London, United Kingdom

11 June 2021

Secretary-General's virtual Press Conference at the G7 Summit [revised]

Well, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen of the media, it’s an enormous pleasure to be with all of you today. I want, first of all, to thank Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his kind invitation. It's for me a pleasure to join several of the sessions, the working sessions, of the G7. 

And there are two issues of enormous interest for me and for the work I do as Secretary-General of United Nations. One is related to vaccination and the way to defeat COVID-19. And the second is climate change and climate action to defeat climate change.  

First of all, about vaccines. It’s been very clear to me since the beginning that vaccines should be considered as global public goods. That they need to be available and affordable to all and that is not only a matter of fairness and justice but it's also a question of efficiency. There is no way to defeat a virus that spreads in the developing countries like wildfire and that can risk to mutate. Mutations abide by Darwin’s laws of evolution which means it’s the worst virus that tends to survive and to multiply and one day eventually to become immune to vaccines. 

So, it is in the interest of everybody that everybody gets vaccinated sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, now it has been very unequal and very unfair, the way vaccination is taking place in the world, but I’m encouraged by the announcements that were made in the run up for this G7 meeting. 

First, the announcement made by the IMF [International Monetary Fund] together with the World Bank to the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization of a USD$50 billion program to support vaccination in developing countries. And second, the recent announcements by the US and by the UK already were hundreds of millions of vaccines being put at the disposal in the near future of the developing countries. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that he expects that the G7 will be able to reach one billion doses by the commitments of the different countries and this of course is something that I very much welcome. But it's important to say that we need to recognize that we are at war with the virus, a virus that is very dangerous that is causing tremendous suffering and destroying many of the perspectives of progress in the global economy. To defeat the virus, and to be able to boost our weapons against the virus - and the most important of those weapons is vaccination - to boost those weapons we need to act with the logic, with the sense of urgency, and with the priorities of a war economy. And we are still far from getting there.  

It is my belief that we need a global vaccination plan, and we need those that have power to be in charge of the design and implementation of that global vaccination plan. And so my proposal has been that the countries that can produce vaccines today or will be able to do so if properly supported, should come together - and the number is limited - should come together in an emergency task force supported by the World Health Organization, by GAVI, by the international financial institutions, and able to deal with the pharmaceutical industry in order to be able to define that global vaccination plan and implement it, which would mean to at least double the capacity of production of vaccines in the world, to create mechanisms for its equitable distribution of COVAX would be a very strong instrument in that regard, and to be able to support in relation to logistics, in relation to health services, those countries that have more difficulties to make sure that the vaccines made available are effectively administered to people in need. This global vaccination plan would of course have to deal with questions of intellectual property, questions of licensing, but also with the supply chains to make sure there is no disruption in the supply chain. Let's not forget that, for each vaccine, there are probably more than 100 components produced in different parts of the world. 

So, we need really those who have the power to come together and to organize an effective response to the COVID and the only way to be effective in response to the COVID is guaranteeing that everybody will be vaccinated sooner rather than later.

The second aspect in which this G7 is very important, in my opinion, is, of course, climate action. We are in a situation in the world where the average temperature rise in relation to pre-industrial levels is already 1.2 degrees, very close to the 1.5 degrees that the international scientific community tells us is the limit to avoid the catastrophic developments in the world. So, to a certain extent, we are on the verge of the abyss and, when we are on the verge of the abyss, we need to make sure that the next step is on the right direction. 

And there are three fundamental priorities on this: first, to create a global coalition for net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by the middle of the century. Second, to put a renewed emphasis in relation to building resilience of communities and societies - the so-called adaptation that has been to a certain extent the forgotten part of the international support to climate action, and finance. Finance is the key instrument to support developing countries for them to be ambitious also in their targets of mitigation and for them to be able to address the huge challenges that populations are already facing due to the impacts of climate change.  

Now the G7 countries have all committed to net zero emissions in 2050 and the G20 countries have also presented a set of nationally determined contributions that show a very strong will to drastically reduce emissions in the next decade until 2030 and so, from that point of view, I think we are on the way to where we need to be.   

But we still have not heard the net zero commitments by many of the emerging economies and we need to have a global net zero coalition. When talking to leaders of the emerging economies, many of them say, okay, the problem is that, according to the Paris Agreement, there must be common but differentiated responsibilities according to the national capabilities of each country and the truth is that developed countries have not yet delivered in relation to the promises that were made in Paris and namely in relation to the mobilization of USD$100 billion of support every year to developing countries. And so one of the things that I believe is very important from the point of view of the G7 and the G7 countries is to clarify how this USD$100 billion will materialize. In 2020, it did not happen. It must happen in 2021 and onwards, and this is a very important element to make sure that we have a successful COP 26 and we need to mobilize the entire world without excuses and without pretexts for a true net zero coalition before the middle of the century.  

At the same time, it is also important to increase the support to adaptation, to the resilience of populations and societies. At the present moment, adaptation support in climate finance is about 21 per cent of climate finance. We have proposed to reach in 2024, 50 per cent. It is very important for developed countries to understand that in the developing world - with drought, with storms, with all kinds of negative impacts, people are already suffering in a way that really deserves and needs a strong and emphasis on supporting them to build resilience for their communities and their societies and it is important that developed countries show a stronger commitment in that regard.

So, net zero coalition, global coalition, for 2050; response to the requirements in the developing world in line with the commitments made in the Paris Agreement; and a stronger emphasis on adaptation are three priorities in which I would like to see the G7 countries fully committed.  

I am hopeful that this meeting will help pave the way for new and important decisions in the future to come. I think it is absolutely essential to guarantee that in the COP 26 in Glasgow, because, in many aspects, it is the last opportunity. 

I just met with the President of COP [Alok Sharma]. There is a very strong commitment of the British Government to make it successful, and we want to fully cooperate with the British Government to make sure that in adaptation, in mitigation and in finance ambition is shown to make the COP a success and to allow for our objective to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees to be a realistic one.
I am naturally at your disposal for any questions that you might want to raise.  
Moderator: Thank you for your time, Secretary-General. We will now move to questions from the floor. If I could just ask that you state your name where you're asking from and, as I say, keep questions short and clear. 

Q: Hello, Secretary-General, my name is Philip [inaudible]. I write for The Guardian newspaper. I would like to ask you, do you support moves to campaign against, for waving patents over the vaccines? Do you think that there should be an agreement that allows those to be waived?

Secretary-General: Well, my belief is that we need to have a comprehensive program. One is, of course, to address the problems of intellectual property and I support the initiative that was taken by South Africa and by India in relation to TRIPS [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights], waving TRIPS regulations in the context of the World Trade Organization.  

But that is not enough.  

I think what we need is a strong cooperation between governments and the pharmaceutical industry in order to make sure that licenses are available, but also in order to make sure that the technology transfers and the technical support is available. Because if not, the fact that license is available will not necessarily solve the problem.

And then, it is also essential, as I mentioned in my initial intervention, to look seriously into the supply chain. It's a very complex supply chain, so we really need a concerted coordination among all countries that can produce vaccines, or [those who] will be able to do so when properly helped, and, interacting with the pharmaceutical industry to make sure that we have the best possible results.  

Obviously, the questions of intellectual property are important in this regard. I understand that the companies need to be supported in the point of view of, I mean, of having guarantees that their investments are, effectively, become credible. So, I am not asking for any measure to have expropriation or whatever. What I'm asking is for fairness in the way things are managed and for a mechanism of cooperation that will allow for companies to make the reasonable profits they are supposed to make, but, at the same time, for the capacity of production to be doubled and for all those that have the capacity to do these vaccines to have the conditions to so.

Moderator: Many thanks. If we can go to someone asking a question online, I believe James Bays from Al Jazeera is online, if we can bring him on the screen, please.  

Q: Secretary-General, can I ask you about the, what looks like it’s going to be the overall commitment from the G7 countries, which is about a billion doses of vaccine. Is that good enough?

Secretary-General: Well, first of all, this is very much welcomed. And, when we were where we were, just a few weeks ago, we couldn’t imagine that this would materialize, so this is very much welcomed. But, obviously, as I mentioned in my initial intervention, we need more than that. We would need more than, I would say, bilateral forms of support and individual countries’ initiatives. We need a concerted effort. For that, we need a global vaccination plan and, for that global vaccination plan to be possible, we need all the countries that are meaningful in the production of vaccines, or can be with the proper support, to come together and to put in place an emergency task force to guarantee the design and then the implementation of that global vaccination plan.

If not, the risk is that there will be, still, large areas of the developing world where the virus will spread like wildfire. The risk of mutation, the risks of new variants coming and becoming immune to vaccines can undermine the efforts that developed countries are having today to make sure that their full population is vaccinated.  

Q: Secretary-General, Dominic Waghorn, Sky News. Can I ask you to clarify –  do you think that the situation with COVID is so grave that the patents on vaccines should be lifted? But it's not just a question of sharing vaccine shots, but sharing the knowledge to make them, that's important? 

Secretary-General: Yes, I mean, it's obvious that they need to share the knowledge, but not only share the knowledge, share the knowledge and share all the aspects necessary to allow for doubling the production of vaccines. And for that, we need to be able to mobilize all the capacities that exist already or that might exist, with adequate technological transfers.

And that, obviously, is not only a question of intellectual property, it’s a broader question of coordination of efforts that, in which, obviously, the waiving of the TRIPS regulations is an element, but is not the only one.

Moderator: Thank you. We have time for about two more questions from the room, if there’s further questions.

Q: Yes, Secretary-General, thank you. My name is James Diamond. I’m from Bauer Media, we have radio stations across the UK. On the climate emergency, you said yourself in your remarks that we’re on the edge of the abyss when it comes to temperature rise. Boris Johnson has come under a lot of criticism for flying here from London to Cornwall, and you yourself are in London at the moment. I just want to firstly, what message do you think that sends to the global population that Mr. Johnson chose to fly here? And, if I may, also, how are you going to be getting here when you travel down?

Secretary-General: Well, I am also flying, and I think it’s probably the only way to be there on time, according to what I was told. I asked if I could go by land and I was told not, and there was a kind enough offer from the British Government to allow me to be there. So let’s be clear: it’s not because of the fact that the Prime Minister needs to fly that the climate action is put into question. I mean, we all, unfortunately, need to fly, more than what we would like. I had to come from New York to be here and of course I had to fly. And obviously this is having some imprint, of course it has. But the question is, we need to be coherent and to have a set of policies that allow for some of the things that need to be done in present to still require that fact that we fly, but to have, as much as possible, a concerted effort to net zero emissions in 2050 as I mentioned.

Moderator: Thank you, Secretary-General. We’ve come to be taking a lot of questions from UK-based media. Do we have any international outlets in the room?

Q: Karl Mathiesen from Politico in Brussels, but I do have a UK question, so Mr. Secretary-General, do you have concerns about what will happen if no solution is found to the current predicament in Northern Ireland?

Secretary-General: I trust the British Government, I trust the institutions and people of Northern Ireland, I trust all the other partners, and I’m sure that everything will be done in order for the enormous achievement that was possible to guarantee the past to be maintained and to the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland.

Moderator: Thank you for your time, Secretary-General.