Press Conference by Secretary-General António Guterres at United Nations Headquarters

Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference to launch the Emissions Gap 2021 Report — held jointly with Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, in New York today:

Ladies and gentlemen of the press — good morning.

I welcome my colleague Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.  We are both here to keep sounding the alarm.

Less than one week before COP26 [Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)] in Glasgow, we are still on track for climate catastrophe even with the last announcements that were made.

The 2021 Emissions Gap Report shows that with the present nationally determined contributions and other firm commitments of countries around the world, we are indeed on track for a catastrophic global temperature rise of around 2.7 °Celsius.

Now, even if the announcements of the last few days will materialize, we would still be on track to clearly more than 2 °Celsius.  These announcements are essentially about 2050 so it is not clear how they will materialize but even if these recent announcements would materialize, we would still be clearly above 2 °Celsius.

As the title of this year’s report puts it:  The Heat Is On.  And as the contents of the report show — the leadership we need is off.  Far off.

We know that humanity’s future depends on keeping global temperature increase to 1.5 °Celsius by 2030.  And we also know that, so far, parties to the Paris Agreement are utterly failing to keep this target within reach.  And the report also shows that countries are squandering a massive opportunity to invest COVID-19 fiscal and recovery resources in sustainable, cost-saving, planet-saving ways.  So far, the report estimates that only about 20 per cent of recovery investments will support the green economy.

As world leaders prepare for COP26, this report is another thundering wake-up call.  How many more do we need?

The recent IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report already showed that, unless we reduce global carbon emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 — 100 months from now — we will not reach a 1.5-degree future.

Scientists are clear on the facts.  Now leaders need to be just as clear in their actions.

They need to come to Glasgow with bold, time-bound, front-loaded plans to reach net-zero:  to decarbonize every sector — from power, to transport, farming and forestry; to phase-out coal — by 2030 in OECD countries and 2040 in all others — and to end all coal investment, public and private, national and international; to end subsidies for fossil fuels and polluting industries; to put a price on carbon, and to channel that back to creating green jobs; and, obviously, to provide at least $100 billion each year to the developing world for climate finance.

The Paris Agreement says:  “The provision of scaled-up financial resources should aim to achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation.”  And so, a balance means 50-50.  I repeat my call to donors and multilateral development banks to allocate at least 50 per cent of their climate support towards adaptation and resilience.

The clock is ticking.  The emissions gap is the result of a leadership gap.  But leaders can still make this a turning point to a greener future instead of a tipping point to climate catastrophe.

The era of half measures and hollow promises must end.  The time for closing the leadership gap must begin in Glasgow.  Thank you for your attention and I am at your disposal.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of UNCA, for this press conference.  So, my question is, how confident you are to be able to reach an agreement among states at COP 26 on the objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years?  And how important is the fact that leaders like Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are not, will not attend the summit?  Thank you so much.

Secretary-General:  I think all G20 leaders are very important because the G20 represents 80 per cent of the emissions.  And, obviously, there is still, as it was demonstrated, a huge effort to make in order to make sure that not only we reach net-zero emissions in 2050, globally, but that there is a meaningful reduction of emissions in the next decade.

If there is no meaningful reduction of emissions in the next decade, we will have lost forever the possibility of reaching 1.5 degrees.  So, this is a moment of truth, and I will be joining the G20 next weekend, and I will be strongly appealing for all of them to do their maximum.

There is a principle of nationally determined, common but differentiated responsibilities according to national capabilities, which means that the leadership must come from developed countries, but the level of emissions of the emerging economies is such that we also need the emerging economies to go an extra mile.  Only if everybody does the maximum, it will be possible to get there.

Question:  Thank you, Secretary-General and to UNEP for the briefing.  My question is, the report does say that national plans have fallen short.  And there are some countries, like China, that have pledged to cut fossil fuel but not… there are no new pledges on the emissions.  How can you get countries to do both at the same time?  And do you expect that to happen at COP26?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, China is like several other countries that have not yet presented their nationally determined contributions.  And my appeal to China is very simple.  What President Xi Jinping announced in the General Assembly is that they will reach net zero before 2060.  They will peak the emissions before 2030.  And “before” is the magic word.  I think it is very important to make this “before” as big as possible, because that would be a very important contribution to make our global objectives be met.  And that would have an influence on several other countries that are now making pledges in relation to net zero in 2060.  And so, it’s important to encourage everybody to do more.  Thank you.

Question:  Secretary-General, Margaret Besheer, Voice of America.  I am sorry to just — if you will indulge me for one moment, it is very important that we have you on camera and on the record about Sudan.  If you could just say a few words about the situation?  And what have you learned from the situation in Myanmar which we are now nine months into, and 1,100 lives lost, where there has been a military coup?  What does the international community, and more specifically the United Nations, need to do differently to reverse the situation in Sudan?

Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, about Sudan.  I once again strongly condemned the forceful military takeover of power in Sudan.  I urge of course all stakeholders to exercise maximum restraint, but the Prime Minister and other officials that were unlawfully detained must be released immediately.  It is true that Sudan has achieved important milestones; they cannot be reversed.  And so, it is essential that all transitional arrangements and institutions as defined in the constitutional document be reinstated.  A civilian-military partnership is critical.  It needs to be re-established at the level at which it was established.  I think the Sudanese people have shown very clearly their intense desire for reform and democracy.

Now, we are seeing a multiplication of coups d’état.  The fact that we have strong geopolitical divides; the fact that the Security Council has lots of difficulties in taking strong measures; the impact and the problems of COVID and the difficulties that many countries face from the economic and social point of view — these three factors are creating an environment in which some military leaders feel that they have total impunity.  They can do whatever they want because nothing will happen to them.  My appeal obviously is for, especially, the big Powers to come together for the unity of the Security Council in order to make sure that there is effective deterrence in relation to this epidemic of coups d’état.  We have seen that effective deterrence today is not in place.  We have seen it in Myanmar, and we have also seen it in several African locations.

Question:  Good morning, Secretary-General.  Back to COP26.  You have talked about the trust deficit between the developing world and the developed countries, and this comes down in large part to the $100 billion you talk about annually, but we do know that developing countries, led by countries like South Africa, are pushing for this to go up to 750 billion a year come 2025.  The concern is that in 2020, the deadline for that fund to be capacitated was not reached.  How are you going to get a firm commitment from the industrialized nations to reach the 750, given that they can’t even reach the 100 billion that was due in 2020?

Secretary-General:  As you probably know, yesterday it was published by Ministers [Jochen] Flasbarth and [Jonathan] Wilkinson that had been charged to prepare a delivery plan of 100 billion, and I would like to express my deep gratitude and appreciation to both of them for the work that they have established.  They have presented a report — the report is accompanied by some projections by OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development].  I think that they represent a serious contribution, and they deserve a serious analysis and a serious consideration because what matters obviously is the effective delivery of the 100 billion.  I have been campaigning for the need for that delivery.  I hope that this step will help move in that direction.

And it is not enough to have 100 billion; it is necessary also to mobilize more resources from the multilateral development banks, from the private sector; and it is also essential that contributions are more based on grants than loans; and it is also essential that there is an effective balance between adaptation and mitigation.

Question:  Thank you, Secretary-General.  Given that you are headed to the G20, those nations responsible for 80 per cent of carbon emissions, can you sum up where their [nationally determined contributions] stand, how many have announced them, and what you need to get from them this weekend?  And also, the United States, the UN’s largest funder, the world’s second largest carbon emitter, can’t seem to agree on a budget.  What is at stake in the US budget negotiations for the COP?  What do you need to see in there, do you think?  How is that going to affect what is going to happen at COP?

Secretary-General:  Obviously, it will be impossible to reach $100 billion without a meaningful American financial contribution.  That is evident.  My appeal to the American institutions is to make sure that meaningful contributions can materialize.  Obviously, all the G20 leaders must understand the need that they need to do the maximum.  I cannot tell you exactly how many countries have not yet presented national determined contributions, but I think that probably, around almost half of the countries have not presented nationally determined contributions.  Some made announcements of objectives, but, obviously, announcements for 2060 without a programme of action to get there has the value that it has, so it is absolutely essential that all G20 countries present before Glasgow, or in Glasgow, nationally determined contributions that are compatible with 1.5.

Question:  Secretary-General, in the report, how do you see the relations between migration, forced migration and climate change?  We know Latin America, and Guatemala, the dry corridor is one of the areas, and we have seen now massive movements from South America all the way to Mexico.  How do you see that?  Especially because you have experience with refugees, and what is your take on that, and how the world leaders could make a change?

Secretary-General:  I think that climate change is clearly an important accelerator of migration.  In some situations, because several regions become simply not [habitable] anymore and so people have to leave, because they have no conditions to survive.  Desertification, as you know, is progressing in many areas.  On the other hand, several habitats are being impacted, and the resources that are available in those habitats, are also forcing people to leave, because they cannot find opportunities, and they cannot find even, sometimes, the minimum conditions.  Food security, in particular.

On the other hand, climate change accelerates other factors, including factors that can lead to conflicts.  In many places of the world, particularly in Africa, look at the Sahel, we have farmers and herders, and the relationship between farmers and herders can be harmonious.  But when resources dwindle, water becomes more scarce, and they tend to enter into conflict.  And so, climate change, again, is an accelerator of conflict.  It is not the only cause, but it is an accelerator of conflict, and conflict drives displacement.  So, it is clear for me that climate change is today one of the most important factors in the acceleration of migration movements.

For information media. Not an official record.