Citing Rise in Weather-Related Disasters, Secretary-General Calls for Faster, Bolder Action to Build Green Economy, at Leaders Dialogue on Climate Change

SG/SM/18697-ECO/277-ENV/DEV/1808
19 September 2017

Citing Rise in Weather-Related Disasters, Secretary-General Calls for Faster, Bolder Action to Build Green Economy, at Leaders Dialogue on Climate Change

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Leaders Dialogue on Climate Change, in New York today:

Thank you for being here today.  Your leadership is absolutely key to attaining and raising the ambition of the Paris Agreement.  Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and Maria and the massive floods in South Asia are just the most recent demonstration of the urgency of tackling climate change.  Such events will only become more frequent and more savage, with more dramatic humanitarian and economic consequences.

Countries have signed up to the Paris Agreement.  But we know that current pledges and plans are insufficient to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees.  In 2020, parties will review progress.  By then, we need to make sure that we have substantially raised the bar of ambition.

We are still on a path for a world that may be 3 or more degrees warmer.  We need emissions to peak and resilience to build.  Last year, more than 24 million people were displaced by weather-related disasters.  And the number of such events has nearly quadrupled since 1970.  Climate change is challenging the security of many States, especially small islands.

The answer lies in the total transformation of our economies, and this is achievable.  Globally, investment in green infrastructure has grown six-fold in a decade to almost $300 billion.  The rate of growth is highest in emerging economies.  Today, over half of new power generation capacity comes from renewable energy.  In Europe, it is 90 per cent.  Off-grid energy solutions are also becoming simpler and cheaper.  In the United States, Tesla solar roof tiles are stronger and 20 per cent cheaper, when you factor in energy savings and tax credits.

And jobs are being created.  Last year, the renewable energy sector employed 9.8 million people, and such jobs are projected to rise to 26 million by 2050.  Momentum is growing.  Now let’s make it grow even more.

Earlier this year, I laid out my strategy on climate change at New York University.  I announced the intention to convene a Climate Summit in 2019, here in New York.  We need all actors in society to work for a clean low-emissions future — national and local governments, businesses and investors, scientists, civil society and citizens everywhere.  That is why I asked you here today.

We need to build ambition and accelerate action before it’s too late.  We have set out six issues for you to focus on:  investment in clean technology; carbon pricing; the energy transition; risk mitigation; augmenting the contribution of subnational actors and business; and mobilizing finance.

I want, by the time of the Climate Summit, to show that climate action works — that your climate action and leadership works — that transformation is happening.  I count on you all to create examples for others to follow.

I just came from a meeting with Graça Machel, and remembering her late husband, Nelson Mandela, it is necessary to say again that “things always seem impossible until they are done”.  And this time we are already doing it.  So, our task is daunting.  But I know it is possible.  Thank you very much for coming.

For information media. Not an official record.