Activities of Secretary-General in United Kingdom, 31 October–4 November
United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres arrived in Glasgow, United Kingdom, from Rome on 31 October.
On Monday, 1 November, the Secretary‑General met with the head of the delegation of Kuwait to the twenty‑sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), Prime Minister Sabah Al‑Khalid Al‑Sabah. He discussed Kuwait’s Nationally Determined Contribution and welcomed the country’s efforts to increase renewable energy and nature-based solutions to address climate action. He also met with the Special Envoy for Climate of China, Xie Zenhua. They had a prolonged exchange on how to organize and provide coalition-based support to help emerging economies accelerate decarbonization as well as on how to phase out coal.
He later delivered the keynote address at the twenty‑sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) World Leaders Summit. Mr. Guterres gave a blunt assessment of the status of efforts to combat climate change as the world faces the hottest years on record. The world’s addiction to fossil fuels is pushing us to the brink and it is time to stop it before it stops us, he said. While recent climate action announcements might give the impression that we are on track to turn things around, he warned that this is an illusion.
The Secretary‑General also identified three areas for action. First, keeping the goal of limiting climate warming to 1.5°C alive. He called on delegates — from all countries — to show maximum ambition in terms of mitigation and immediate concrete action to reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. Second, he told COP26 attendees to do more to protect vulnerable communities from the clear and present danger of climate change. All donors must allocate half of their climate finance to adaptation, he stressed. Third, the Conference must be a moment of solidarity by making the $100 billion commitment [to help developing nations deal with climate change] a reality. The Secretary‑General implored leaders to choose ambition, to choose solidarity and to choose to safeguard our future and save humanity. (See Press Release SG/SM/20997.)
The Secretary-General also attended a side event chaired by United Kingdom Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, entitled “Action and Solidarity — the Critical Decade”. Mr. Guterres said that indeed this coming decade is the critical decade for action. Analyzing the current situation, the Secretary-General called for coalitions to be created to support those emerging economies which will have real difficulties in relation to their productive sectors, namely in relation to their energy sector, and are extremely dependent on coal. If we are to ask them to make the maximum effort, coalitions will have to be created as mechanisms of support for them to be able to accelerate the transition away from carbon, he said. (See Press Release SG/SM/20999.)
On Monday evening, the Secretary‑General attended a reception hosted by the Government of the United Kingdom for COP26 participants.
The Secretary‑General began his second day in Glasgow in meetings with a number of regional delegations involved in the negotiations. He held separate meetings with groups representing the Independent Alliance of Latin American leaders, the Alliance of Small Island States, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and the least developed countries.
He told them that we know what needs to be done: to deliver on the commitments already made on 1.5°C; allocate 50 per cent of climate finance for adaptation; and deliver on the $100 billion commitment. He said we also know that we have a specific problem with adaptation, loss and damage — entire communities everywhere are getting hit now. We need a concrete plan by the end of the COP session, he underscored.
The Secretary‑General said that countries need to act on their pledges — now. This means, for example, revising their climate plans every year, not every five or ten years, until we are sure that global emissions are cut by 45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. The Secretary‑General also welcomed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use as an important step to halt deforestation. Implementation is the critical part, he added.
On Tuesday morning, the Secretary‑General also met with Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and the finalists for the Earth Shot Prize. He congratulated the Prince and the winners on the projects, stressing the importance of young global citizens keeping the pressure on Governments to act in the face of climate change. He also had a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan, Kishida Fumio. They agreed to work together to tackle issues such as climate change, launching the Common Agenda and global challenges. The Secretary‑General thanked the Prime Minister for Japan’s recent contributions on climate change and for its strong support of and contributions to the United Nations and the multilateral system.
During the day, the Secretary‑General met with his Youth Advisory Group to hear from them on how he can best support their efforts.
Throughout the afternoon, the Secretary-General held more bilateral meetings, notably with Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica, President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo and United States Climate Envoy John Kerry.
The Secretary-General also met with civil society leaders, including a delegation of young climate activists led by Greta Thunberg. He saluted their courage and dedication to the fight against climate change and encouraged them to continue raising their voices to pressure leaders into taking action.
Mr. Guterres also met one of his Messengers of Peace, Leonardo di Caprio.
In an address to a side event entitled “Climate Vulnerable Forum Leaders' Dialogue”, he told the gathered leaders that they are the custodians of our climate ambition as they stand on the frontlines of an ongoing COVID‑19 crisis and an escalating climate emergency. “You represent those who are first to suffer and those who are last to receive help,” he said, adding that the solidarity needed is lacking. He once again called for the fulfilment of the $100 billion a year climate finance commitment in support of developing countries, stressing that it must become a $100 billion climate finance reality. (See Press Release SG/SM/21000.)
On Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General flew to London and then made his way to Cambridge for a visit to the University of Cambridge, where he was joined by his spouse, Ms. Catarina Vaz Pinto. Later that afternoon, Mr. Guterres received an honorary degree from the University of Cambridge. In his formal remarks upon receiving the degree, he reminded the audience of the University’s enduring links with global governance and the United Nations, from the economist John Maynard Keynes to Margaret Anstee, the first woman to be appointed a United Nations Assistant Secretary-General. (See Press Release SG/SM/21003.)
The Secretary-General also delivered an overview of the global challenges that the world faces, from climate change to the pandemic to the war on facts. In that context, he said that the world needs the values of truth and integrity that are at the heart of the liberal education Cambridge has provided for eight centuries.
On Thursday, 4 November, at the University’s Pembroke College, he engaged in public discussion with students and faculty on Ethics and Climate Change. The Secretary‑General underscored the need to truly listen and engage with young people, as they are the biggest allies for climate action. It is ethically indefensible not to take future generations into account, he told them. He encouraged students and young activists to continue to work, shout and mobilize in support of effective action against climate change.
The Secretary-General returned to New York later that evening.