Dear Presidents,
Members of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
2015, the European Year for Development, is an historic year for the future of international cooperation and development.
We are just a few weeks away from the third international conference on financing for development in Addis Ababa.
This is the first of three major international meetings in the coming months.
The outcome in Addis Ababa will determine the scope of the ambition of the new sustainable development goals that will be adopted in September at the United Nations Summit in New York.
At the end of the year, the UN climate change conference in Paris should lead to the adoption of a comprehensive, legally binding agreement on limiting the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
At that moment, we will know whether the international community has managed to rise up to the challenge and to make the shift to a truly sustainable and inclusive future for all.
This opportunity cannot be missed. There is no excuse.
The European Union has set out a number of objectives that we hope to achieve in the international negotiations this year. These cover the full range of economic, social and environmental issues that need to be addressed in the framework of the new sustainable development goals.
They reflect the EU's desire to put in place a true global partnership for poverty eradication and sustainable development for the post-2015 period.
The proposed set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and accompanying targets correspond closely to the vision of the European Union for a universal agenda that covers all dimensions of sustainable development in a balanced way.
It is now our duty to ensure an ambitious global agreement around these goals and targets.
The European Union, as the world's largest donor of development assistance and champion of sustainable development, will do everything in its power to make that happen.
But the European Union cannot by itself guarantee that the new post-2015 agenda will be everything that it can – and should – be. The new framework will require everyone to step up their efforts. I rely very much on close cooperation with like-minded States, groupings of States and institutions.
The European Union's relationship with the group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States is unique and has always been based on the pursuit of mutual interests, based on equality of partners and reciprocal commitment.
These same principles should underpin our approach to the various strands of the international negotiations that are taking place this year.
An alignment of the EU and ACP positioning on key issues can be central to creating positive dynamics in the UN negotiations.
I am well aware of the particular concerns of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, which have been presented, not just in the UN context, but also in meetings of the ACP Council of Ministers and in meetings of this joint parliamentary assembly.
Since the last meeting of this assembly, the reality of one of the most acute issues facing some ACP States has hit home, with the devastating effects of Cyclone Pam in March.
I take this opportunity to express my deepest sympathy to the people of Vanuatu, in particular, for the losses suffered in terms of human lives and destruction of property.
The European Union provided immediate assistance to the people of Vanuatu in the aftermath of the cyclone and will continue to work closely with the government of Vanuatu on the implementation of its national recovery action plan in the coming months.
These events have served to strengthen our resolve, not only to build on existing disaster response and relief capacity, but also to ensure that climate change and the need for adequate mitigation and adaptation strategies are fully reflected in the sustainable development goals that will be adopted in September in New York.
The European Union has worked closely on these issues with ACP countries in the relevant multilateral discussions.
Already earlier this year, the adoption of the Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction at the UN conference in Sendai was a first success. Ban Ki-Moon described this agreement as "the first step of our journey to a new future".
The UN Summit in September is the occasion to take the next steps in the process.
The climate change conference in Paris at the end of the year will provide a great opportunity for the EU-ACP partnership to highlight progress already made and to further enhance global efforts to build resilience and reduce disaster risks linked climate change.
Collective action to address climate change is an opportunity for engaging in green, low-carbon and climate resilient development from the outset. Developing first and cleaning up afterwards is not an option – and it is not an efficient use of resources.
Climate change and development are two sides of the same coin. This is why we need to tackle these global challenges in a coherent way by ensuring that the post-2015 development agenda and the new global climate agreement to be finalized in Paris are mutually reinforcing.
In concrete terms, this means that all parties should come forward with their intended nationally determined contributions to the agreement as soon as possible.
It is important to emphasize the binding character of the agreement that will be concluded in Paris. We need ambitious mitigation commitments from a critical number of parties, particularly the major emitting countries.
And we need strong rules to ensure the accountability of all parties in holding to their commitments. These should allow for regular review and strengthening of greenhouse gas reduction commitments over time.
The EU has already shown its leadership by being the first among G20 countries in taking ambitious mitigation commitments. We put forward the EU's intended nationally determined contributions as a binding target for the EU and its 28 Member States of at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Taking account of the needs and concerns of the most vulnerable countries in the context of the Paris agreement is a priority for the European Union. I have said it before and I would like to emphasize it once again:
If it's not resilient, it's not development.
Reducing vulnerability and building resilience to all shocks and stresses is an absolute pre-requisite to poverty reduction and sustainable development. Risk management processes must therefore be an integral part of all development processes in all sectors and in all contexts.
And this is exactly the approach we're taking in EU development cooperation.
We want Paris to work.
We are already working closely with partner countries, at both bilateral and regional levels, to ensure that climate change issues are mainstreamed into our development spending programs and projects in the current financial framework up to 2020 – including in key areas such as energy, agriculture and urbanisation. Up to 2020, we will provide 14 billion euros to support climate-relevant actions in developing countries.
At the same time, we shall continue to promote and encourage the same approach to climate change in our partner countries own national development strategies.
This has to address both aspects of climate action – mitigation and adaptation. Let us always remember: the more we mitigate, the less we have to adapt.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have before us an intense few months of international negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.
Success will only come if the international community is willing to go the extra mile to ensure a viable and sustainable future for all the people of the world.
This means that the new international framework must respond not only to the wishes of the big and powerful, but also to the concerns of small and developing countries – including the least developed and the small island developing states.
In conclusion, let me turn to the UN Secretary General once again and recall what he said in Brussels a few weeks ago – we don't have a plan B for an ambitious sustainable development goals agenda, because we don't have a planet B.
In order to convince our international partners that this is the correct approach, I count on continued close cooperation with the ACP group, and with the ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly, in getting that message across clearly and consistently.
Thank you for your attention.