Helen Clark: Opening Speech at the 2016 World Green Economy Summit

Oct 5, 2016

A tree planting ceremony held On World Environment Day in Azerbaijan. Photo credit: UNDP

It is a pleasure to participate in the opening of the 2016 World Green Economy Summit.

Allow me to begin by thanking His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai and His Highness Sheikh Ahmad bin Saeed al Maktoum, Chair of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, for their leadership in moving the green economy agenda forward.

I also commend HE Saeed Al Tayer, Vice Chair of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, for convening this annual forum of public and private sector leaders from around the world to help chart the course toward a new green economy. UNDP is pleased to have been an institutional partner of the Summit from its inception.

The World Green Economy Summit is well placed to become a long-term development platform, and to establish Dubai as “The Capital of the Green Economy”. This is in line with UAE’s Vision 2021 – ‘‘to ensure sustainable development while preserving the environment, and to achieve a perfect balance between economic and social development”. UNDP is committed to supporting the realization of this vision and to advancing the green economy agenda globally.

The significance of 2015

Last year was a landmark year for sustainable development. In September world leaders agreed on the transformative 2030 Agenda and the associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Then in December, at COP 21, the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change was reached.

These two global agreements are closely linked - tackling climate change and achieving the SDGs go hand-in-hand. Among other things, we cannot ensure food security without protecting food production from a volatile and unpredictable climate; we will not have sustainable communities without protecting our infrastructure from storms; and we cannot safeguard public health without addressing new threats, including the wider occurrence of vector-borne diseases, which come with global warming. The economic, social, and environmental risks of not fully implementing the Paris Agreement would be horrific. There can only be Plan A – full implementation. 

Taking the Paris Agreement forward to COP22, and onwards

The Paris Agreement was both a signal and a roadmap: a signal to the world that practices like deforestation and unsustainable energy use cannot continue; and a roadmap towards the ultimate goal of a zero-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable future. Overall, if successfully implemented, the implications of the Paris Agreement for sustainable development will be profound and transformative.

It is therefore very encouraging to witness the unprecedented momentum for the Paris Agreement to come into force. In Paris, countries set a clear threshold for the agreement to be enacted: 55 countries representing 55 per cent of global emissions must ratify it. To date, 62 countries, representing 52 per cent of global emissions, have brought forward their instruments of ratification. That means that we are well on the way towards the Paris Agreement coming into force.

Many more countries have expressed their intention to ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of 2016. This could bring it into force years ahead of schedule.

Another important milestone on this journey will be COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, in November.

Seen as the ‘COP for Action’, COP22 will build on the success achieved with the Paris Agreement, with a primary focus on implementation. This must include putting in place the necessary building blocks to achieve the targets which countries set out in their Nationally Determined Contributions prior to Paris, with the goal of accelerating ambitious action on the ground.

Our hosts here today, as well as the host of COP22, are countries which both have undertaken practical steps to this end:

  • Here in UAE, a record was set this year for the world’s cheapest solar power price bid - related to the next phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. When the park becomes operational, it will be the largest single-site solar project in the world.
  • has made significant efforts to diversify its energy sector away from fossil fuels. This was exemplified earlier this year by the inauguration of the first phase of the Noor project which, when fully functional, will become the world’s largest concentrated solar facility.

These and many other initiatives from the Global South are examples of how countries are taking ambitious and practical action on climate change, and thereby also advancing progress pursuant to the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.

UNDP’s commitment to climate action

UNDP is well placed to support countries take ambitious climate action and green their economies. We have many years of experience in this area, and a current portfolio of over $2.7 billion of grants for climate change projects in more than 140 countries.

Our work includes support to protect forests, promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, increase climate-resilience, reduce risk from adverse weather events, and advance low-emission and sustainable growth.

Examples of our work include:

  • and Uruguay where we have helped put in place enabling public policies and institutions to attract private investment in the renewable energy sector;
  • Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and UAE where UNDP has supported the establishment of centres of excellence which promote low-carbon growth pathways;
  • , Kenya, Nepal, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, and Vanuatu where we have supported small, off-grid energy solutions which give the poor access, including through solar, micro-hydro, and biomass; and,
  • Sudan and Philippines where we are helping to put in place climate-indexed insurance products as a form of social protection and resilience -building for farmers.

On implementation of the Paris Agreement, we are:

  • scaling up our support to for countries to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support adaption; and
  • helping countries to identify and attract the public and private finance they need for zero carbon, climate-resilient development.

Throughout our portfolio, we work hand-in-hand with a broad range of partners - from government, to civil society, academia, and the private sector.

Importance of strong partnerships

The challenges presented by a changing climate and the actions needed to address them are on such a huge scale that strong and broad-based partnerships are absolutely necessary for success. This is as true for reaching agreements at the global level, as it is for driving action at the national and local levels.

That is why summits like this are so important. By bringing together businesses, investors, financial institutions, governments, multilateral agencies, and the non-government sectors, we can strengthen existing partnerships and forge new ones to accelerate the vital transition to the green economy.


The Paris Agreement and the SDGs have set out a common vision for a green and sustainable world. Now is the time to take the concrete steps necessary to build that world.

By taking bold action, such as through those major renewable energy projects in Morocco and UAE, and by developing robust partnerships - such as those promoted by this Summit, we can achieve the goals we have collectively set for ourselves.

UNDP is fully committed to playing its part. We look forward to working with the UAE, Morocco, and all other partners represented here today to take forward the vision of this Summit and advance to a future which is sustainable and prosperous for all.

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