Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development’s (TICAD) thematic session on climate change and disaster risk reduction, in Yokohama, Japan, today:
I am pleased to be with you today to discuss the critical issue of reducing the risk of disasters flowing from the impacts of climate change. I can think of no more appropriate place to be discussing this subject than here in Japan, where the Sendai Framework was agreed as a global blueprint for reducing risk and building resilience.
Little undermines development like disaster. Decades of sustainable development gains can be wiped out overnight. One needs look no further than what happened with Cyclone Idai in Mozambique — just one example of disaster made worse by climate change.
Africa has a special moral authority on this. Africa has a minimal contribution to global warming, but it is on the front line of the impacts of these devastating consequences. That is why, on 23 September, I will host a Climate Action Summit in New York. Our overarching goal is to raise ambition and get the world on track to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C.
Last year’s special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in how we manage land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities. That is why I have said to leaders to come to the summit with concrete, realistic plans to put us, once and for all, on a sustainable path.
Countries must show how [intended] nationally determined contributions will be enhanced by 2020, and they must demonstrate how they will reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade and get to net zero emissions by 2050.
At the same time, it is abundantly clear that climate disruption is happening now and everywhere. Every week brings us news of more climate-related devastation, and climate impacts are only going to increase in severity and frequency.
Africa is, of course, particularly targeted, but no country or economic sector will be immune. For example, here in Japan, almost a million people were evacuated in the last days due to floods. Across the Arctic, destructive wildfires continue to burn as a result of record high temperatures, and we are all witnessing the tragedy of the Amazon. In Uganda, climate change is contributing to an increase in the incidence of malaria.
And throughout Africa long-term drought is an ever-present and growing reality, which is directly implicated in causing insecurity as we see only too clearly in the Sahel.
As is always the case, the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer and the worst hit by climate impacts. That is why, as well as tackling the causes of climate change, we must leave nobody behind when dealing with its consequences.
For that reason, the Climate Action Summit has a strong focus on adaptation and resilience, as well as financing for adaptation, not least through a significant replenishment of the Green Climate Fund. All of this is vital to support African countries.
Initiatives have been put forward for the summit by countries and partners that seek to address disaster risk reduction. These include proposals to significantly increase the availability of insurance to poor and vulnerable people. It is crucial to give them an avenue to recover quickly from disaster.
We must also aim, not only to respond more efficiently to disaster after it happens, but through advanced warning and preparation, we must work to prevent disaster from happening in the first place.
This is not just the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense. For example, making infrastructure more climate-resilient has a benefit-cost ratio of about 4 to 1. Acting early is thus not only a humanitarian imperative, but also economically rational.
Proposals for the Climate Action Summit on early warning, early action, as well as on mainstreaming of climate risks in investment decision-making seek to address exactly this issue.
I ask for your support in putting these proposals into practice and helping them achieve the necessary scale and continuity. For the Climate Action Summit and its outcomes to be a success, we must all work together.
I very much look forward during to hearing your views on how we can all do better to reduce the risk of disaster from climate impacts. We must make sure that nobody is left behind as a result of the climate impacts that we are already experiencing and more and more will experience in the future.