Arctic prize honors Ban Ki-moon’s climate efforts

By Mieke Coppes, High North News - October 10, 2016
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was honored with the first ever Arctic Circle prize at the annual conference in Reykjavik, Iceland Saturday, Oct. 8 (Linda Storholm / High North News)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was honored with the first ever Arctic Circle prize at the annual conference in Reykjavik, Iceland on Saturday, Oct. 8. (Linda Storholm / High North News)

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, was given a warm welcome to Iceland Saturday as he received the first ever Arctic Circle Prize.

The prize was awarded in large part due to the role he played in the recent Paris Agreement as well as his help in creating the sustainable development goals.

While recognizing Mr. Ban’s extraordinary work, the Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs Lilja Dögg Alfréðsdóttir spoke about the three key areas that he has been especially successful in the global community, “the development of the sustainable development goals for 2030 […] of course the Paris Agreement […] and his effort on gender issues.”

[In accepting Arctic prize, Ban Ki-Moon urges focus on indigenous peoples’ contributions to climate fight]

As mentioned, the COP21 Paris Climate negotiations, were without a doubt one of the key reasons that Mr. Ban was presented this award. The historic nature of the document was a main point of discussion throughout the event, including the quick ratifications and large number of signatories.
This has allowed the document to help move forward international focus on climate change, with the secretary-general saying that, “climate deniers and skeptics, their voice have been silenced, for now it is a matter of moving ahead as quickly as possible.”

Seventy-five countries have ratified the document, including China and the United States, and will officially go into effect Nov. 4.

But the difficult reality of such a document was not something that Mr. Ban shied away from. During a question-and-answer period with the audience he mentioned, “This Paris Agreement, I don’t think this is a perfect one, this is an agreement out of compromise.”

The secretary-general said he was aware that the document has room for improvement, specifically when dealing with the way that new technology will shape climate change in the future. But to ensure the document stays relevant, Mr. Ban said that, “There will be some specific review sessions, every 5 years […] the first such review will take place in 2018.”

Mr. Ban was also quick to praise the country that was hosting the ceremony. “Iceland is a shining example, one of the shining examples, in every aspect of our life.”

But when it comes to the fight against climate change, he asked for even more from Iceland. “We ask Iceland, and the people of Iceland, to lead this campaign.”

A call that was based on his recognition that as a small country, Iceland has plausible legitimacy when it comes to achieving cooperation in areas such as human rights, climate change and sustainable development. However he did not only expect this from Iceland, saying that, “every country has a critical role to play.”