Dear speech-fans and -friends,

One speech stands out this month: it mobilises a whole range of rhetorical forces and ammunition to serve a message that concerns all of us. This speech is the United Nations Secretary General’s call for action on climate change, delivered on 10 September 2018. 

If you read only one speech this month, read this one! Which is why, exceptionally, there is only one speech in this newsletter. 

One speech, but myriad rhetorical devices. I’ve identified some of them below, and under "Read more".

Very important as well: the Professional Speechwriters Association’s 2018 World Conference starts in just three weeks in Washington, DC. I will be there. Let me know if you will.

Best wishes,

Great speeches,



How to address the audience

Dear friends of planet Earth,


Start with a bang

I have asked you here to sound the alarm.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment.

We face a direct existential threat.

Read the full speech here : Antonio Guterres, Remarks on climate change, 10 September 2018

Watch the full speech here 


Climate change is moving faster than we are – and its speed has provoked a sonic boom SOS across our world.

If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.


Call for action

That is why, today, I am appealing for leadership – from politicians, from business and scientists, and from the public everywhere.


Alternate the rhythm, and contrast

Scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again.

Far too many leaders have refused to listen.

Far too few have acted with the vision the science demands.

We see the results.


Alliteration combined with crescendo, then contrast

Dear friends,

We know what is happening to our planet.

We know what we need to do.

And we even know how to do it.

But sadly, the ambition of our action is nowhere near where it needs to be. 



The mountain in front of us is very high. 

But it is not insurmountable.

We know how to scale it.



Put simply, 

we need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action.

We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels. 

We need to replace them with clean energy from water, wind and sun. 

We must halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and change the way we farm. 

We need to embrace the circular economy and resource efficiency.

Our cities and transport sectors will need to be overhauled. 

How we heat, cool and light our buildings will need to be rethought so we waste less energy.



And this is exactly where this conversation can become exciting.

Because, so much of the conversation on climate change focuses on the doom and gloom. 

Of course, warnings are necessary. But fear will not get the job done. 

No, what captures my imagination is the vast opportunity afforded by climate action.


Debunking falseness

I have heard the argument – usually from vested interests -- that tackling climate change is expensive and could harm economic growth. 

This is hogwash.

In fact, the opposite is true. 

We are experiencing huge economic losses due to climate change.



Not only would a shift to renewable energy save money, it would also create new jobs, waste less water, boost food production and clean the polluted air that is killing us.



There is nothing to lose from acting; there is everything to gain.


Leadership – II

Now, there are still many who think that the challenge is too great. 

But I deeply disagree.

Humankind has confronted and overcome immense challenges before; challenges that have required us to work together and to put aside division and difference to fight a common threat.


Hope – II

There are many other signs of hope.



Dear friends,

I have spoken of the emergency we face, the benefits of action and the feasibility of a climate-friendly transformation.

There is another reason to act -- moral duty.



We cannot allow Katowice to remind us of Copenhagen.


Address your audience

That is why I am so pleased to have such a strong representation of youth in the audience today.

It is imperative that civil society -- youth, women’s groups, the private sector, communities of faith, scientists and grassroots movements around the world -- call their leaders to account. As I was told myself by my Youth Envoy.

I call -- in particular -- on women’s leadership.  

When women are empowered to lead, they are the drivers of solutions.


Final call for action

Dear friends,

There is no more time to waste.

As the ferocity of this summer’s wildfires and heatwaves shows, the world is changing before our eyes. 

We are careering towards the edge of the abyss. 

It is not too late to shift course, but every day that passes means the world heats up a little more and the cost of our inaction mounts. 

Every day we fail to act is a day that we step a little closer towards a fate that none of us wants -- a fate that will resonate through generations in the damage done to humankind and life on earth.

Our fate is in our hands.

The world is counting on all of us to rise to the challenge before it’s too late.

I count on you all.

Thank you.

Read the full speech here : Antonio Guterres, Remarks on climate change, 10 September 2018

Watch the full speech here 



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