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UN’s Secretary-General Calls To Make Net-Zero Emissions ‘New Normal’

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Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, as delivered, at a briefing to Member States by the incoming President of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), today:

We are nine months away from COP26, a critical milestone in our efforts to avert climate catastrophe.  I am very pleased that the incoming [Conference] President is here to discuss with all of you the road to Glasgow.

The past year has seen welcome progress.  I thank those who showed leadership by announcing bold new commitments at the Climate Ambition Summit I convened with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of France in December.  Countries representing 70 per cent of the world economy and 65 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions have now committed to achieving net-zero [emissions].

Two weeks ago, I met with the chief executive officers of the Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance, a coalition that represents over $5 trillion.  They have committed to double the size of this group by COP26.

This is meaningful momentum, but of course, it is not enough.  The world remains way off target in staying within the 1.5°C limit of the Paris Agreement [on climate change].  This is why we need more ambition, more ambition on mitigation, ambition on adaptation and ambition on finance.

The global coalition for net-zero emissions needs to grow, to cover more than 90 per cent of the emissions.  This is a central objective for the United Nations this year.  The drive to net-zero emissions must become the new normal for everyone, everywhere — for every country, company, city and the financial institution, as well as key sectors such as aviation, shipping, industry and agriculture.

At the same time, all commitments to net zero must be underpinned by clear and credible plans to achieve them.  Words are not enough.  By COP26 at the latest, all countries need to come forward with significantly more ambitious nationally determined contributions, with 2030 targets consistent with a net-zero pathway.

The major economies and members of the [Group of 20] must lead the way.  Developing countries, particularly the small island developing States and least developed countries, must be given the support they need to enhance their climate ambition.

The science and economics are clear.  Coal must be phased out by 2030 in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and by 2040 in all other countries, in conjunction with a just transition.  Investments in coal are a losing proposition.  Financing for coal and other fossil fuels abroad must stop and be redirected towards the clean energy transition.

Climate impacts in every region and on every continent are worsening.  In the space of a few weeks, Fiji and other Pacific islands have been struck by two devastating cyclones.

We need a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience — and this is also a priority for all of us and for the United Nations this year.  All donors and all multilateral development banks must increase the share of adaptation and resilience finance to at least 50 per cent of their climate finance support.

I welcome the commitment by the Netherlands at the recent Climate Adaptation Summit as well as the steps taken by the African Development Bank and the World Bank.  But we need much more.

We must also ensure simplified and expedited climate support for the most vulnerable.  Climate finance flowing to [least developed countries] and [small island developing States] stands at 14 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively.  We have a moral obligation to do much better, and with new and scaled-up finance initiatives and instruments.

Developed countries must meet their commitment, made over ten years ago and reaffirmed in Paris, to mobilize $100 billion per year in climate finance to developing countries.  This must be fully delivered in the run-up to COP26.

The report I issued last December contained a number of recommendations on how to get there.  I count in particular on [Group of Seven] countries to deliver.  The Green Climate Fund must also be fully capitalized.  We need all multilateral and national development banks to commit to full Paris alignment by 2024 at the latest.

We also need to effectively address debt relief efforts to provide liquidity to countries most vulnerable to climate change, and this is an effort we have been very closely following in the context of the recovery of COVID-19.

I cannot overestimate the importance of the negotiations in the months ahead of Glasgow.  Because of COVID-19, it is unlikely that the usual schedule of meetings will happen in-person.  Preparatory negotiations for COP26 will need to take place virtually. I know it is not easy, but it is essential.

With your flexibility and the creative guidance of the COP President and Ms. [Patricia] Espinosa, our Executive Secretary, we can conduct our business in an inclusive and transparent manner.

We simply cannot allow the pandemic to keep us from working together on the crucial pathway to Glasgow.  Although there will be challenges, we must adapt.  The stakes are too high to do otherwise.

I have directed United Nations officials around the world to make offices and venues available to allow for all countries to participate in virtual negotiations.  We will support this process in every way possible to ensure its success.

We must send a clear message to the parties:  It is time to wrap up negotiations and move towards its full implementation.  This means bridging the current political divide over outstanding issues related to finance, capacity-building, technology transfer, transparency and especially article six [of the Paris Agreement].  For everyone to win, everyone must be ready to make compromises.

Global markets have long demanded clarity from Governments on establishing a policy foundation for an emissions trading system that maintains environmental integrity and puts a global price on carbon.  This issue cannot continue to be deferred, from COP after COP after COP.  We need a political decision.

Finally, a successful COP26 means positive engagement of observers and other non-party stakeholders, including key non-governmental organizations constituencies, including youth, women and indigenous peoples.  We need every voice at the table.   As we collectively address our climate emergency, no voice, and no solution, should be left behind.

2021 is a crucial year in the fight against climate change.  I look to all Member States to work together to build on the momentum that has been generated and to fully support the COP26 presidency on the road to Glasgow.

SMEStreet Edit Desk

SMEStreet Edit Desk is a small group of excited and motivated journalists and editors who are committed to building MSME ecosystem through valuable information and knowledge spread.

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