New York

18 September 2019

Deputy Secretary-General's opening remarks at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Flagship Climate Promise Event [as prepared for delivery]

 
UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner,
 
Excellencies, distinguished guests,
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
We meet today to raise the curtain on climate action ahead of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit. 
 
On Monday 23 September, five days from now, leaders from around the world will converge in New York to deliberate their plans to enhance climate pledges under the Paris Agreement.
 
We know why tackling climate change is important. The devastation wreaked by Dorian on the Bahamas, what the Secretary-General called a Category Hell hurricane, is a glimpse into one aspect of a future powered by climate change – a future with super storms that grow in intensity and frequency, where those countries with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions continue to feel the worst impacts of the planet’s rising temperatures. 
 
When I look back on this Climate Action Summit, I want us to see it as a sling shot – that helped to change our common trajectory towards sustainability;
 
Where we built trust between this generation of adults and the next – between our children and ourselves – that we are all working together to our fullest potential to tackle the climate emergency. 
 
To get there, we need to start with facts: 
- What does science tell us?
- Are countries taking enough action?
 
We know the answer to the first question. The science is very clear.  
 
As reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we must ensure that the global temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius. 
 
This requires cutting emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, and we have very little time to take the decisions needed to get there. 
 
Those decisions should be set out in each country’s Nationally Determined Contribution on climate change which, taken together, should deliver the necessary emission cuts and plot the transformation of economies towards a safe, green, and just future. 
 
These Nationally Determined Contributions are, therefore, the cornerstone of the Paris Agreement on climate change. 
 
The answer to the second question -- whether countries are responding to the science -- was not as clear, until today. 
 
The new United Nations report we launch today, The Heat Is On: Taking Stock of Global Climate Ambition, developed in partnership by the UN Development Programme and UN Climate Change, provides the most comprehensive snapshot to date of whether the world is on track. 
 
It will help us to understand whether world leaders address the Climate Summit on 23 September with “concrete plans, not speeches”, as is the Secretary General’s call. 
 
And I hope it will encourage those countries who have not yet decided on their course of action – particularly the big-emitting countries – to be ambitious.
 
Ambitions plans, accelerated action, and mobilized societies. Each are crucial to ratcheting up the response to the climate crisis. 
 
Ambition, because according to the Report, with countries’ existing climate plans, greenhouse gas emissions will rise by 10.7 per cent above 2016 levels by 2030, a number starkly at odds with the UN Secretary General’s call for deep cuts. We must do more. 
 
Acceleration, because in 2020, countries have an opportunity to correct this trajectory – to submit new NDCs to stop the clock on climate change. As the Administrator of UNDP, Achim Steiner will convey, the United Nations stands ready to provide support. 
 
And mobilization, because this is not just about Governments. The action of every person in society will count to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. And every person must hold their leaders accountable. 
 
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
 
As the Secretary-General has said about this Climate Action Summit – the race is on. It is a race we can win; it is a race we must win. 
 
Thank you and we look forward to a most successful Summit on Monday.