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Warning ‘Mother Nature Is Not Waiting’, Secretary-General Urges Leaders Climate Summit to Form Coalition for Net-Zero Emissions by 2050, Boost Investment in Clean Energy

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Leaders Summit on Climate, held today:

Thank you, President [Joseph R.] Biden, for bringing us together to focus on the existential threat of climate change.  You have started this summit by walking the talk, and I applaud the commitment of the United States to cut greenhouse‑gas emissions 50 to 52 per cent below [2005] levels.

Mother Nature is not waiting.  The past decade was the hottest on record.  Dangerous greenhouse gases are at levels not seen in 3 million years.  Global temperature has already risen 1.2°C, racing towards the threshold of catastrophe.  Meanwhile, we see ever rising sea-levels, scorching temperatures, devastating tropical cyclones and epic wildfires.  We need a green planet, but the world is on red alert.  We are at the verge of the abyss.  We must make sure the next step is in the right direction.

Leaders everywhere must take action.  First, by building a global coalition for net-zero emissions by mid‑century — every country, every region, every city, every company and every industry.  Second, by making this a decade of transformation.  All countries, starting with major emitters, should submit new and more ambitious nationally determined contributions for mitigation, adaptation and finance, laying out actions and policies for the next 10 years aligned with a 2050 net-zero pathway.

Third, we need to translate those commitments into concrete, immediate action.  So far, only 18 to 24 per cent of pandemic recovery spending is expected to contribute to mitigating emissions, reducing air pollution or strengthening natural capital.  The trillions of dollars needed for COVID-19 recovery is money we are borrowing from future generations.  We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden them with a mountain of debt on a broken planet.

We must put a price on carbon, shifting taxation from income to carbon; end subsidies for fossil fuels; ramp up investments in renewable energy and green infrastructure; stop the financing of coal and the building of new coal power plants; phase out coal by 2030 in the wealthiest countries, and by 2040 everywhere else; [and] ensure a just transition for affected people and communities.

Fourth, to build a truly global net‑zero coalition, we need a breakthrough on finance and adaptation.  This is critical for trust and collective action.  Donors and multilateral and national development banks must move from 20 to 50 per cent in all climate finance flows to resilience and adaptation.

Before the United Nations climate conference in November in Glasgow, we need concrete proposals that ease access to greater finance and technological support for the most vulnerable countries.  Developed States must deliver on public climate finance, including the long-promised $100 billion for climate action in developing countries, at the Group of Seven Summit in June.

Young people are pushing their elders to do what is right.  Women are on the front lines.  More than 700 cities have committed to net zero by 2050, and I am encouraged by the mobilization of the financial sector around the Glasgow Financial Alliance for net zero, representing $70 trillion of assets — and I call on all members to align as soon as possible behind the gold standard on credibility and ambition established by the Asset Owners Alliance that I convened.

Let us now mobilize political leadership to move ahead together to overcome climate change, end our war on nature and build lives of dignity and prosperity for all.


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