Obama, who mercilessly did not mention Ban. his own memoir As in “the stupid kid who’s too good to be rejected”. Ban tried — and eventually succeeded — to get Obama to attend the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, and to promise to contribute $2 billion to a fund to help developing countries switch to clean energy. Followed the President.
At other moments, Ban’s delicate brood helped pull the talks back from the brink. In 2015, on the final day of negotiations in Paris, the representative of the small Central American country of Nicaragua unexpectedly halted the deal. Ban, along with French President François Hollande, desperately called on Pope Francis, hoping that the Pope would be able to persuade the Catholic country to join the agreement. But there was no response from the Vatican, and the representative suggested a deal: the country would move along if Ban agreed to move to Nicaragua before the end of the year. Ban agreed. “I would have done anything,” he says. Save cleared the way for a final settlement.
It’s strange to think that these subtle interactions—which Ban describes in his book as “Cajoling, Reasoning, Gilting, and Just Plain Wearing Government Down”—will do whatever it takes to move the world away from fossil fuels. Its part and parcel. The Paris Agreement, for all its flaws (it is non-binding, and it relies on countries to set and meet their own emissions targets), is working. After former President Donald Trump announced that he would pull the United States out of the agreement in 2017, no other country pulled out, despite fears that the US’s absence would break the treaty. And earlier this year, the US re-entered the agreement, and President Joe Biden’s promise to cut US emissions by 50 percent by 2030 prompted a group of nations to ramp up their own. cut emissions.
In the face of these developments the ban is consistently positive. “I am grateful for his leadership,” he says of Biden, “that multilateralism is now back on track.” (Gratitude is a common theme for the former secretary general: in his book, the word “grateful” occurs 36 times and “gratitude” another 11.) Still, he is well aware of the urgency of climate change – and of the regions where the lack of global governments continues.
“We really don’t have much time left,” he says. He says the world has already warmed by 1.3 °C since pre-industrial times, bringing the planet dangerously close to the 1.5 °C threshold that developing countries and small island nations had hoped to avoid. And developing countries, which have contributed the least to the climate crisis, still await the promised financial support. Rich countries such as the US, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany have pledged to contribute $100 billion to the Green Climate Fund, a combined effort to help developing countries eliminate fossil fuels and adapt to warmer temperatures by 2020. The nation’s effort – and then another $100 billion every year after that. So far, the fund has received only $80 billion.
“It is morally wrong – it is an injustice – for countries that have not done much to contribute to the current situation to bear the brunt of responsibility,” says Ban. For the first time in our conversation he seems upset. “I get very frustrated and angry sometimes.”
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