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Window of Opportunity to Keep 1.5 Degrees Celsius Alive Will Close Forever without Sustained Emission Cuts, Secretary-General Warns, at Expert Group launch

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the launch of the High-Level Expert Group on Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of non-State entities, in New York today:

Good morning to all of you.  Today, I am launching my High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of non-State entities.  And I am joined by Catherine McKenna, who will chair the Group, and I’m very grateful for that.  Before Catherine makes her remarks, let me recap why we are here.

The climate crisis is getting rapidly worse.  Despite growing pledges of climate action, global emissions are at an all-time high and they continue to rise.  The latest science shows that climate disruption is causing havoc in every region — right now.

We are in a race against time to limit global heating to 1.5°C.  And we are losing.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has demonstrated that nearly half of humanity is already in the danger zone.  If we don’t see significant and sustained emissions reductions this decade, the window of opportunity to keep 1.5°C alive will be closed — and closed forever.  And that will be disaster for everyone.

Governments have the lion’s share of responsibility to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.  Especially the G20.  But, we also urgently need every business, investor, city, state and region to walk the talk on their net-zero promises.  Hence the launch of this Expert Group.

At COP26 [twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] last year, I flagged the need for more credible and robust standards and criteria for measuring, analysing and reporting on the net-zero pledges by non-State entities.  Today, we take a step towards meeting that need and ensuring the highest standards of environmental integrity and transparency.

To avert a climate catastrophe, we need bold pledges, but matched by concrete, measurable action.  Tougher net-zero standards and strengthened accountability around the implementation of these commitments can deliver real and immediate emissions cuts.

The Expert Group will make recommendations before the end of the year addressing four areas:  current standards and definitions for setting net-zero targets; credibility criteria used to assess the objectives, measurement and reporting of net-zero pledges; processes for verifying progress towards net-zero commitments and decarbonization plans; and a road map to translate standards and criteria into international and national regulations.

The Group of respected and independent experts is gender-balanced and geographically diverse, with deep experience across government, business, the global financial system, civil society and academia.  The members will work in their personal capacity, and I expect them to consult widely, extensively and transparently to hear the perspectives and views of all stakeholders.

I thank Ms. McKenna and all members of the group in advance for this vital work and I wish you the best success in the development of the activities you’ll coordinate.


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