On 21 July 2015, Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, participated in the “Summit of Conscience for the Climate” held in Paris on the initiative of Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the President of France for the Protection of the Planet, as part of the preparations for the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic, opened the Summit at the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (ESEC) in Paris. Also present were Prince Albert II of Monaco and His Holiness Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople.
The Summit reunited more than 40 major moral and religious figures, as well as religious dignitaries, heads of State, scientists, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and artists, to reflect on the ethical aspects of climate change and launch a “Call to Conscience for the Climate” together.
In his opening speech, President Hollande reminded participants of the need to come to an agreement on climate at the COP21 summit, which will be held in Paris in December. “We need everyone’s involvement in order to come to an agreement: heads of State and government (…), local figures (…), businesses and the world’s citizens. No one can claim to speak in their stead.” He also emphasized the essential link between the protection of biodiversity and cultural diversity, “to protect the environment is to protect human kind”, he declared.
“Climate change is a moral, social and ethical matter”, added the Director-General, emphasizing that climate change opens a new, historical chapter of humanism. “No individual, no country can face this challenge alone: environment connects us with humanity as a species and makes us feel that we are members of the same human race. This is the essence of the humanism I care so deeply for: an integral humanism, faced with tangible, universal stakes.”
“To convince people of the urgency of acting against climate change, you cannot simply talk about figures and global tendencies that affect the planet as a whole”, she continued. “You also have to listen to the accounts of those who are personally faced with rising sea levels in the Maldives and melting ice sheets in the polar regions; listen to them saying how climate change has drastically disrupted hunting and fishing techniques and changed the wind direction, in order to understand the tangible reality of climate change and its impact on everyone’s lives.”
UNESCO is actively involved in the preparations for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) and is playing its part as a platform for exchange and international scientific cooperation, particularly in the fields of the environment and the Ocean. At the beginning of July, UNESCO held a scientific conference that brought together more than 2,000 scientists to discuss the subject, as well as the “Assises du Vivant 2015: Biodiversity and Climate Change in Interaction” symposium, the “Business and Climate Summit” with the private and financial sectors and “World Ocean’s Day” earlier in 2015.
For more information on UNESCO’s role in COP21, click here.