Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the extraordinary meeting of the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance, in New York today:
Thank you for joining this virtual meeting. I appreciate your engagement with the United Nations during these extraordinary times as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic. You are some of the business community’s most important voices, and the world needs your leadership for an effective response and a sustainable and inclusive recovery.
I also thank the partner agencies and organizations that form the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Secretariat for their support.
The diverse and severe impacts of the pandemic continue to unfold. Unemployment has skyrocketed. Temporary business closures are becoming permanent. Rebuilding to pre-crisis levels of employment and output may take years.
This unparalleled economic shock places development gains at risk, and throws us even more off track in our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. And as ever, the poorest and most vulnerable suffer most — from job losses and illness, from overwhelmed and insufficient health systems and a lack of social safety nets.
While the immediate response is critical in limiting devastation from the disease and cushioning the socioeconomic impacts, a long and difficult path lies before us, as communities determine how to reopen businesses, relax social distancing restrictions and enable free movement of people within and across borders, while keeping the public health crisis at bay.
Yet, with crisis comes opportunity. With the world’s fragilities and inequalities so painfully exposed, it is clear that we cannot simply rebuild the world as it was. Rather, we must build a fairer, greener and more resilient global economy that leaves no one behind.
There are positive signs that this moment could provide the opening for transformations that have been long in the making but perhaps needed a push.
COVID-19 is having dramatic impacts on the way the world works – for example, by reducing energy usage and prompting the adoption of technologies that can decouple the economy from its reliance on fossil fuels. These changes can be the beginning of the process of shaping our world for the better.
But, the global community must go further, taking active steps to align recovery with sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda is the world’s agreed framework. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda provides a path for mobilizing resources. And the Paris Agreement on climate change is the tool that can get us to net‑zero carbon emissions by 2050 and limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
One key challenge is to better align economic value with social value. This means businesses acting in the interest of stakeholders, not just shareholders, and integrating sustainability into their operations. With the pandemic, this message now has new poignancy.
We must use this opportunity to accelerate the shift of public international finance towards sustainable sectors, and to align private financial flows with the achievement of net‑zero emissions. Both can bring major capital flows to developing and emerging economies, countering the forces of fragmentation that this crisis threatens to unleash.
This is the objective of Special Envoy Mark Carney: to ensure that every financial decision takes account of environmental and social impacts. This is more important than ever in the coming months as companies, investors and countries make big financial decisions about the future.
I encourage you to support and implement his calls to action around three key areas: reporting, risk and return. That means reporting in line with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, and supporting calls to make this reporting mandatory. It means looking at the impact of climate risks on business models by using the scenario analysis that Mark is helping to develop.
And finally, it means transition plans to reach net‑zero emissions from companies in which you invest. Mark’s work will help you assess the credibility of these plans and make investment decisions accordingly.
We can use the 2021 United Nations climate change conference and the Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals to put in place the right market and regulatory frameworks so that the private sector can efficiently allocate capital — to manage the risks, but also to seize the opportunities across all economies. Resources and investments will be critical in pursuing this new path.
For the past several months, the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance has worked to arrive at a common understanding on how to incentivize greater investment in sustainable development, how to channel those investments to areas and economies with the most need, and how to ensure investments have the desired impact. This work has set the stage for the next step — implementing solutions at sufficient scale.
COVID-19 has derailed many plans; it has shifted the focus away from long‑term planning to immediate needs. But, this crisis underscores the need to think long term, build resilience and limit the impact of future crises.
In particular, the impacts of climate change will not wait. We are already seeing the effects of climate change globally in the increased frequency and severity of weather-related disasters.
Without swift and decisive action, we can expect such crises to multiply. Crises in general will become even more multi-layered and complex, stretching already limited resources and causing more widespread human suffering. I call on you to seize this moment of crisis to shape our future for the better. Thank you again for joining us today, and I look forward to a productive meeting.