11 November 2021

Climate Action Commitments Must Be Concrete, Verified to Stop Catastrophic Temperature Rise, Secretary‑General Tells High‑Level Event

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks to the Global Climate Action High‑Level event, in Glasgow, United Kingdom, today:

This event — perhaps like no other at COP26 [twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] — underscores a core truth: the climate action struggle requires all‑hands‑on‑deck.  It is everyone’s responsibility.  And you are showing the way.

I am inspired by the mobilization of civil society; by the moral voice of young people keeping our feet to the fire; by the dynamism and example of indigenous communities; by the tireless engagement of women’s groups; by the action of more and more cities around the world; [and] by a growing consciousness as the private sector aligns balance sheets and investment decisions around net zero.

I thank the High‑Level Climate Action Champions, Gonzalo Muñoz and Nigel Topping and so many others for your efforts.  You are indeed “racing to a better world”.  Governments need to pick up the pace and show the necessary ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance in a balanced way.

We cannot settle for the lowest common denominator.  We know what must be done.  Keeping the 1.5°C goal within reach means reducing emissions globally by 45 per cent by 2030.  But the present set of nationally determined contributions — even if fully implemented — will still increase emissions by 2030.

According to the latest joint analysis of the nationally determined contributions by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we remain on a catastrophic temperature rise track well above 2°C.  So, net‑zero pledges require rapid, sustained emissions cuts this decade.  I welcome the recognition of this fact in yesterday’s United States‑China cooperation agreement — that I consider an important step in the right direction.

But promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions in subsidies, as measured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF); or when countries are still building coal plants; or when carbon is still without a price — distorting markets and investors’ decisions.  Every country, every city, every company, every financial institution must radically, credibly and verifiably reduce their emissions and decarbonize their portfolios starting now.

While it is far from enough, we can take stock of progress.  Last week, a number of countries committed to working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.  Here too, we need meaningful, concrete action and results in the 2020s.

More than 1,000 cities around the world have committed to reach net zero by 2050 or earlier — sometimes far earlier.  Our host city, Glasgow, has set a 2030 deadline.  The Net‑Zero Asset Owners Alliance — the gold standard for credible commitments and transparent targets — is managing $10 trillion in assets and catalysing change across industries.  I encourage the much larger Glasgow Finance Alliance for Net Zero to follow the same path.

The global coal pipeline has decreased by 76 per cent since 2015.  The G20 [Group of 20] — including the three largest public financiers — have committed to ending overseas coal finance.  Twenty‑eight new members joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, raising the membership to 165 countries, cities, regions and businesses.  And 44 countries and 32 companies and regions have committed at COP26 to transition from coal to clean power.

This will be an enormous task.  That is why I have been calling for the formation of coalitions of countries, international financial institutions and private finance — as well as renewable energy companies — to support this momentous shift and to organize coalitions in support of specific countries that need to speed up their energy transition.

Some 30 Member States and regional development banks have pledged immediate support for the clean energy transition in countries.  I urge more financial institutions and investors to follow suit.  I welcome the partnership that will allow South Africa to rapidly decommission its coal plants while ensuring that workers and communities are not left behind.  Indonesia and Viet Nam have pledged to phase out coal by 2040.  They will need support.  And we will need similar coalitions to deliver resilient infrastructure and adaptation in countries on the front lines of the climate crisis, from small island developing States to the least developed countries.

The announcements here in Glasgow are encouraging — but they are far from enough.  The emissions gap remains a devastating threat.  The finance and adaptation gap represent a glaring injustice for the developing world.  We need even more ambition in future revised nationally determined contributions.  We need pledges to be implemented.  We need commitments to turn concrete.  We need actions to be verified.  We need to bridge the deep and real credibility gap.

As an engineer, I know that durable structures need solid foundations.  We must be able to measure progress and to adjust when off track.  We have a critical mass of global commitments to net‑zero, from both Governments and non‑State actors.  We must now zoom in on the quality and implementation of plans:  on measuring and analysing; [and] on reporting, transparency and accountability.

That is why — beyond the mechanisms already set out in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change — I have decided to establish a High‑Level Expert Group to propose clear standards to measure and analyse net zero commitments from non‑State actors.  This High‑Level Expert group will build on existing work and submit a series of recommendations to me during the course of next year.  They will work in a transparent and inclusive manner, and I invite you all to cooperate fully in their establishment and then with them.

We need action if commitments are to pass the credibility test.  We need to hold each other accountable — Governments, non‑State actors and the civil society.  Because only together can we keep 1.5°C within reach and the equitable and resilient world we need.  Thank you for your commitment and your dedication to this.  That is the most important fight of our lives.

For information media. Not an official record.