29 August 2019

Opening press remarks at the TICAD VII in Yokohama, Japan

António Guterres

We have just finished the thematic session on climate change and disaster risk reduction, but before entering into this area, I’d like to express my deep appreciation to the Japanese Government for its commitment to African development, so well shown in TICAD.
And TICAD VII is particularly relevant as its priority on people, innovation and technology is perfectly adapted to the challenges that Africa faces today.
With the fourth Industrial Revolution, with the digital world in which we live, it’s essential – massive support to Africa – for this to be an opportunity for them to leapfrog, to jump, to be able to provide to their citizens a possibility of a better life and, if things are not done properly, not to have one more dramatic evolution of the digital divide or to increase the distance between Africa and other continents.
But in relation to our session on climate change, I want to say that our debate was very clear: for Africa, climate change is not a remote prospective – it is a crisis now. I myself visited Mozambique and saw the consequences of Cyclone Idai. I’ve been in the Sahel and saw the drought progressing, and with it, the disappearance of livelihoods for populations, people forced to move and the fact that conflict and terrorism were spreading, largely accelerated by climate change.
And Africa has moral authority because the Africans practically do not contribute to climate change. The level of emissions in Africa is extremely reduced compared with other parts of the world, but Africa is on the front line as suffering the devastating impact of the consequences of climate change
Of course, it’s not only in Africa – according to the World Meteorological Organization, we know now that July was the hottest month ever. We are on track for 2015-2019 to be the five hottest years since there are records. At the same time, the World Meteorological Organization has also shown that we have now the largest concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere of human history. And to reach similar levels, we would need to go back 3 to 5 million years, and it’s good to remember that, at that time, temperatures were 2 to 3 degrees higher and the level of water in the seas were 10 to 20 meters higher.
On the other hand, we see the dramatic melting of ice caps in Greenland or in Antarctica or in the Arctic, we see devastating fires in Siberia or in other parts of the Arctic circle. We see what’s happening in the Amazon.
And it is clear we are facing a climate crisis. It is clear that climate change is running faster than what we are and it is clear that we must reverse this trend.
To reverse this trend, as you know, the international scientific community has clarified that we need to limit the growth of temperature to 1.5 degrees and for that we need to be carbon neutral in 2050 and we need to reduce dramatically the emissions, the estimate is 45 percent in 2030 at the global level.
Now, that requires a lot of political will. That requires a huge transformation in the way we use land, in the way we produce food, in the way we power the economy or in the way we fuel the transportation systems.
And, at the same time, we need a strong commitment of both governments, but also businesses, cities, the civil society – everywhere. And this a clear African appeal. Africa that is not contributing much to climate change has the right to ask the developed world or those that are the big countries of emissions of greenhouse gases to reduce their emissions and to comply with what the scientific community has express in relation to the 1.5 degrees and to carbon neutrality in 2050.
But if climate change is already a reality, if we live in a crisis emergency, then adaptation and resilience become essential.
And in Africa we must invest massively in disaster risk reduction in order to make sure that we avoid for the populations the worst consequences of impacts of climate change, be it in natural disasters, in droughts, or in other aspects.
And the commitment to strengthen disaster risk reduction and adaptation resilience in African requires the large support of the international community – technical support, but also financial support, and there was a very clear appeal for the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund and the support of the Green Climate Fund to the African continent, but also for bilateral support from different developed countries in the world, in order for the commitment made in Paris for $100 billion after 2020 to be available from the public and the private sector for mitigation and adaption in the developing world to be effectively implemented.
It was a very rich debate and the voices of Africa became very clear. The situation now is serious – we live in a climate emergency. We are losing the race in relation to climate change. We must reverse this trend and we must invest in supporting Africa to be able to reduce the risks that Africa is facing and to be able to adapt its societies, its communities, its economies and to build the resilience that is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.