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Secretary-General, at Leaders’ Event, Says Huge Investment in Green Development, Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Key to Achieve Zero Emissions by 2050

Following are UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ remarks to the Leaders’ Round Table on Promoting Green and Sustainable Development to Implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in Beijing today:

I am deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and this is a matter I am very passionate about.

Since, I feel, when one looks at what happens on the ground and which is growing worse day by day, I believe we still lack the global political will to take the kind of transformational measures necessary to make these trends be reversed before it is too late.

And indeed, I strongly welcome your focus today on green and sustainable development — our common global commitment through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.  And I can assure you, Mr. President [Xi Jinping of China], that the United Nations will do everything possible to help towards the success of the Belt and Road Initiative, also in this context.  Now, the deepening climate crisis is at the top of our concerns.

Climate change is moving much faster than our efforts to address it, and the last four years were the hottest on record.  Natural disasters have wreaked havoc in nearly every region of the globe.  Last year, more than 35 million people were affected by floods, and when visiting, namely Africa, I am always impressed by the way drought is progressing, destroying livelihoods and forcing more and more people to move.  The average number of people exposed to heatwaves has increased by some 125 million since the beginning of the century, with deadly consequences.

The combination of extreme heat and air pollution is proving increasingly dangerous.  The climate crisis threatens decades of progress and jeopardizes all our plans for an inclusive and sustainable development.  And the clock is ticking.  Science has clearly told us that we have only 12 years for this transformation, if we want to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C and to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

To put it simply, we need green development.  We need sustainable development.  And we need it now.   We can win the race to keep our planet liveable and on a healthy trajectory.   But, this requires action that is rooted in solutions that are sustainable and aligned with the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.

To help generate the ambition we need, and to showcase practical, feasible and ambitious solutions to meet our goals, I am convening a Climate Action Summit in New York on 23 September.  And I am calling on leaders to come with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020.

These plans must show how we can reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade and get to net zero emissions globally by 2050 through strong mitigation and adaptation measures.

And this is why I have been asking leaders around the world to adopt carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of emissions — and I’d like to underline the fact that the two largest emissions trading systems are the Chinese and European Union ones — but also to end subsidies on fossil fuels, and not to start construction of new coal plants beyond 2020.

I am also counting on leaders to make sure their plans include women as key decision makers and address disproportionate impacts many women experience from climate change.

Chinese leadership will continue to be crucial.  As I said yesterday, new renewable energy jobs in China now outnumber those created in the oil and gas industries.  In 2017, China invested more than $125 billion in renewable energy, an increase of 25 per cent over the previous year.  And I will never forget that, in the United Nations Climate Conference in Katowice, China played an absolutely essential role building bridges and securing an agreement that allowed for the approval of the Action Plan of the Paris Agreement.

It is estimated that some 75 per cent of the global infrastructure that will be needed by 2050 is yet to be built, and the existing infrastructure will have to be made climate-resilient.

That is why the Belt and Road Initiative, with its huge volume of investment, is an opportunity we cannot miss to propel our world into a green future and to help countries transition to low-carbon, clean-energy pathways with new infrastructure that is sustainable and equitable, and drives adaptation and is based on non-fossil energy.

The momentum for transformational change is growing.  The green economy is the future.  It fosters prosperity, creates decent work, addresses root causes of conflict and contributes to the full enjoyment of all human rights — not only civil and political, but also economic, social and cultural.

More Governments, cities and businesses than ever understand that climate solutions strengthen our economies and protect our environment at the same time.

To transform our world, we need inclusive, sustainable growth that uplifts surrounding communities, responds to the needs of all, brings women into the economy of tomorrow, and is fully compatible with the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Together — and the Belt and Road Initiative is an absolutely crucial instrument for that — we can move farther down the road to realizing the 2030 Agenda and to achieving our global vision for people, planet and prosperity.

For information media. Not an official record.