UN Headquarters

27 October 2020

Remarks to the Nordic Council

António Guterres

Excellencies, dear Nordic friends,

It is an honour to speak to you today.

The Nordic countries are great friends of the United Nations and the causes of multilateralism and sustainable development.

Today, we meet in a time of great crisis and uncertainty.

The world is facing an unfolding pandemic that has exposed multiple weaknesses in our societies.

Meanwhile, climate change, which affects your nations acutely, is gathering pace.

Both crises point to the need for a new, effective multilateralism to provide global governance on issues that concern us all.

These will be the topics for my address today.

First, the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic is not simply a health crisis.

Steady progress on sustainable development since the turn of the century is at risk.

However, there is still some hope.

The ACT-Accelerator partnership is working to deliver new tests, treatments and vaccines.

Working with partners, 120 million new rapid tests are being made available to low- and middle-income countries.

Dexamethasone has been found to be an effective therapeutic.

And the COVAX Facility, which has the largest portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines, is now supported by more than 180 countries and economies.

To build on the success of the ACT-Accelerator and its COVAX Facility, the world has to immediately raise an additional $14 billion dollars.

It is imperative that vaccines are available and affordable everywhere as a global public good.

Because no one is safe until we are all safe.

Let me turn now to climate change.

Like the COVID-19 crisis, nobody is immune.

The Arctic has experienced record temperatures this year and faces the very real prospect of a future free of sea ice within our lifetime.

The United Nations will continue to do all it can to ensure ambitious climate action consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

This includes limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, facilitating the transition to climate-resilient economies, especially in the developing world, and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Currently, the world is way off track.

It is essential that we rebuild our economies from the pandemic through effective climate action that will create millions of better jobs, promote cleaner and more efficient technologies and bring better health worldwide.

To that end we are promoting six climate-positive actions that countries and other stakeholders can take to effect a sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19.

Invest in sustainable jobs and business.

Ensure no more bailouts to polluting industries and end subsidies for fossil fuels, especially coal.

Consider climate risks in all financial decisions and policy-making.

Work together in a common cause.

And ensure that no one is left behind.

In all these, we count on the Nordic countries.

The nations you represent have historically been among the strongest advocates of ambitious climate action and of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The world needs your leadership now more than ever.

We need all countries to submit, well in advance of COP26 next year, more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, that are consistent with the net zero goal.

I encourage you to use the December 12th Summit I will co-convene with the leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Chile to announce new commitments.

I urge leaders who are members of the European Union to ensure that the EU council meeting in mid-December finalizes agreement on the European Commission’s proposal to increase the ambition level of its NDC so that it enshrines a commitment to be at least 55 per cent below 1990 levels.

This needs to be the minimum benchmark of ambition for all members of the Nordic Council.

It is my hope that members of the Nordic Council will serve as the global model for a green, inclusive and sustainable recovery.

We also need you to maintain and enhance your financial commitments to support developing countries. 

A critical part of this will be increased finance to enable the most vulnerable countries to adapt and become resilient to the inevitable impacts of climate disruption.

I encourage you to use the December 12th Summit to announce new and more ambitious climate finance commitments and re-commit to achieving the decade-long goal of mobilising $100 billion dollars a year to support developing countries both in mitigation and adaptation and those from private and public sources. 

I also encourage you to work on addressing the debt crisis faced by the developing world especially in this pandemic situation.

Finally, we need your Ministers of Finance to use their voting power as Governors and Board Members in public development banks and the IMF, to push for portfolio alignment with net zero goals and to push for climate related financial disclosures to be mandatory worldwide.

I look forward to substantial, ambitious announcements in the upcoming Finance in Common Summit.

We need more of your pension funds, which have formidable potential to move the needle systemically towards net zero emissions, to join the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance.


We have seen with COVID and climate change the need for a new effective multilateralism.

Currently our ability to act as one family of nations united in common cause is under great stress.

That is why, this year, the General Assembly Declaration on the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations has created space for a process of reflection on the future of multilateral cooperation.

We need a networked multilateralism, in which the United Nations works more closely with other international and regional organizations. 

And we need an inclusive multilateralism, through which the United Natins can draw on the great capacities of business, civil society, cities, academic institutions and others.

My team and I have started our work and consultations, and I will report back to the General Assembly with recommendations to advance our common agenda, strengthen global governance and respond to current and future challenges.

Excellencies, dear friends,

In closing, let me commend you each for your commitment to multilateralism, your leadership on climate change and your efforts to address in an effective way, the COVID-19 emergency.

Thank you.