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Seize Chances that COVID-19 Provides while Mourning Human Tragedy of Pandemic, Deputy-Secretary General Tells Inaugural World Sustainable Development Summit

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks to the inaugural session of the World Sustainable Development Summit 2021, held today:

Following the flash flood in Uttarakhand on Sunday, [7 February], I wish to first express my condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and Government of India.  Climate change is destabilizing our world, and the consequences are often terrifying.  My heart goes out to Uttarakhand.  We are reminded, then, of our global imperative to make peace with nature — and so I am honoured to join you all at the World Sustainable Development Summit.

Over the years, this event has addressed the most pressing global challenges of our time, calling for collaborative partnerships across and between countries, States and sectors to redefine our common future.  We are at a uniquely challenging moment.  We face a global pandemic, with less than a decade left to achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals].  And science tells us that we must cut greenhouse‑gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050.

Last year, we saw more than 100 nations commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, or in the case of China, before 2060.  This momentum is significant — more than 70 per cent of the world economy and 65 per cent of global carbon‑dioxide emissions are now committed to net zero.  But, this is not enough.  The global coalition for net-zero emissions needs to grow, to cover the entire G20 and more than 90 per cent of the emissions.  This is one of the central objectives for the United Nations this year.

At the same time, all commitments to net zero must be underpinned by credible plans with intermediate targets to achieve them.  The major emitters and the G20 must lead the way; if consistent with the Paris Agreement goals, their combined short-term climate actions will bend the temperature curve and open enormous windows of opportunity we need to achieve the SDGs.

This is a mighty task.  And I know that India will do its fair share.  India is currently the only G20 country that will overachieve the objectives of its nationally determined contributions.  So much has been done already.  As India is seeking greater energy security through a revolution in solar, wind and energy storage, installing 450 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030 will bring more jobs, cleaner air and a more secure power grid.

India’s efforts provide a template and a path for others to follow, in particular through the international cooperation that this very institute represents.  This year, more than ever, we count on India for its contribution to multilateralism as a force for good — on COVID-19 vaccines, climate action and peacekeeping.  Extreme weather and pathogens are transnational.  Our solutions must be, as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a severe setback to global progress on poverty eradication, food security, gender equality and other SDGs.  But, while we mourn the human tragedy of the pandemic, we must also seize the unique opportunities it offers.  First among these is the chance to relaunch and reshape the global economy.  Now is the time to reinforce the environmental imperatives for sustainable economic growth.  Now is the time to build a robust, resilient economy that is compatible with our climate goals.

Every investment made in the recovery from COVID-19 must be an investment in sustainability.  The SDGs must be embedded in national frameworks and institutions that go beyond specific political parties and administrations.  We need to focus on areas, including gender equality and food systems, that have the strongest catalytic effects in order to accelerate SDG implementation.

Globally, policies and investments need to shift from grey to green.  We must end fossil‑fuel subsidies and make societies, corporations and communities more resilient to climate shocks.  While we see some incremental steps towards sustainable business models, they are far from the scope or scale required.  We need national Governments, regions, cities, businesses and civil society to work together towards a common goal of a more just, sustainable and prosperous world.

India has been an active, influential player on climate change from the very beginning.  Even before the Paris Agreement, India was acting thoughtfully and strategically on its energy, environment and development priorities.  You have translated this strategic thinking into policies and programmes.

Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi stood resolutely with the Paris Agreement, launching two major environmental initiatives in the time since — the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and the International Solar Alliance.  India is now poised to lead on the development of technologies that produce low-carbon steel and cement as co-leader with Sweden of the Leadership Group for Industry Transition.  And I look forward to seeing the path you will chart to get to net‑zero emissions and a climate-resilient economy by mid-century.

These efforts have not just national, but regional and global impact.  I am confident that India can lead the way.  India can count on the full support of the United Nations.  Our expertise and convening power at the global and country levels will maximize the impact of our partnership.

I wish you productive deliberations and look forward to your ideas and leadership.  Thank you.


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