United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Katowice on Sunday, 2 December, from Buenos Aires, where he had attended the G20 Summit.
On Sunday evening, he was hosted at an official dinner by President Andrzej Duda.
On Monday morning, he delivered his opening address at the twenty-fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP24. “We are in deep trouble with climate change,” he said.
Urging greater action and ambition, he delivered four simple messages to the delegates. First: science demands a significantly more ambitious response; second: the Paris Agreement provides the framework for action, so we must operationalize it; third: we have a collective responsibility to invest in averting global climate chaos and to assist the most vulnerable communities and nations; fourth: climate action offers a compelling path to transform our world for the better.
The Secretary-General told the assembled officials that he was convening a Climate Summit next year in September in New York to raise ambition and mobilize the necessary resources.
He appealed that this ambition needs to begin now in Katowice, driven by governments and leaders who understand that their legacies and the well-being of future generations are at stake.
Guterres stressed that while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report tells us that we still have time to limit temperature rise, time is running out. Therefore, it’s hard to comprehend why we are collectively still moving too slowly – and even in the wrong direction.
In closing, he called on all the participants to rise to the challenge that the world is demanding of us. (See Press Release SG/SM/19386.)
Following the plenary, the Secretary-General met with a group of young climate activists. He told them frankly that his generation had failed them and that the youth of today needed to be bold. He encouraged them to do whatever they could to lower their carbon footprint and, most important, put pressure on their political leaders.
The Secretary-General then held a press conference during which he reiterated some of his key messages to the assembled media. He was also joined at the presser by the Polish President Andrzej Duda. Mr. Guterres said that climate change is still running faster than we are and that this trend needs to be reversed. Katowice is an essential platform for this reversal to take place, he told the press.
The Secretary-General said he counted on two things. First, on the dynamic leadership of Poland as an honest broker, as bridge builder, as a convener to help countries come together, and to find solutions for the points on which they are still divided. Second, the conscience of Member States, of all Member States present, that to come to an agreement is an absolute must. That means, he said, that naturally that final conclusions are not necessarily what each one would exactly want but it is the compromise is absolutely essential for the international community to be united to be able to defeat climate change.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General held bilateral meetings with Alexander van der Bellen, President of Austria; Alain Berset, President of Switzerland; Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and President of COP23; Gerd Müller, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development; Mr. Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission; Li Ganjie, Minister of Ecology and Environment of China; Kenichi Suganuma, Representative of the Government of Japan for Climate Change; Yasmine Fouad, Minister of Environment of Egypt, representing the “Group of 77” developing countries and China; and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Founding Chairman of the R20-Regions of Climate Action.
On Monday evening, the Secretary-General attended a concert performed by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.
On Tuesday morning, the Secretary-General started his day with a working breakfast with Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland. They discussed a number of issues, including Poland’s work on the Security Council and the current climate change talks.
He then joined Member States, civil society and other stakeholders to brief them on his forthcoming 2019 Climate Summit. The gathering, which will take place on the sidelines of the 2019 General Assembly, will focus on delivering three key outcomes: raising real ambition; transformative action in the real economy; and an unprecedented citizen and youth mobilization. “My summit,” the Secretary‑General said, “is not an end in itself. It is a tool, a tool to leverage unprecedented ambition, transformation, and mobilization.” (See Press Release SG/SM/19388.)
Following that event, the Secretary-General participated in a High-Level Event on Global Climate Action and multilateralism with COP24 President, Michał Kurtyka. He told the participants that they needed to be frank, to be bold and to encourage their governments to reach a positive outcome at the summit. “I am [a] true believer in global solutions for global problems,” Mr. Guterres said, but “multilateralism is needed to adapt to new circumstances and cannot work in isolation.”
Prior to leaving Katowice, the Secretary-General participated in the High-Level Event on Electric Mobility, sponsored by COP24 President Michał Kurtyka. He thanked the participants for focusing on mobility as transport accounted for one quarter of total emissions in 2016, a level 71 per cent higher than what was seen in 1990. This event, Mr. Guterres said, is critical because it is a key step towards the sustainability transition that we all know is needed. “We need sustainable and clean transport systems,” he said adding that “the prospect for this is good as innovation and technological progress have led to significant advances in e-mobility.” (See Press Release SG/SM/19389).
On the sidelines of the Conference of the Parties, the Secretary-General also had a bilateral meeting with Khalid A. Al-Falih, Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia.
The Secretary-General returned to New York on Tuesday evening.