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Remarks of H.E. President Mikheil Saakashvili at the 16th Conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Cancun, Mexico

8 December 2010

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to deliver my speech in Spanish, in honor of our Mexican hosts.

It is a great honor for me to be here at the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

I will try to share with you Georgia's vision on how a little country like ours can be a laboratory for how to confront climate change and work on sustainable development.

But first, allow me to thank our Mexican hosts and all of you for the progress made during the conference.

There were fears that Cancun, after the disappointment of Copenhagen, would be a summit marked by little hope and low aspirations.

We must congratulate the Mexican Government, and in particular the President of the Conference, Ms. Patricia Espinosa, for their extraordinary work in rejuvenating these global climate talks. I also am very pleased by the appointment of Ms. Christiana Figueres as the Executive Secretary.

The conference, of course, is not over, but Cancun has the potential to mark a new beginning in our common pursuit of a low-carbon era.

We are near agreements on the REDD framework for compensating developing nations for preserving forests, as a well as on a "Green Fund" that will channel billions to poor nations to help them adapt to climate impacts, adopt low-carbon technology from developed countries, and convert to cleaner energy sources.

In a more ideal world, of course, the Copenhagen Accord would have been achieved last December and we would be gathering here in the aftermath of success.

As you know, Georgia is and remains a strong supporter of the Copenhagen Accord.

We believe that the time has past for a debate on whether the world needs to address climate change; the only question we now face is how to do so.

We also believe strongly that a low-carbon world not only benefits the environment, but also help decrease regional tensions.

After all, our country lies at a crossroads of global energy supplies, a region where oil and gas have helped fuel conflicts for more than a century. Building up local, renewable sources can help ensure that energy is not used as a political tool. Doing so in close cooperation with neighboring countries, as Georgia does, creates greater regional stability.

Immediately after Copenhagen, Georgia formally affiliated with the Copenhagen Accord and we fully support the implementation of its provisions. We also believe in the absolute necessity of continuing the UNFCCC process, and we're confident in a balanced outcome that reflects the guiding principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. 

in addition to the question of CO2 emmisions it is time to start working and finding solutions for other environmental and sustainibility issues.

Although Georgia is a small country, we believe we can have a large impact, especially in our region-one that has suffered from environmental degradation, as well as oppression and instability.

Ecological concerns and policies are not reserved to big and wealthy members of the Northern World: transitional democracies, emerging countries, small republics can do their part. In fact, they should see the green ambition as the key for their development and their stability.

In the global fight against climate change, these countries have a critical role to play as laboratories for innovation-testing new ideas, setting ambitious targets, and serving as a model for others.

Our overarching goal in Georgia is to show that lowering our consumption of fossil fuels can help us increase growth-and can do so in a sustainable way.

We are bringing the same resolve to this initiative as we have brought to the reform of our economy, our institutions and our political sphere.

Georgia already has taken concrete steps in combating climate change. Tbilisi, our capital, has joined the "Covenant of Mayors Initiative of the European Union" to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. It is the first capital of the region to join the initiative. 

Perhaps most important, Georgia is making great strides in developing its renewable energy program.  We have established a friendly investment environment that has led to billions being poured into renewable energy sources, especially hydropower.   

As a result of our rapid progress, already more than 80 percent of the electricity production in Georgia comes from renewable sources. In fact, we are exporting renewable energy to our neighbors, and we will eventually transmit it through Turkey to the European Union. This will enable us to achieve our goal of establishing Georgia as the first large-scale renewable energy exporter to Europe.

Our renewable energy initiatives can be complemented by large-scale initiatives to grow our forests and advance carbon sequestration activities, both of which will need the support of the international community. 

These programs could allow natural forests to constitute as much as 10 percent of Georgia's territory, offering significant economic and environment benefits. Efforts such as these also will lead to the rehabilitation of degraded soils and vegetation cover, the protection of watersheds, and greater local employment.

In addition to these evolutions, we are launching a program that will lead to a cleaner transport industry. And public institutions will play the role of example. Georgia's government will, starting from this year, replace official traditional cars by electric ones.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I cannot end my speech without noting that there are man-made challenges to our climate that would be easy to stop and that we must not ignore. I have to point there to the tragic situation of Georgia's currently occupied region of Abkhazia, where the Black Sea coast has been experiencing abrasion due to the devastating practices of the occupying power and its proxy regime.

Their mining of inert materials from the Gumista River construction projects related to the Sochi Olympics has resulted in landslides and degradation of the microclimate. 

Their illegal search for oil in the Blacksea, in the territorial waters of Georgia, is done in a total blackout, without any legitimate authority being able to check the impact on the environment.  

This is extremely alarming. What is most unfortunate is that we are unable to halt these disturbing practices due to the ongoing occupation and the violation of all cease-fire agreements.

Ladies and gentlemen-

Global warming is a challenge for humankind as a whole and requires a response from a united humankind.

We must act with resolve and determination, setting aside our short-term interests, our actual rivalries or tensions, and taking concrete actions for our long-term good, for the good of the generations to come.

Thank you.

 
 
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