One Young World Summit: 'We Will Sink Or Swim Together', Warns Kofi Annan Over Climate Change

The world will "sink or swim together", former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan warned, as he urged developed countries to start taking more responsibility for climate change.

"We have to realise we are in the same boat," he told delegates at the One Young World conference in Bangkok. "You cannot be safe or prosperous at the expense of each other.

"If one end of the ship begins to take water, we are all at risk. We swim or sink together in the long term, particularly when it comes to climate change."

Kofi Annan speaking to young delegates at One Young World

Speaking about the COP21, taking place in Paris next week, Annan said he felt "positive" towards the international meeting on global warming.

"Governments who were hesitant in Copenhagen [the previous COP in 2009] have come forward with suggestions and national strategies.

“China, India and other countries have moved forward. I think every country accepts it has a responsibility to climate change, but we all agree the developed world needs to take more action.

“The real question is: will they be ambitious enough?”

Annan reiterated the need to see a “binding agreement” from the COP21, so people could hold their governments accountable.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate also addressed the threat of ISIS and the recent Paris attacks.

“What ISIS did in Paris has woken up lots of people. Understandably there is frustration, a temptation to hit out.

“But these issues cannot be resolved with force alone. There has to be an attempt to deal with the group force. That means taking serious steps to resolve conflict in Syria.”

He added: “Ultimately the solution is political and I would hope if the regional and national powers can come together and work to defeat ISIS and settle the situation in the region.

“If we don’t do that it will get much worse.

“I hope Syria and the people in the involved in the conflict will find their Westphalia moment and realise the killings are senseless and futile.”

Annan emphasised the need for intergenerational dialogue, and to address future problems, not just those of the present and past.

“It’s two way traffic, he told his young audience. “Luckily you are growing up at a time where young people have lots of knowledge, better education and know a lot about technology.

I grew up a time where children were to be seen or not heard. But,” he quipped, “you notice it didn’t stop me.

“We are told with scientific research that we can extend life by another 30 to 40 years but what I am going to do with another 30 years? How are we going to look after these older people? What is going to happen to pension schemes?

“This is the world that we need to think about. aAe we focusing on the problems of yesterday and today and not looking at the future, at the problems that are around the corner?

“We have taxi drivers fighting Uber, but what about the stage when we get to driverless cars?

“We pretend subsidies are for the poor, but we are subsidising for the middle class. The poor have no cars, no access to electricity. Someone in a village in Africa pays almost 10 times as much for electricity than someone in New York does. Subsidies need to be discontinued and the money set aside to give the poor electricity.”

He concluded: “These issues are not being talked about, and we need to focus on the issues of tomorrow.

“These are your issues, you are the ones who have to live with the consequences. You need to reach out to politicians, you have the capacity to do it.

“Make sure they know you are there.”

One Young World is a global forum for young leaders aged 18-30, which gathers youths from around the globe to develop solutions to some of world's most pressing issues.