‘New Normal’ of Global Warming Requires Swift Investments in Climate Action amid Rising Human Toll, Crushing Economic Losses, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses

11 December 2017

‘New Normal’ of Global Warming Requires Swift Investments in Climate Action amid Rising Human Toll, Crushing Economic Losses, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses

Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the high-level segment of the High-level Event of Eminent Personalities of the South, in Quito today:

I am pleased to join you at the High-level Event of Eminent Personalities of the South at this key moment in our efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  I have just met with members of the Ecuadorean Government, who briefed me on the concept of “buen vivir” — a good life for all — which perfectly embodies what the 2030 Agenda is all about.

In that spirit, I would like to offer a few thoughts on the challenges that are the focus of this gathering.  First, migration and mobility.  Migration is an enabler of development.  We must act on this understanding by protecting the rights of all refugees and migrants and by responding to the specific challenges faced by women and girls on the move.  Let us build on the discussions last week in Mexico and work together towards a sound and forward-looking approach rooted in greater solidarity.

The Global Compact on Migration that is currently being shaped by Member States must respond to two fundamental dynamics.  It must bring out the positive side of migration by facilitating and strengthening the contribution that migration already makes to sustainable development, supporting migration that is more attuned to international labour market needs and decent work for all and becoming more responsive to the needs of vulnerable and marginalized people, both migrants and host communities.  And it must respond to the challenges that migration presents by tackling the drivers of displacement, combating those who prey on vulnerable migrants, overhauling poorly regulated labour markets that create unsafe and unfair work environments, countering public misperceptions of migrants and presenting genuine alternatives for migrants who fall outside the protection of the international refugee regime, but for whom return to their home country is simply not an option.

Our world is a better place for the contributions made by migrants.  It is essential that the global South, which experiences so many different facets of migration, engages proactively and comprehensively in the coming negotiations.

Let me turn now to the threat of climate change.  Never have the impacts of global warming been clearer.  Climate change is no longer a distant, future problem.  A new normal is taking hold today.  Hurricanes, floods and droughts have devastated communities with increased frequency and intensity.  Early this year, in India alone, death tolls from flooding reached 1,200, and more than 2.4 million people lost their homes.  We are also all keenly aware of the recent devastation in the Caribbean.  In addition to the human toll, the economic costs are crushing.  In 2017, it is estimated that extreme weather events have caused more than $200 billion in damages worldwide.

While we have collectively made some progress, the challenge and danger of climate change call for much more.  We must move quickly on the following fronts.

First, reducing emissions.  Nations must significantly raise their ambition levels if we want to meet the Paris Agreement [on climate change] goal of keeping the global increase in temperature to well below 2°C.

Second, we need greater ambition on adaptation.  Climate change is upon us and we need to strengthen resilience.  We are witnessing in this area the leadership by indigenous peoples.  In 2014, a global coalition of indigenous peoples spanning Asia, Africa, Central America and the Amazon Basin pledged to protect more than 400 million hectares of tropical forests under their management.  This represents the storage of more than 85 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

Third, we need to increase finance.  We cannot have greater ambition on emissions, adaptation and resilience without greater ambition on funding.  That means mobilizing the agreed $100 billion annually for developing countries.  Many developing countries are already financing and investing in mitigation and adaptation at the national level.  Kenya, for example, has spent more than $500 million from its domestic budgets in one year for a range of mitigation and adaptation projects.  Such national efforts need to be combined with international contributions to enable all countries, but especially the most vulnerable, to face inevitable climate impacts and to grow their economies cleanly.  Governments cannot do this alone.

There is a fourth crucial element for climate action:  partnerships.  We need the private sector, local and regional governments and civil society.  And we need to engage with the key sectors — the technology giants, the energy sector and the transport sector — to ensure that they align their operations with the goals of Paris.

And finally, we need political leadership.  I am encouraged to note the steps being taken by many of the countries present here today.  Chile just recently announced that it will introduce an electromobility strategy, expand its metro system and introduce a tax on carbon emissions.  Ecuador’s programme on the “partner forest”, which offers economic incentives to communities owning native forests to avoid deforestation, has led to the conservation of 1.5 million hectares.

Last month in Bonn, nations made significant progress at COP23 [twenty‑third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change].  Non-State actors are taking on a greater role in the process.  Partnerships are taking shape representing a broad spectrum of society.

Support for the Paris Agreement is stronger than ever and the opportunities have never been greater.  [According to Bloomberg], in 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates reached important agreements to generate solar power at less than 3 cents per kilowatt hour — half the average global cost of coal power.  Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further.

By investing in clean technology and renewable energy, we can open up vast economic opportunity — $12 trillion or more by some estimates.  And we can do this while lifting people out of poverty, creating jobs, promoting public health, ensuring access to food, water and energy and protecting the planet.  By tackling climate change, we can truly build a world that is not only cleaner and greener, but more prosperous.

In a world witnessing many complex emergencies and protracted crises, it is clear we must do more to ensure that prevention permeates everything we do.  Since taking office, the Secretary-General has stressed the need to prioritize prevention across many dimensions — crisis prevention, conflict prevention, disaster prevention.  For too long, the world has tolerated the unsustainable costs of armed conflict.  For too long, we have watched as resources that should be channelled to sustainable development instead go to emergency response.

We cannot fulfil the promise of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind without meaningful efforts to address the root causes of violence and instability.  We need to change our logic.  The best way to prevent societies from descending into crisis is to ensure they are resilient through investment in inclusive and sustainable development.

Development is a goal in its own right.  But, in the 2030 Agenda, Member States also recognized that sustainable development is the best investment we can make in preventing crisis and that the causes of crisis, fragility and underdevelopment are deeply interlinked.  In the same way, an effective and broad focus on prevention will also generate more investment and concerted efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This brings me to my fourth point.  Financing the 2030 Agenda is fundamental to its successful implementation.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development provides a road map for shifting capital away from “business as usual” towards investment in increased prosperity, social inclusion and environmental regeneration.

The challenge is to do this at scale.  Governments have a key role to play in creating incentives to better align private finance with sustainable development objectives.  Channelling enough finance to the places it is needed most will require more than just fixing the problems that caused the last crisis.  We need to build a new system that delivers sustainable investment flows.

The bottom line is that the entire financial system, including the development finance community, needs to be aligned to the 2030 Agenda.  The 2030 Agenda must become what I would describe as the “fit-for-purpose test” of all of the work of the development and finance community.

We need to reassess the role and comparative advantages of international institutions in order to achieve better coordination and political accountability to align finance with the 2030 Agenda.  We need the financial architecture that governs our economy to ensure that risk is better managed and our economies become more resilient.  And we must ensure that our solutions are leaving no one behind and involve people in the decisions that affect their lives.

The United Nations, for its part, is itself reforming to ensure it is up to the task.  The Secretary-General has launched an ambitious reform process encompassing our internal management, the peace and security architecture and the United Nations development system.  The repositioning of the United Nations development system is central to all our efforts.  Achieving the sustainable development goals is humanity’s best hope for a world of peace and prosperity.

Repositioning sustainable development at the heart of the United Nations requires strengthening the system’s leadership, accountability and effectiveness of support at the country-level.  We need a system that is more responsive to the priorities of each country, anchored in national leadership and ownership.  We need coordination with regional partners and enhanced support to South-South and triangular cooperation, and greater engagement with the private sector and other stakeholders.

We have a historic opportunity to build the United Nations development system of the future.  It is also a great responsibility which we simply cannot miss.  Ensuring better support to your efforts on the ground remains our litmus test.  We look forward to proceeding in this collective journey with you.

We are grateful for the G77 [“Group of 77” developing countries] — and its Chair — for the active and constructive engagement throughout the year.  I also wish to thank the Eminent Personalities of the South for their contributions.

For decades, the voices of the South have been instrumental in shaping solutions to some of the most pressing issues on the global agenda.  The experiences and innovations of the South have advanced global well‑being and enriched the universal agreements that are now in place.

The United Nations recognizes this record and this role, and we count on continued support as we intensify our shared efforts towards our shared goals.  Thank you again for inviting me to join you in this important dialogue.

For information media. Not an official record.