Higher Ambition Key to Success in Building Resilience, ‘Bending Emissions Curve’ by 2020, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Climate Change Forum

17 October 2017

Higher Ambition Key to Success in Building Resilience, ‘Bending Emissions Curve’ by 2020, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Climate Change Forum

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery at the opening of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Pre-Conference of the Parties (COP), in Suva, Fiji, today:

I am pleased to be with you.  I thank the Honourable Prime Minister of Fiji for convening this pre-COP and for agreeing to preside over COP23.  I also thank the Government of Germany for its steadfast and generous support towards making the upcoming twenty-third session of the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC a reality.

COP23 will be the first major climate conference presided over by a small island developing State in the more than 20-year existence of the UNFCCC despite having long been on the front line of the fight against climate change.

Small Islands are among the first and worst affected by the climate peril.  Their vulnerability to recurrent, more frequent and more intense extreme weather events has continued to mount.  To mention just the most recent examples, Hurricanes Irma and Maria have brought horrific personal and economic misery to people in the Caribbean, Central America and the United States.

It was the collective advocacy and ambition of the small islands that helped to drive the ambition of the Paris Agreement and its swift ratification, and is continuing to push us towards keeping global temperature rise as close to 1.5 degrees as possible.  We pay tribute to that engagement here today.

Extreme weather events show in graphic detail the risks we all face if ambition, action and commitment are not raised to meet the challenges of climate change.  They highlight the urgency of building resilience, investing in adaptation and bending the emissions curve by 2020.

For the United Nations, these events also underline the need to press forward, in line with the mandate from Member States, on the United Nations Secretary-General’s reforms to reposition the United Nations development system to better support countries to achieve their commitments under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk reduction, all landmark agreements reached in 2015.  Implementation of the three must go together.

For Governments, climate disasters underscore the need to implement and expand national climate action plans as an integrated component of national development strategies, and to mobilize and better target domestic resources toward climate-resilient development objectives.  For richer Governments, they emphasize the obligation to provide the financial and technological support that less wealthy countries need to meet their climate goals.

For the finance and investment community, they underscore the urgency of ensuring both innovation in financial rules, as well as increasing the pace of financial flows into sustainable investments.  For businesses, cities, States and regions, extreme weather events are highlighting the imperative to align their plans and actions with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Finally, for all citizens, the challenges of climate change and sustainable development compel us to make better choices and demand greener policies, goods, services and lifestyles.  In short, we need all hands on deck, and far better coherence between all sectors of society at all levels — internationally, nationally and at the local level.

The Paris Agreement was a remarkable achievement.  But, to deliver on its full potential, and assist Governments and society to go further, faster together, it needs a complete and uncluttered set of guidelines that ensure collective responsibility for the achievement of the long-term objective of the Agreement.  These guidelines should ensure that the Agreement fosters transparency on action and support, how parties will take stock of the global situation and how mechanisms to facilitate implementation and promote compliance will operate.

There should be no doubt that we are entering a new chapter on climate change.  We have the Agreement.  Now we need to raise ambition.  2020 should mark a turning point in the global economy, especially in key sectors.  The Secretary-General will continue to press Member States to bend the emissions curve and scale up efforts to build resilience so that this turning point can indeed be reached.

As we look towards Bonn and beyond, this Pre-COP is a crucial planning opportunity.  Besides the guidelines, the COP should agree on a package of modalities to convene Facilitative Dialogue aimed at assessing and ramping up ambition.

Last month, the Secretary-General invited leaders to consider championing six high-impact areas:  investment in clean technology; maturing carbon pricing; enabling the energy transition; risk mitigation and building resilience; augmenting the contribution of subnational actors and business; and mobilizing climate finance.  By focusing on these sectors, we can substantially reduce the gap between where we are and where we need to be.

Increasing ambition is the only way to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C this century, and as close to 1.5°C as possible.  Several leaders have offered to work closely with the Secretary-General in aligning their efforts and scaling up climate action to keep us on track for 1.5°C.

The Secretary-General’s 2019 Climate Summit will be a key moment to assess ambition and to recalibrate before 2020.  It is anticipated that this coalition of leaders will act as a backbone of the Summit and help to increase ambition by other Governments.

The Secretary-General and I are aware that some parties feel that the promised international support is not being delivered.  The Secretary-General’s call for action and raised ambition aims to address that concern.  The Green Climate Fund has become operational, but its delivery is less than ideal.  It should not only expedite its process of the delivery of much-needed finance, but also enable the smallest members to easily access resources.

Climate Investment Funds at the World Bank must be replenished, and their scope deepened.  I also hope that COP23 will finalize the role and manner in which the Adaptation Fund will serve the Paris Agreement.

As we look to the 2019 Summit and the 2020 recommitment process at COP24, we must use upcoming events to create a sense of urgency and confidence in delivering implementation.  These include COP23 next month, followed by the Paris Summit that President [Emmanuel] Macron has called for December.  The Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September 2018, for its part, will amplify the vital voices of local and national actors.

In Bonn, we need to see heightened climate action, supported by national and subnational governments, businesses, investors and civil society.  Building resilience and enabling access to adaptation finance are the top concerns that delegations here have shared with me.  I therefore commend Fiji for its vision in these areas.

The signs are positive:  the Paris Agreement is in force and, to date, 168 parties have ratified it.  This United Nations process is the backbone of international efforts to encourage and empower national action.  It is triggering spin-off, supportive processes for implementation that can fuel the formal process.

Momentum is continually building.  Our task is to ensure that it is adequate to the challenge.  With the help of everyone in this room and beyond, we can build a better world for all — a world of peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity, free from the fear of catastrophic climate change.

For information media. Not an official record.