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SG/SM/20904
15 September 2021

We’re at Breakdown or Breakthrough Moment, Secretary-General Tells Global Compact Board, Stressing Central Role of Business in Raising Climate Action Finance

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the United Nations Global Compact Board today:

I am pleased to join you today.

To our new Vice-Chair, Solange Ribeiro, welcome.  Your wealth of experience in the energy sector and long-standing commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be a tremendous asset to this Board and our common mission.  And, of course, to Sanda Ojiambo, thank you for your leadership — and thank you for defining and moving forward the Global Compact’s new strategy to raise business ambition and scale up action on the 2030 Agenda and the Paris climate agreement.

This has never been more critical.  The COVID-19 pandemic has put deep stresses on our societies and economies.  The uneven recovery is disrupting the global economy — aggravating risks, heightening instability, deepening inequalities, and undermining trust.

At the same time, the climate challenge continues to grow.  Costly fires, floods, and other extreme weather events — including record-breaking rain right here in New York City — are only harbingers of worse to come.  With only a few weeks until COP26 in Glasgow, there is no time to waste.

Public and private actors must come together to drive a sustainable recovery.  We must move decisively to limit rising global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  We must achieve breakthroughs in adaptation and resilience.  And we must make a just transition to a net-zero carbon world, leaving no one behind.

For this, public and private finance for climate investments must increase significantly.  Business is central to this objective.  By leading the charge in transforming your own operations and industries; by shaping consumption; and by using your influence to promote green government action.  Every sector must do its part.  Every action, big or small counts, but those with greater capabilities and resources should lead the way.

I am encouraged to see more and more companies taking responsibility:  tapping into new markets and developing solutions; setting ambitious corporate goals inspired by the SDGs; and holding themselves accountable.  Working to ensure inclusive supply chains.  Paying a living wage — and closing the gender pay gap.  Letting sustainability drive innovation and investment.

The United Nations Global Compact is uniquely positioned to foster this push toward sustainability and to support companies — of all sizes and in all sectors — in this transformation.  We count heavily on your leadership as Board members.  Climate action is an area where the Global Compact and its expanding network can help lead and shape a powerful private-sector response.

I urge all of you to join the Business Ambition for 1.5 degrees campaign and align your business plans with the net-zero framework of the Science-Based Targets initiative.  I am encouraged that the campaign has grown from 87 companies in 2019 to more than 700 today.  This is the power of your example and leadership.

But we must go further.  We must actively leverage corporate financing in ways that advance the 2030 Agenda.  As custodians of over $14 trillion in annual investments, chief financial officers can be a driving force to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and a net-zero future.  Our future depends on it, and so do your balance sheets.

The potential upside is enormous — just consider:  investing in inclusive, sustainable economies could yield a direct economic gain of $26 trillion through 2030.  Transitioning to a circular economy that reduces, reuses and recycles materials could create 6 million jobs over the same time horizon.  Reducing methane gas emissions by as much as 45 per cent by 2030 would — each year — prevent 255,000 premature deaths, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat, and 26 million tons of crop losses globally.

The list goes on, but the essential point is clear:  we are at a breakdown or breakthrough moment.  As we gear up for Glasgow, I look forward to hearing from you — about your expectations and more specifically about how you and your companies will weigh in for success.  For a green, sustainable, and fair COVID-19 recovery anchored in the Global Compact’s Ten Principles.  And a 1.5 degrees pathway that will create jobs, advance gender parity and reduce inequalities.

We have what it takes.  But it will take each and every one of us.  I look forward to our discussion.

For information media. Not an official record.