1 December 2018

Strong Economic Growth Compatible with Limiting Carbon Emissions, Stresses Secretary-General in Remarks to G20 Climate, Sustainable Development Event

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the G20 session on Climate and Sustainable Development, in Buenos Aires today:

We are already in big trouble in relation to climate change.  We are headed for a world of uncertainty due to climate disruption.  Every new scientific report confirms that climate change is the greatest threat to human security and sustainable development, and that climate change is still running faster than we are.  I do not believe that we cannot fight climate change and have a good economy.  The opposite is true.  The social, economic and environmental costs of climate change dwarf the costs of acting now.  The green economy is becoming the most competitive and the most profitable technology on our side.

Ambitious climate action will not only slow temperature rise, it will be good for the economy, for public health and for the environment.  The recent Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it very clear:  we have little time remaining to limit global temperature rise to the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.  If we miss the window, we face runaway climate change with irreversible impacts.

The United Nations Environment Emissions Gap Report finds that most G20 economies are not on track to fulfil their Paris pledges on time.  And even if they hit their targets, the world will still heat up by 3 degrees Celsius before the end of the century.  So countries need to fulfil their pledges and raise their ambition.  This also includes, together with the private sector, mobilizing $100 billion a year for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

We have two opportunities in the coming year.  First is next week’s Conference of Parties to the climate change convention in Katowice.  Countries must adopt the Paris Agreement Work Programme and then the second opportunity will be to raise ambition in the Climate Summit that I’ve convened next September in New York.  G20 members have the power to bend the emissions curve.  Your economies account for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions.  We need transformative climate action in five key economic areas – energy, cities, land use, water and industry.

I applaud those countries demonstrating the economic feasibility of climate action.  Let us reflect the true cost of pollution by promoting carbon pricing, investing in renewable energy and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.  Let us also provide a fair transition for workers in the regions that are linked to traditional sectors that face transformation by climate action.  Here too the principle to leave no one behind is valid.

In conclusion, I appeal to you to send a powerful signal to the world that strong economic growth and limiting carbon emissions are possible and compatible.  This is how we will fulfil the promise of the 2030 Agenda.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.