UN Headquarters

12 December 2020

Opening remarks at press stakeout following Climate Ambition Summit

António Guterres

At today’s Climate Ambition Summit, I appealed to leaders worldwide to declare a State of Climate Emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached.

There can be no doubting or denying that the world faces a climate emergency.

The past decade was the hottest on record.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are at record levels – and rising.

Storms, fires, floods and drought of uncommon force are now all too common and devastating.

Thirty-eight countries have already declared a climate emergency.  They recognize the urgency and the stakes.

It is time for all countries to do the same.

Today’s meeting is a Summit of ambition.

We requested countries to participate on the basis of concrete and ambitious commitments.

The Summit has now sent strong signals that more countries and more businesses are ready to take the bold climate action on which our future security and prosperity depend.

We are hearing from 75 countries, including my two co-hosts, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of France, and our two partners, the President of Chile and the Prime Minister of Italy.

As we look ahead, the central objective of the United Nations for 2021 is to build a truly Global Coalition for Carbon Neutrality, for global net zero emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050.

There is solid momentum behind the net zero goal.

By early next year, countries representing two thirds of global carbon dioxide emissions and 70 per cent of the world economy will have made strong commitments to carbon neutrality.

Climate vulnerable countries continue to lead the way.

Barbados and Maldives have set an ambitious aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, with the right support.

And Fiji, Malawi, Nauru and Nepal, for instance, all have 2050 firmly in their sights.

But of course pledges are just the first step.

As we prepare for next year’s United Nations climate conference – COP26 – in Glasgow, we need concrete action right away to get on the right path.

The scientific community tells us that to reach net zero by 2050, we need to cut emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 compared with 2010 levels.

The United Kingdom has pledged to cut emissions by 68 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 and to end external financing of fossil fuel projects.

The European Union has decided to cut its emissions by at least 55 per cent by the end of this decade.

These are courageous decisions that deserve to be emulated.

At least 24 countries have now announced new commitments, strategies or plans to reach net zero or carbon neutrality.

Commitments from EU countries, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and today Argentina and the incoming US administration are establishing a clear carbon neutrality benchmark for G20 countries.

A number of States set out how they are going even further, with ambitious dates to reach net zero: Finland by 2035, Austria by 2040 and Sweden by 2045.

Pakistan announced no new coal power plants.

India will soon more than double its renewable energy target and China will reach, by 2030, twelve hundred Gigawatts of installed wind and solar power.

Countries like Israel and Slovakia are joining the growing list of countries stepping away from fossil fuels.

Now, all countries must show ambition in the new and enhanced National Determined Contributions that they are obliged to submit ahead of COP26.

I am pleased to note that today, more than 40 countries commit to doing so.

And the big emitters must lead the way.

Let’s not forget, over the past decade, the G20 members accounted for 78 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Now it is time for every country, city, financial institution and company to adopt plans for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050.

This transition must be just, with social protection and support for workers and others affected by decarbonization.

And developed countries must meet their commitment to provide $100 billion dollars a year to developing countries by 2020 – an effort that is lagging badly, according to a report issued yesterday by independent experts convened by the United Nations.

Banks must align their lending to the global net zero objective, and asset owners and managers must decarbonize their portfolios.

We need a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience.

And as we pursue these changes, we must recognize the importance of equity.

After all, the richest 1 per cent of the world’s people are responsible for 15 per cent of harmful emissions.  And their share is more than the double of the poorest 50 per cent's emissions. So 1 per cent of the population is responsible for double the emissions of the 50 per cent poorest in the world.

This is totally unacceptable.

While the pandemic has led to a decline in economic activity, any effect on emissions is only temporary and ultimately insignificant.

But the tragedy of COVID-19 has also given us an unexpected opportunity for a re-set.

COVID relief and recovering investments can spur a green transition.

Policies to strengthen societies to face pandemics or other shocks can be a catalyst for sustainability.

Pandemic recovery and climate action must be two sides of the same coin.

The true test of leadership today is to show climate ambition, take climate action, mobilize climate finance, and demonstrate climate solidarity.

As we move towards COP26, I will continue to engage and convene all leaders to enlarge and further deepen our global Climate Ambition Alliance.

Thank you.