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Deputy Secretary-General, Praising Spain, Germany for Just Coal-to-Renewable Energy Transition Plan, Stresses Need to Address Social Impact of Economic Restructuring

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement:  Towards a Fair and Sustainable Globalization, in Madrid today:

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has given us a once‑in‑a‑generation chance to drive inclusive economic prosperity, protect our planet and improve the lives of billions of people, leaving no one behind.

This year, Heads of State and Government will meet in New York at the High‑Level Political Forum to complete the first review cycle of progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

By July, 143 Member States, Spain among them, will have presented their unique perspectives on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, through the presentation of their voluntary national reviews.  The wealth of information from these reviews gives us impetus to forge ahead and provides lessons for realizing our common objectives.

The national perspectives that we have heard over the past four years have made three things clear.  First, the climate crisis is the most significant global systemic threat to sustainable development.  Second, addressing this crisis and implementing the 2030 Agenda requires collective action through an inclusive multilateral approach and a focus on leaving no one behind.  Third, while Governments must take the lead, they can’t do it alone.  Local governments, cities, businesses and civil society all have important roles to play.

Recognizing the urgent imperative to address climate change, the nations of the world adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015.  With the adoption of the Katowice Climate Package at the COP24 [twenty-fourth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], in December last year, the world has entered a new phase in our collective efforts to address climate change.

After the Paris Agreement, it was another triumph for multilateralism.  If the Paris Agreement was about defining the “what” of the climate change regime, Katowice was an agreement on the “how”.  The Katowice [Climate] Package outlines how countries will provide information about their nationally determined contributions, and the specific mitigation and adaptation measures they will take, as well as details about financial support for climate action in developing countries.

The Paris Agreement set a collective goal to limit the rise in global temperature to 2°C, and ideally, 1.5°C.  The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report, however, tells us that 2°C is not ambitious enough.  It urges action to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C, and stresses that even that window of opportunity to limit warming to 1.5°C is rapidly closing.

So far, we’re not on track.  Current pledges under the Paris Agreement bring us nowhere close to where we need to be in achieving our climate goals.  According to the most recent United Nations Emissions Gap Report, current nationally determined contributions will significantly increase global temperature rise, not decrease it.

The Katowice Climate Package is our work programme to halt temperature rise and change our trajectory.  That’s why we’re calling 2019 and beyond the Era of Climate Ambition; and it is why the Secretary-General has convened a Climate Action Summit to be held this September in New York to accelerate and raise the ambition of climate action.  We cannot achieve the future we want unless the threat of climate change is averted.

Sustainable Development Goal targets related to poverty, hunger, health, water, life below water and on land, and others are all at risk.  But, the close links between the sustainable development and climate agendas provide unique opportunities to take mutually supportive action.  One must not — indeed cannot — be prioritized over the other.

Addressing the two agendas in tandem ensures that co-benefits and trade-offs are understood and policies and programmes take account of these for maximum impact.  As our efforts are interlinked, so are the contexts in which we apply them.  Not only are we connected by our place on this planet, but our economic, social and political realities are connected now more than ever before.

Globalization has brought immense opportunities, but also significant challenges, especially related to inequality in its multiple dimensions of income, jobs, access to education and health care, and in other areas.

The challenges facing the poorest and most vulnerable communities and countries are exacerbated by climate change, not least through rising sea levels and increased exposure to extreme weather events, from tropical storms to droughts.

To reach the furthest behind — which is the pledge of the 2030 Agenda — multilateralism, cooperation, collaboration and partnerships will be paramount.  In a globalizing world, a well-managed, just transition through climate-resilient and inclusive development can be a driver for economic growth, job creation, and poverty eradication, facilitating inclusion and prosperity for all.

But, as our world transitions to a sustainable path, it is essential that we address the social impacts of economic and industrial restructuring.  As countries prepare and implement their new nationally determined contributions, adaptation plans and long-term low-emission development strategies, they will need to take tough political decisions that need to be discussed and explained.

The German coal exit commission is an interesting example of how a national Government has prioritized addressing the social impacts of a transition from coal to renewables while publishing a transparent timetable to phase out coal burning.  The commission’s members represented a broad sample of the relevant social, political and economic actors, providing a basis for a robust consensus.

The Spanish example is similar.  I commend Minister Ribera and mining unions here in Spain for agreeing on a just transition plan for the closure of the country’s coal mines.  All Governments will need to address the downside of the global transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

Job losses are likely to occur in economic sectors where a dependence on fossil fuel resources is significant and where opportunities for economic diversification are limited.  But, there is significant promise in the new jobs to be created in a green economy.

The transition to inclusive green economies must be fair, maximizing opportunities for economic prosperity, social justice, rights and social protection for all, leaving no one behind.

It will require a country-specific mix of macroeconomic, industrial, sectoral and labour policies that will create an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises to prosper and decent work opportunities, and at the same time support social protection, skills development and social dialogue.

A just transition for all will not happen by default.  Deliberate strategies and public policies and consciously driven social and behavioural change are essential.

Governments have the primary responsibility to define coherent policies and governance systems at national, regional and international levels.  But, strong social consensus can only emerge when Governments work closely with partners — employers’ and workers’ organizations — and civil society and community groups.

Innovative approaches to financing by Governments, international financial institutions, institutional investors, insurance companies and regulators are needed to enable transitions in economic, financial and social systems with sustainable development as the ultimate objective.

Leaders need to make this happen to encourage local solutions and foster conversation with the participation of those most likely to be unheard.

The Paris Agreement on climate change, together with the 2030 Agenda, provides the most comprehensive blueprint we have for eliminating extreme poverty, reducing inequality and protecting the planet in a rapidly globalizing world.

Together with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, these documents constitute an integral plan of action for people and planet.  They require all countries and stakeholders to act together.

Let us keep up the momentum that these landmark agreements have generated and work together to implement them for peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all.

For information media. Not an official record.