3 September 2020

Secretary-General, at Ministerial Meeting on Sustainable Recovery from COVID-19, Urges Leaders to Invest in Green Jobs, End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the ministerial meeting on sustainable and resilient socioeconomic systems in the process of recovery from COVID-19, in Japan today:

I thank the Government of Japan for convening this meeting to consider how to forge a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and Minister Koizumi for his hard work on climate.

The decisions being taken now will have consequences for decades.  This is why I have been urging Governments to incorporate meaningful climate action in all aspects of recovery initiatives.

I have proposed six climate-positive actions to recover better.  Invest in green jobs.  Do not bail out polluting industries.  End fossil fuel subsidies.  Take climate risks into account in all financial and policy decisions.  Work together.  And most important, leave no one behind.

Many countries and cities are now prioritizing green investments in their post‑COVID‑19 recovery plans.  Here in Japan, I welcome the announcements of 151 local entities, representing 71 million people, in support of carbon neutrality by 2050.

This global shift towards climate action is gathering pace because leaders everywhere are realizing that clean energy delivers more jobs, cleaner air, better health and stronger economic growth.  The world’s top investors — including some in Japan — are abandoning fossil fuels because renewables are cheaper and more efficient.

Japan’s business associations have also asked the Government for decisive climate action.  They understand that it makes no economic sense to burn money on coal plants that will soon become stranded assets.  There is simply no rational case for coal power in any investment plan.

To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, science tells us that global emissions need to be halved by 2030, and the world must achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.  These goals remain achievable, but we are currently off track.  I urge all countries, especially Group of 20 members, to commit to carbon neutrally before 2050.

And I ask them to submit more ambitious nationally determined contributions and long-term strategies before COP 26 [twenty-sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] that are aligned with the 1.5°C goal.

Japan, which has led the way on technological development in many fields, can become a world leader on the sustainable and resilient recovery.  The country has the innovative power to avoid being left behind as this transition gathers pace.

I sincerely hope Japan will end external financing of coal power plants, commit to carbon neutrality before 2050, set an early phase-out transition for domestic coal use and significantly increase the share of renewable energy.  I also urge Japan and other donors to maintain their climate finance commitments and continue to support the most vulnerable.

We are facing two critical crises, COVID-19 and climate change.  Let us tackle both and leave future generations with the hope that this moment is a true turning point for people and planet.  I wish you a fruitful conversation that can inspire action in all countries and sectors.

For information media. Not an official record.