Print
SG/SM/19998
6 March 2020

Faster, Bolder Action Key to Reaching Net-Zero Emissions, amid Unfolding Climate Emergency, Secretary-General Tells Conference of Parties Session

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ briefing to Member States on the twenty-sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26), in New York today:

I thank the United Kingdom for organizing this briefing on COP26, which is scheduled to be held in Glasgow in November.

And I welcome Alok Sharma, COP26 President-designate and Secretary of State for business, energy and industrial strategy, to the United Nations.  I can tell you it is wonderful to be in a briefing in this building, and not to be the briefer.

We have a huge task ahead of us.  This is, in so many respects, a pivotal year for how we address climate change.  We have to aim high.  If we are going to limit global heating to 1.5°C, we need to demonstrate, starting this year, how we will achieve emissions reductions of 45 per cent from 2010 levels this decade, and how we will reach net-zero emissions by mid-century.

Let us be very clear.  We are in an unfolding climate emergency.  We continue to count the cost in human lives and livelihoods as droughts, wildfires, floods and extreme storms take their deadly toll.

In Glasgow, success depends on countries, the private sector and civil society demonstrating that they are taking significant steps to raise ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance.  We also need the continued assistance of key constituencies, like the youth, who have played such a vital role in spearheading the climate action movement.

The United Nations system is thoroughly committed to helping the COP26 presidency to address the climate emergency and turn threat into opportunity, and we look forward to working with you.  We look forward to working with you.

I see four main priorities for COP26.  First, national climate plans — the nationally determined contributions — must show that countries are working to implement the Paris Agreement, and each new nationally determined contribution should show more ambition than the previous one.  To date, even if countries fully implement their existing plans, we will be on a course to reach more than 3°C of heating this century.  The newly revised nationally determined contributions must set clear targets for 2025 or 2030 that will help us stick to the 1.5°C limit.

The second priority is to establish a common direction of travel, with all nations adopting strategies to reach net‑zero emissions by 2050.  So far, 70 nations have announced that they are committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.  Many other constituencies are doing the same, such as cities; banks and businesses.  But, this still only represents less than one quarter of global emissions.  So, while this is a good start, we must urgently make this commitment universal, and in particular the largest emitters must commit or our efforts will be in vain.

The third priority is for a robust package of programmes, projects and initiatives that will help communities and nations adapt to climate disruption and build resilience against the impacts to come.  The United Kingdom took the lead with Egypt last year at the Climate Action Summit.  We will help you deliver results on the crucial issue of adaptation.

The fourth priority is finance.  By COP26, developed countries must deliver on the commitment they took to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 with both public and private investments.

My new Special Envoy on Climate Action and Climate Finance, Mark Carney — who will also be working closely associated with the presidency of COP — will engage with finance leaders on a number of priorities, including carbon neutrality, carbon pricing, disclosure of climate risk, scaling up green financial instruments, embedding climate into economic and financial priorities and enhancing nationally determined contributions.

We need to push for transformation in the way the financial sector works, as a lever for more ambitious national Government engagement and commitments.  That means that investments in renewables and green technologies must be seen to be increasing and paying off.  We need to see major steps to end the vast and wasteful subsidies for fossil fuels, which actually increased last year.  And we need to put a price on carbon and see a commitment to end the construction of new coal power plants.

Ultimately, COP26 needs to demonstrate that the world is moving quickly in the right direction.  One way we can show progress is through the implementation of the initiatives launched at last September’s Climate Action Summit.  These initiatives span all the main concerns, from building resilience and adaptation, to action in key sectors that need significant transitions, such as energy, cooling, transport, shipping and infrastructure.  They provide a firm foundation to build on.

I count on the United Kingdom and Italy, on the COP26 presidency, on Member States and on the full constellation of partners, including cities, the private sector, finance institutions, the philanthropic community and civil society to commit to meaningful climate action.  Such “bottom‑up” ambition at the country level is crucial.  Our task is made more difficult by the postponement of many meetings due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

But, even as we work to contain and address the virus, we must also look to use every opportunity to build our climate action agenda.  In the months ahead, we need to rebuild trust.  We need to demonstrate that international cooperation is the only way to deliver meaningful results.  We must close the gap between what people need and what happens at the negotiating table.

I count on all nations and stakeholders to lead the way out of our current predicament by promoting clean, green growth, a just transition, and prosperity and stability for all.

The United Kingdom Presidency and Italy can fully count on the support of the United Nations system.

For information media. Not an official record.