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Secretary-General Calls on Governments, Financial Institutions, Market Leaders to Make Net-Zero Carbon Goal ‘Permanent and Transformative’

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Green Horizon Summit, delivered today:

Over the next 30 years, global greenhouse gas emissions must fall sharply and permanently to net zero.  Otherwise we will not be able to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.

The science is clear.  Failure to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement [on climate change] means irreparable catastrophe for people, communities, economies and nations.

Recently, we have heard encouraging announcements.  The European Union, Japan and the Republic of Korea — together with more than 110 other countries — have pledged carbon neutrality by 2050.  China says it will do so before 2060.  That means 50 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product and half of global CO2 emissions are now covered by a net zero commitment.

These announcements send unmistakable market signals to investors ready to fund a faster global transition to renewable energy.  They will also spur a faster decline in investments in coal and other fossil fuels. 

As my Special Envoy for Climate Finance, Mark Carney, has stressed, decarbonization is the greatest commercial opportunity of our time.  Markets are moving, they are moving fast, and those who move first will benefit the most.

But to make this transition permanent and transformative, everyone will need to play their part.  So, today, I have a message for each of you.

First, to Governments.  You need to align the long-term objective of net zero emissions with your short-term COVID-19 recovery plans and your Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.  And to get to net zero by 2050, CO2 emissions must drop by 45 per cent by 2030, compared with 2010 levels.

Your action will provide the framework the private sector needs to invest in a net zero future ‑ namely, putting a price on carbon, ending subsidies for fossil fuels and making climate-related financial disclosure mandatory.

Second, to development finance institutions, multilateral development banks and climate funds.  We need you to significantly scale up your role in improving the risk-return profiles of investments and align your portfolios and pipelines with net zero goals.  This will help to attract private capital for mitigation and adaptation, including in the developing world.

Third, to asset owners and managers.  We need you to act urgently to shift the trillions of dollars you invest towards the sustainable economy.  Price in and disclose climate risks, and only pursue investments that have accounted for these risks.  Ensure all your portfolios align with net zero goals.

Join a multi-stakeholder initiative, such as the United Nations-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, that is taking concrete measures to promote portfolio-wide net zero alignment.  And use your voting powers in companies to accelerate their decarbonization by systematically supporting climate resolutions in shareholder meetings.

Fourth, and finally, I have a message for financial authorities and regulators.  You need to embed net zero measures in fiscal and economic policies, public bank mandates and procurement standards.  Support net zero through incentives and regulation to level the playing field.

In closing, let me emphasize that everyone has a crucial role.  All Governments, cities, financial institutions and private businesses must establish their transition plans for net zero emissions by 2050 and start with concrete policies now.  Together we can achieve carbon neutrality for a sustainable future.

For information media. Not an official record.