10 April 2018

Inequality ‘Systemic and Growing’, Secretary-General Tells Forum amid Call to Raise Collective Ambition for Tackling Climate Change by Harnessing Clean, Green Energy

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018, in Hainan Province, China, today:

I am very honoured and very pleased to be with all of you today.  The agenda of this Forum reflects the optimism of an Asia on the move, with the most dynamic regional economy in the world.

This year also marks the fortieth anniversary of China’s reforms and opening-up.  And as many of my predecessors at this podium said, today, the sense of transformation is evident throughout China and in its relations with the world.

I saw that on full display last May when I had the honour to attend the Belt and Road Forum with President Xi Jinping.  By connecting peoples and markets in Asia, Europe and Africa, including in Latin America, this ambitious initiative can contribute significantly to a more fair, peaceful and prosperous world.

I am deeply convinced that globalization is irreversible.  It has brought many benefits — the integration of the world’s economies; the expansion of trade; stunning advances in communications and technology.

Hundreds of millions of people have risen from poverty.  Many more people are living longer and healthier lives.  The global middle class is growing rapidly.  But, we must also recognize that vast numbers of people are being left behind.  Inequality is systemic and growing.

Our destination must be a fair globalization that leaves no one behind as a pathway to peace and sustainable development for people, communities and countries.  But one thing must be very clear:  we won’t make globalization fair by isolationism, protectionism or exclusion.  Global problems need global multilateral solutions.

The United Nations’ contribution to a fair globalization is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  With its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda is our blueprint for peace, prosperity and partnership for people and the planet.

Many countries — including China — are demonstrating that transformation is possible.  But all countries need to do more to ensure that the benefits of progress reach everyone, so we can fulfil the promises of the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda.

China’s path to eradicate poverty by 2020 proves that it is indeed possible to leave no one behind.

We must recognize that we face another challenge that can undo all our best efforts to end poverty and promote universal peace and well-being — climate change.  Climate change is a global threat in itself and a massive multiplier of other threats — poverty; humanitarian needs; conflict.  That is why all the world’s Governments signed on to the Paris Agreement in 2015.

But, let’s be clear:  climate change is still moving faster than we are.  Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are now the highest in 800,000 years.  When the Paris Agreement was adopted, our shared assumption was that we had the capacity to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees and to aim to limit it to 1.5 degrees.  Scientists are now worried that the Paris goal may be unattainable unless we do more by 2020.

We need to dramatically raise our ambition.  The good news is technology is on our side.  Clean, green energy is more affordable and competitive than ever.  But, we still see enormous investment in — and subsidies for — fossil fuels.  We must eliminate this kind of contradiction that might be digging our own grave.

That is why I continue to call on world leaders to act to bend the emissions curve.  In that regard, I commend China’s global leadership before and after the Paris Agreement — politically and practically, as with its ambitious targets on renewable energy.

Next year, as you know, I will convene a climate summit aimed at raising ambition.  Science demands it; the global economy needs it; and humanity depends on it.  What the world needs is a race to the top — with political will, innovation, financing and partnerships.  We need it to rise to the climate challenge, and we need it to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This Forum is a welcome addition to our efforts to increase ambition to build a — and I quote President Xi Jinping — “community of shared future for mankind” — with peace, prosperity, opportunity and dignity for all people, everywhere.  I thank you for your commitment and hope that your discussions will be very productive.

For information media. Not an official record.