Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at the twenty‑fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) “Climate Ambition” event, in Madrid today:
Good afternoon, “Tiempo de Actuar”, or “Time for Action”, is the theme of this Conference of the Parties (COP). It is a fitting theme on many levels. The calibre of action shown by Spain, Chile and United Nations Climate Change to deliver this COP seamlessly in a matter of weeks is truly remarkable. It is a testament to the urgency of the job before us all. The scientific evidence presented in recent weeks has only heightened this urgency.
The world is getting hotter and more dangerous faster than we ever thought possible. Irreversible tipping points are within sight and hurtling towards us. As the logo for COP25 suggests, it is five minutes to midnight in the global climate emergency. Carbon pollution must stop rising in 2020 and start falling to keep the Paris Agreement goals within realistic reach.
We are a very long way behind, but there is still reason to believe we can win this race. On our side, we have the force of science, new models of cooperation, and a rising tide of momentum for change. Crucially, we have a global framework in the Paris Agreement to get the job done. We now need to put it fully to work. That means countries must honour the pledges made in Paris to scale up their national climate pledges every five years, which means in 2020.
So, the next 12 months will be crucial. In 2020, we must deliver what the scientific community has defined as a must, or we and every generation that follows will pay an unbearable price. That means, as the Chair has said, embarking on the path to cut greenhouse‑gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and to achieve net‑zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
This is what we expect from the review of national commitments under the Paris Agreement at COP26 next year in Glasgow. And I hope as many countries as possible will step up this year at COP25. Lifting ambition over the next 12 months has been the touchstone of this COP. And it was a centrepiece of the Climate Action Summit I convened in September.
Today, I am pleased to release my report from the Summit. This is already available on the United Nations website and the UNFCCC website. It captures what the Summit delivered, and how the United Nations system will help to put those initiatives to work. And it sets out my priorities for climate action in the crucial year ahead.
We are still a long way from our objective of a carbon neutral world by 2050 so we can limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. We need more ambition, more solidarity and more urgency. Today, I would like to share my top 10 priorities with you.
The first is to ensure commitments from the main emitters of more ambitious national commitments by 2020, in line with the 1.5°C limit. This is absolutely essential to keep the Paris goals within reach.
Second, we need all Governments to follow the example of the 75 countries that committed to coming forward in 2020 with net‑zero emissions strategies for 2050 or pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 or before. We need all countries to step up next year. Third, we need to make national commitments more ambitious in sectors that were not fully part of the picture in 2015, such as nature-based solutions.
Fourth, we must address the social dimension of climate change by ensuring that national commitments include a just transition for people whose jobs and livelihoods are affected as we move from the grey to the green economy. As we adjust, we must also consider the gender component of climate change and remove the barriers that limit the ability of women, particularly poor women, to thrive in a green economy and to adapt to climate impacts.
Fifth, we must cut current coal capacity and ensure no more new coal power plants are built after 2020. Coal is the single largest barrier to a 1.5°C future. It is key to decarbonizing economies and improving peoples’ health. Sixth, we must speed up the transition to 100 per cent renewable energy, increase energy efficiency, end subsidies for fossil fuels and decarbonize key sectors such as transport.
Seventh, we must shift financial flows faster, make sustainable finance more readily available, including through the Green Climate Fund, and move on carbon pricing making also adaptation as a central concern. If we switch taxation from incomes to carbon, we will tax pollution not people. Eighth, is stepping up support for people affected by climate change and building a more resilient future. We must put adaptation and resilience at the centre of decision-making and at the financial resource allocation. The Summit delivered initiatives that will make billions of people safer. But, there is still a very long way to go.
Ninth, we must deliver on commitments made at the Summit to small island developing States and least developed countries. They are the first to suffer from climate disruption, yet they have done least to contribute. And finally, we should implement the Summit’s initiatives of effective roadmaps to decarbonize key sectors, such as shipping; housing and transportation; and the steel and cement industries.
As the report shows, the Summit delivered important and practical new actions and a surge in climate momentum. I’m delighted to see that momentum continues to grow, as we are seeing here today. Led by Chile, the Climate Ambition Alliance was launched at the Climate Action Summit in New York. Seventy countries signed up along with 100 major cities. They were joined by businesses worth a combined $2.3 trillion and investors managing over $2 trillion.
Today, we have heard from the United Nations Global Compact that the number of businesses in the Alliance has nearly doubled. New investors have also joined, practically doubling the size of the Asset Owners Alliance from $2 trillion to $4 trillion today. I am deeply encouraged by this growth. It shows the private sector and private capital are now moving at scale.
The shift from the grey to the green economy is on, and it is gathering pace. At the Summit we also saw many countries, regions and over 100 cities — including many of the world’s largest — commit to carbon neutrality by 2050. I’m very much looking forward to hearing about new additions to the Alliance today. In short, the Summit provided a global stage to show who is stepping up. But, as I have mentioned in the opening session, it also showed who is not.
As the point of no return looms large, it’s time for some straight talk. The world’s biggest emitters need to do much more. If we do not reach carbon neutrality by 2050, all our current efforts to promote sustainable development will be undermined. That is why major emitters will be a top priority over the next 12 months, as we move towards COP26.
I leave you all here today with a final thought. It has been said that there is nothing more powerful than idea whose time has come. Climate action is an idea whose time has come. It has come in part through the simple logic of survival. Countless thousands of species, and now whole nations, are already fighting for their existence. Much sooner than we expect, people everywhere will face the same fight — unless we change course.
Today, people everywhere are demanding a cleaner, safer, fairer world, and they are ready to go out and get it. So, as we look ahead to 2020, there is much be done. But, our direction is clear. The 1.5°C limit is still within reach. So, I urge you all — in the days, weeks and months ahead — to stand firm, work together and refuse to relent in this fight for our lives. Thank you.