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Secretary-General, Ahead of Climate Change Conference, Urges Governments to Phase Out Coal, Scale Up Nationally Determined Contributions, Financing for Adaptation

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at the Pre‑Twenty‑sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Milan, Italy today:

There is just one month to go before COP26 – the most important climate conference since Paris.  It is essential for all humanity that we fulfil the promise of the Paris Agreement.  That means reducing emissions to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre‑industrial levels.  It means providing $100 billion each year to the developing world for climate action.  And it means balancing financial support for mitigation and adaptation.

We are not there yet.  On mitigation, current nationally determined contributions will lead to a catastrophic 2.7 degree Celsius global temperature rise.  We need more ambition, now.  I commend those nations, especially vulnerable developing countries, that have come forward with more ambitious nationally determined contributions despite the ongoing COVID‑19 crisis.  But we can only meet the 1.5 degree goal if all G20 countries, which are responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions, pledge more decisive action in new or updated nationally determined contributions.

The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the light of national circumstances is a pillar of the Paris Agreement.  But all leaders must recognize that we are in the middle of a climate emergency.  Developed economies need to take the lead.  But all have a crucial role to play.  I am also asking emerging economies to take the extra step and deliver more emissions cuts.  We are all in the same boat, and we have to pull together.  That is why I am asking all nations to enhance nationally determined contributions and domestic policies as often as necessary and without delay until we are collectively on the right track.

I cannot emphasize enough that time is running out.  Irreversible climate tipping points lie alarmingly close.  Civil society is watching closely and is running out of patience.  The single most effective step we can take to limit temperature rise is phasing out coal, beginning with no new coal power plants.  We have come a long way in the past year.  But we still have much to do to phase out domestic coal by 2030 in Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) countries and by 2040 in the rest of the world.

I welcome the most recent announcement by China on ending international financing of coal power.  I now ask private finance, from commercial banks to asset managers, including many in the United States, Europe and Asia‑Pacific, to quickly follow suit and stop financing coal.  And I ask that coalitions of Governments and public and private finance institutions unite to scale up existing financial mechanisms to retire coal and fund a just transition towards universal access to renewable energy.

Let me now turn to finance.  We all know what needs to be done.  Developed countries have a responsibility to increase their individual pledges and honour their collective commitment to deliver the promised $100 billion a year.  This is an essential question of trust.  According to OECD, the gap still stands at $20 billion dollars.  And the $100 billion dollars is, of course, merely a down payment on what is needed to finance mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

At COP26, Parties will also need to agree on a process to launch work on the post‑2025 goal.  I appreciate recent announcements by a number of developed nations, but I emphasize that pledges need to be backed by action and concrete deliverables.

Let me now turn to adaptation.  The Paris Agreement says:  “The provision of scaled‑up financial resources should aim to achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation.”  Six years on, we are nowhere close.  Adaptation remains the neglected half of the climate equation, accounting for only 25 per cent of climate finance in support of developing countries.  Even worse, adaptation represents only 0.1 per cent of private funding.  So, today, I repeat my call to donors and multilateral development banks to allocate at least 50 per cent of their climate support towards adaptation and resilience.

Adaptation needs are increasing every year.  Developing countries already need $70 billion for adaptation, and that figure could more than quadruple to $300 billion a year by the end of this decade.  Failure to deliver means massive loss of lives and livelihoods.  Developing nations need access to adequate and predictable funding.  I thank Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands for pledging at least 50 per cent of their climate finance to adaptation.  Now, I urge other funders, starting with multilateral development banks, to follow suit, with leadership from the highest level.

Time is tight and the storm clouds continue to gather.  Failure remains a possibility, but one that we cannot, must not, accept.  It is essential that countries come together again in the run‑up to COP26 to rebuild trust, re‑energize action and restore the spirit of Paris.  Young people, in particular, continue to lead the growing calls for more ambition.  They will hold us accountable.  Climate justice demands that we bequeath them a liveable planet.

At this year’s General Assembly, I convened a leaders’ dialogue with Prime Minister [Boris] Johnson of the United Kingdom.  The discussion was frank and open.  Leaders engaged on how to move forward together.  I hope to see this spirit reflected at this Pre‑COP and at COP26.  Collaboration and compromise will be needed.

As well as progress on the three pillars of mitigation, finance and adaptation, we must finalize negotiations on the Paris rulebook – especially to break the deadlock on article 6 on carbon markets and the transparency framework.  We have a few days here in Milan and a month of work ahead before Glasgow.  I urge everyone to use them wisely and productively.  Let us rebuild the trust that is needed to make COP26 a success for everyone.  We have immense power.  We can either save our world or condemn humanity to a hellish future.  We must take the long view – and the moral high ground – so that this and future generations can look forward to peace, opportunity and dignity for all on a healthy planet.  Thank you and I wish the best success to this Pre‑COP.


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