Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, as delivered, to the Twenty-sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) round table on clean power transition, today:
I am very pleased to join you.
The year ahead is going to be critical, not only in beating the COVID-19 pandemic, but in meeting the climate challenge.
The central objective of the United Nations this year is to build a global coalition for carbon neutrality by the middle of the century. All countries need credible midterm goals and plans that are aligned with this objective. The United Kingdom, as host of COP26, has a crucial role to play.
To achieve net zero emissions by 2050, we need an urgent transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. And we especially need to support developing countries in this shift. So, I welcome today’s discussion and also the focus in Africa.
There are two clear objectives — inclusivity and sustainability. Some 789 million people across the developing world have no access to electricity at all. Three quarters of these people live in sub-Saharan Africa. This is both an injustice and an impediment to sustainable development. All nations need to be able to provide access to electricity for all.
But that energy needs to be clean and renewable, so it does not contribute to the dangerous heating of our planet. That means strong commitment from all Governments. We need to end fossil fuel subsidies, put a price on carbon and shift taxation from people to pollution. We need a commitment to build no more coal-fired power plants anywhere. And we need to see adequate international support so African economies and other developing countries’ economies can leapfrog polluting development and transition to a clean, sustainable energy pathway.
That is why, today, I repeat my appeal to developed nations to fulfil their longstanding pledge to provide $100 billion dollars a year for developing countries to support both mitigation and adaptation. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and national development banks must develop financial instruments that can reduce investment risks and attract private capital to African countries.
Let me also emphasize, with climate disruption already upon us, we must not neglect the vital importance of adaptation. Africa’s vulnerability is plain to see, from prolonged droughts in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa to devastating floods in southern Africa as it is the case in many other parts of the world.
Adaptation is a moral imperative. It must not be the forgotten component of climate action. Today, only 20 per cent of climate finance is for adaptation. Equal attention and investment must go to adaptation and resilience, as well as mitigation. The forthcoming climate adaptation summit on 25 January is an opportunity to generate momentum in this much-neglected area.
Huge amounts of money have been earmarked for COVID-19 recovery and stimulus measures. But sustainable investments are still not being prioritized. We must invest in a future of affordable renewable energy for all people, everywhere. Funding needs to flow to renewables, just transition programmes, economic diversification plans, green bonds and other instruments that advance sustainability.
To limit global temperature rise to 1.5° Celsius, emissions need to fall by 7.6 per cent every year between now and 2030. This translates to an annual 6 per cent decrease in energy production from fossil fuels. Yet, today, some countries are still going in the opposite direction. And they are being encouraged in that direction by some donors and international financial institutions.
We need to reverse this trend. The bottom line is that all public and private finance flows should support the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I particularly appeal to the private sector champions of renewable energy. Many are already building local, national and international networks. We need their know-how and their creativity to accelerate a renewable energy transition.
And let me emphasize, this must be a just and inclusive transition. That means training and reskilling and providing new opportunities. A sustainable economy means better infrastructure, a resilient future and millions of new jobs — especially for women and young people.
We have the opportunity to transform our world. But to achieve this we need global solidarity, just as we need it for a successful recovery from COVID-19. Africa must be at the centre of this engagement. In a global crisis we protect ourselves best when we protect all. We have the tools. Let us unlock them with political will.