11 January 2021

As Nature Strikes Back against Humankind’s Abuse, Every Government, Business Must Adopt Road Map for Climate Neutrality by 2050, Secretary-General Tells One Planet Summit

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks for the One Planet Summit, today:

Two thousand twenty-one must be the year to reconcile humanity with nature.  Until now, we have been destroying our planet.  We have been abusing it as if we had a spare one.  Our current resource use requires almost two planets but we only have one.  If we compare Earth’s history to a calendar year, we have used one third of its natural resources in the last 0.2 seconds.  We have been poisoning air, land and water — and filling oceans with plastics.

Now, nature is striking back.  Temperatures are reaching record highs.  Biodiversity is collapsing.  Deserts are spreading.  Fires, floods and hurricanes are more frequent and extreme.  And we are extremely fragile.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has taken more than 1.8 million lives and devastated economies.  For the first time in this century, poverty is increasing.  Inequalities are deepening.

As we rebuild, we cannot revert to the old normal.  Pandemic recovery is our chance to change course.  With smart policies and the right investments, we can chart a path that brings health to all, revives economies and builds resilience and rescues biodiversity.  Innovations in energy and transport can steer a sustainable recovery and an economic and social transformation.  Nature-based solutions — such as Africa’s Great Green Wall — are especially promising.

Preserving the world’s biodiversity also yields jobs:  according to the World Economic Forum, emerging business opportunities across nature could create 191 million jobs by 2030.  But the world has not met any of the global biodiversity targets set for 2020, and biodiversity is facing a financing gap of $711 billion per year until 2030.  Sustainable financing is essential if we are to transition away from polluting sectors.

Our meeting in Kunming, the Conference of the Parties in China, this year is a vital step in establishing a post-2020 global framework for biodiversity and stopping the extinction crisis.  A new momentum is emerging.  Many large emitters have committed to achieving zero net emissions by 2050.

The main goal of the United Nations in 2021 is to build a truly global coalition for carbon neutrality.  Every country, city and business must adopt an ambitious road map to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

The time has come to:  Put a price on carbon.  Stop building new coal plants.  End fossil fuel subsidies.  Shift the fiscal burden from taxpayers to polluters.  Align public and private financial flows with the Paris Agreement commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals.  And integrate the goal of carbon neutrality into all economic and fiscal decisions.

We must also help the most vulnerable, who are already suffering from the effects of climate change.  Today, adaptation efforts account for only 20 per cent of climate finance.  Only 14 per cent of climate finance is dedicated to the least developed countries.  This is far from enough, especially to protect small island States, which face an existential threat.  Everyone must do much more.

COP26 [Twenty-sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] cannot be another missed opportunity.  For three years, the One Planet Summit has been bringing together private, public and civil society actors around concrete initiatives at the country level.  The High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which will be formally launched today, is a perfect example.

We begin a new year under the sign of hope.  Together, let us seize the opportunity to build a safer, fairer and more sustainable world.

For information media. Not an official record.