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8 December 2020

2021 Must be Year World Leaps into Net-Zero Future, Secretary-General Tells High Level Climate Meeting, Outlining Six Strategies

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video remarks at the Caring for Climate High‑Level Meeting, today:

I thank the United Nations Global Compact, UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], the High‑Level Climate Champions and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for convening this meeting.

I also extend my appreciation to all the leaders present today.  It is encouraging to see how businesses are responding to the twin crises of the COVID‑19 pandemic and climate change.

Through “Business Ambition for 1.5”, more than 340 chief executive officers are stepping up to align their companies’ emission targets with a 1.5 degrees [Celsius] future and the goal to reach net zero well before 2050.  Under the “Race to Zero”, these business leaders are joined by hundreds of mayors, governors and investors, universities and civil society organizations.

Yet, despite such promising developments, we are still far from where we need to be five years after the Paris Agreement [on climate change].  The world is off‑track and multilateralism itself is being questioned precisely when we need it most.  To recover better from the pandemic, we need effective climate action.  In the process, we can create millions of jobs, promote cleaner technologies and vastly improve global health.

2021 must be the year in which the world leaps forward into a net‑zero future.  To that end, I urge all of you to take or advocate for six climate‑positive actions:  invest in sustainable jobs; ensure no more bailouts to polluters; shift taxation from income to carbon, from taxpayers to polluters; end subsidies for fossil fuels - especially coal; include climate risks in all decisions and disclose your climate‑related financial risks; [and] work together with a common purpose to leave no one behind.

I am pleased to say that we have seen some hopeful movement.  The European Union - along with Japan, the Republic of Korea and more than 110 other nations - has pledged carbon neutrality by 2050.  China says it will be carbon neutral before 2060.  By early next year, with the pledge of the incoming United States Administration, I expect countries representing more than 65 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions and more than 70 per cent of the world economy to have committed to carbon neutrality.  I look forward to further ambitious commitments being announced at the Climate Ambition Summit on 12 December.

These announcements send unmistakable market signals to investors ready to fund a faster global transition.  I urge you all to support a green recovery in your countries.  I hope you will help your Governments to strengthen their nationally determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, well in advance of COP 26 [Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] — consistent with a net‑zero pathway.  I count on your leadership.  Our collective future is at stake.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.