12 November 2020

Climate, Environment Action Must Be Integrated into Stimulus Packages to Rebuild Global Economies, Societies, Secretary-General Tells Paris Peace Forum

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Paris Peace Forum, held today:

Five years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change, we are still not on a trajectory that would enable us to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C.  To do that — and the scientific community keeps reminding us of this — we must at all costs reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

I would therefore like to use this opportunity to propose three lines of action.  First, 2021 must be the year of a leap forward towards carbon neutrality.  The main goal of the United Nations is to do its utmost to mobilize a global coalition for carbon neutrality next year.  Every country, city, financial institution and company should adopt plans for transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Encouraging signals abound.  By early 2021, countries representing more than 65 per cent of global carbon‑dioxide emissions and more than 70 per cent of the world economy would have made ambitious commitments to carbon neutrality.

The signal sent to markets, institutional investors and decision makers is clear.  Carbon should be given a price.  The time of fossil fuel subsidies is over.  We must phase out coal.  We must shift the tax burden from taxpayers to polluters.

Financial reporting on exposure to climate risks should be made mandatory. Authorities must integrate the goal of carbon neutrality into all economic and fiscal policies and decisions, in order to truly transform industry, agriculture, transportation and the energy sector.

But, a grand coalition on the goal of net-zero emissions cannot be global without developing countries.  This means taking into account, in good faith, the common but differentiated responsibilities of one and all, and accompanying these countries in the adoption and, above all, the achievement of ambitious goals.

Second, at the same time, we must take more preventive action.  According to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only one fifth of climate finance goes to adaptation.  Adaptation should not be the forgotten component of climate action.

Third, all of this calls for private and public financing, which is currently lacking.  The OECD report also indicates that, over the period 2016-2018, only 14 per cent of climate finance went to the least developed countries.  Small island developing States had access to only 2 per cent of those funds.  This is not only insufficient, but also dangerous.

The $100 billion commitment has not been met.  Yet, it is essential and urgent if we are to revive the spirit of cooperation of the Paris Agreement.  But, climate action is part of a broader vision to protect our planet, and in particular, biodiversity.

As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, it should be borne in mind that about three quarters of new infectious diseases are zoonotic.  These new diseases are the result of our lifestyles.  By destroying one ecosystem after another, we weaken the biological barriers that keep these viruses at bay, and also weaken our own adaptive capacities.

The loss of forests, the pollution and acidification of oceans and the disappearance of healthy ecosystems are tantamount to the elimination of the most effective carbon sinks and some of the best natural protections against extreme events.

We must fully integrate climate and environmental action into stimulus packages in order to rebuild sustainable and inclusive economies and societies.  But, no country can achieve such a transformation alone.   We need cooperation and solidarity.

This is why a renewed, inclusive and networked multilateralism is more necessary than ever, in order to mobilize all actors and undertake a true global transformation.  Time is of the essence.  I thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.