UN Headquarters

28 March 2019

Opening remarks at press conference at launch of WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018

António Guterres

[Also present were General Assembly President, María Fernanda Espinosa and WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas]

Good afternoon of the media. Thank you very much for your presence.
I have to say that, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am very proud of the work of the World Meteorological Organization.  It provides a very solid, scientific base for the analysis that is absolutely essential in relation to how climate change is evolving, and as a clear guide to our actions in the future.
I am very grateful for the work that, once again, was done this year.
Climate change continues to accelerate, and reading the report, three things stand out.
First, we are seeing record highs in land and ocean temperatures, sea levels and greenhouse gas concentrations.
Second, we are seeing, more and more, the dramatic impact of extreme weather conditions.
Last year, in the United States alone, we saw 14 weather- and climate-related disasters where the devastation cost more than $1 billion dollars each, with a total of some US$49 billion dollars. 
Worldwide, more than 35 million people were affected by floods.
Cyclone Idai in southern Africa is a particularly stark recent example, as it was demonstrated.
Third, the impact on public health is escalating. 
The average number of people exposed to heatwaves has increased by some 125 million since the beginning of the century, with deadly consequences.
The combination of extreme heat and air pollution is proving increasingly dangerous, especially as heatwaves will become longer, more intense and more frequent.
So, this report is indeed another strong wake-up call.
It proves what we have been saying that climate change is moving faster than our efforts to address it.
That is the reason of a climate action summit that we will have here in New York on 23 September.
It is important that we tackle climate change with much greater ambition.
I am telling leaders: “Don’t come with a speech; come with a plan.”
I am calling on them to come to the summit with concrete, realistic plans to put us on a sustainable path, once and for all.
That means enhancing Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement by 2020 and showing how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade and get to net zero emissions globally by 2050. If not, it will be irreversible, not to be able to achieve the goals that were established in Paris.  We are very close to the moment in which it will no longer be possible to come to the end of the century with only 1.5 degrees. We have very few years to reverse these trends, because the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will not disappear.  And so, we are getting close to the moment in which, irreversibly, will be much worse than the scenario that was described by the IPCC.
This is what science says is needed.
It is what young people around the globe are now rightfully demanding.
I want the summit to demonstrate the benefits of climate action and how everyone can benefit.
A growing number of governments, cities and businesses, it is true, are already understand that climate solutions can strengthen our economies, improve air quality and public health and protect our environment.
We expect initiatives in a diversity of sectors, such as energy, sustainable agriculture, forests, oceans and resilience to climate impacts. 
And I hope it will also highlight the importance of gender diversity in all decision-making.
And it will emphasize the importance of a just transition – where no one is left disadvantaged by necessary climate action.
These are the only ways we can ensure no one is left behind by the transformation that we need.
It is clear that a transformation is under way, but it clear that it is not as quick as needed.
New technologies are already delivering energy at a lower cost than the fossil-fuel driven economy.
Solar and onshore wind are now the cheapest sources of new power in virtually all major economies.
So, we can and must accelerate this transition.
This means ending subsidies for fossil fuels and high-emitting, unsustainable agriculture and shifting towards renewable energy, electric vehicles and climate-smart practices.
It means carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of emissions, from climate risk to the health hazards of air pollution.
And it means accelerating the closure of coal plants, halting plans for new ones, and replacing those jobs with healthier alternatives, so the transformation is just, inclusive and profitable.
The coming years will see vast investment in infrastructure around the world.
We must ensure that this infrastructure will be sustainable and climate-friendly.  If not, we will be locked into a runaway climate change.
By doing so, we can avert the threat of irreversible climate disruption and march far down the road to realizing the 2030 Agenda.
Thank you.