Abu Dhabi

30 June 2019

Secretary-General's remarks to Climate Summit Preparatory Meeting

Your Highness, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
 
I am very pleased to join you today.
 
I want to thank the leadership and people of the United Arab Emirates for hosting this important meeting, with the wonderful hospitality, and at the same time, I want to urge all participants to seize this opportunity to take bold climate action.
 
We are here because the world is facing a grave climate emergency.
 
Climate disruption is happening now, and it is happening to all of us.
 
It is progressing even faster than the world’s top scientists have predicted.
 
It is outpacing our efforts to address it. Climate change is running faster than what we are.
 
Every week brings new climate-related devastation.
 
Floods.  Drought.  Heatwaves.  Wildfires.  Superstorms.
 
Last month, I visited Tuvalu in the South Pacific and saw first-hand how people live in constant fear of inundation by rising seas.
 
All around the world, people are losing their homes and being forced to migrate because of climate change.
 
The situation will only get worse unless we act now with ambition and urgency.
 
Just last week, we saw reports that Himalayan glaciers are melting at double the rate since the turn of this century, threatening water supplies throughout Central, South and East Asia.
 
We have also just learned that Arctic permafrost is melting decades earlier than even worst-case scenarios – threatening to unlock vast amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
 
It is plain to me that we have no time to lose.
 
Sadly, it is not yet plain to all the decision makers that run our world.
 
On the plus side, we have the Paris Agreement on climate change and a work programme agreed last year in Katowice.
 
But we know that even if the promises of Paris are fully met, we still face at least a 3-degree temperature rise by the end of the century – a catastrophe for life as we know it.
 
Even more worrying is that many countries are not even keeping pace with their promises under the Paris Agreement.
 
That is why I am convening a Climate Action Summit in September.
 
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, well known as IPCC, has said, and they are the best group of scientists available in the world, has said we have less than 12 years to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels – beyond which we face irreversible climate disruption.
 
Keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees at the end of the century will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in how we manage land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities.
 
We need a post-carbon economy, a resilient society, and a climate-smart development pathway that can provide prosperity for all on a healthy planet.
 
That can only be achieved if we all pull together – governments, businesses and civil society.
 
My message today – and the message of the summit – is clear and simple.
 
We are in a battle for our lives.
 
But it is a battle we can win.
 
New technologies are already delivering energy at a lower cost than the fossil-fuel driven economy.
 
Solar, as we have seen, and onshore winds are now the cheapest sources of new power in virtually all major economies.
 
On that subject, I am looking forward to seeing the Noor Abu Dhabi solar power plant today.
 
I also commend the work of the International Renewable Energy Agency, hosted by Abu Dhabi, which is supporting countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future.
 
More and more governments, cities and businesses are beginning to understand that climate solutions can protect our environment while strengthening our economies and enhancing our common security.
 
More and more voters and young people are making their voices heard. 
 
Norway’s Parliament has voted to divest the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund – worth $1 trillion – from fossil fuels.
 
Chile, Costa Rica, Finland, the Marshall Islands, and the United Kingdom have concrete, detailed and credible plans to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century. I have just seen the even more ambitious plan of the United Arab Emirates.
 
So, there is movement, but unfortunately, at the world level, not yet enough.
 
That is what I hope to change with the Climate Action Summit.
 
My message is clear.
 
Solutions exist.
 
First, let’s shift taxes from salaries to carbon.  We should tax pollution, not people.
 
Second, stop subsidizing fossil fuels.
 
Taxpayers’ money should not be used to boost hurricanes, spread drought and heat waves, and melt glaciers.
 
Third, stop building new coal plants by 2020.
 
We need a green economy, not a grey economy.
 
New infrastructure must be climate-smart and climate-friendly.
 
And we must provide sustainable, clean and affordable energy for the more than 800 million people who still live without access to power.
 
What we need is a rapid and deep change in how we do business, generate power, build cities and feed the world.
 
And the past decade has shown that we have the tools to do it.
 
I am asking all leaders, from governments and private sector, to present plans – at the summit or at the latest by December 2020 – to cut greenhouse emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and get to carbon neutrality by 2050.
 
Yesterday, at the G20 meetings in Osaka, I appealed to the world's main emitters to step up their efforts. The countries of the G20 represent 80 per cent of the world emissions of greenhouse gases.
 
If we do not cut emissions quickly, it will become more and more difficult for already vulnerable nations and populations to adapt to climate disruption.

I also underscored the centrality of climate financing.
 
That means reaching the goal of $100 billion dollars per year, from public and private sources, for mitigation and adaptation in the developing world.
 
And it means a full replenishment and an effective functioning of the Green Climate Fund.
 
I am also asking all investors to scale up green ventures, to increase lending for low-carbon solutions and to stop, in effect, financing pollution.
 
Here in Abu Dhabi we will take stock of progress across all our Summit Action Areas:
 
From energy transformation to mobility, from industrial transition to nature-based solutions, from sustainable cities and infrastructure, to climate finance for both mitigation and adaptation. 
 
I welcome the participation of civil society, businesses, and the global climate action community.
 
Our Summit must be open, inclusive and honest, and the work we take forward must be effective, just and fair – for those on the frontlines of the crisis today and especially for the  generations to come.
 
Last month, I met Greta Thunberg, a young advocate for climate action.
 
She is part of a growing wave of young people who have lost patience with the slow pace of progress from their leaders.
 
It is they who will inherit our legacy.
 
We have the power and the responsibility to build the world young people want and deserve.
 
The Climate Action Summit is an opportunity for political, business and civil society leaders to set an example. And here in Abu Dhabi, we are pointing the right direction.
 
Let us accelerate the transformation the world needs, and usher in a new era of sustainability for all people on the planet.
 
Thank you.