End Senseless, Suicidal War against Nature, Secretary-General Says at Opening of Stockholm Meeting, Urging Greater Action to Address Global Climate Crisis
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Stockholm+50 international meeting today:
Fifty years ago, the United Nations convened the landmark Conference on the Human Environment here in Stockholm. World leaders recognized that we have a collective responsibility to protect the environment so humanity can enjoy peace, prosperity and sustainable progress. And indeed, over that time humanity has progressed.
But today global well-being is in jeopardy, in large part because we have not kept our promises on the environment. Yes, we have rescued the ozone layer — a remarkable example of multilateral cooperation that should inspire us as we go forward.
But, as we have become more populous and prosperous, our environmental footprint has become unbearably heavy. Earth’s natural systems cannot keep up with our demands. We are consuming at the rate of 1.7 planets a year. If global consumption were at the level of the world’s richest countries, we would need more than three planet Earths.
We face a triple planetary crisis. A climate emergency that is killing and displacing ever more people each year. Ecosystems degradation that are escalating the loss of biodiversity and compromising the well-being of more than 3 billion people. And a growing tide of pollution and waste that is costing some 9 million lives a year.
We need to change course — now — and end our senseless and suicidal war against nature. We know what to do. And, increasingly, we have the tools to do it. But we still lack leadership and cooperation.
So today, I appeal to leaders in all sectors: Lead us out of this mess. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement show the way. But we must act on these commitments. Otherwise, they are nothing but hot air. And hot air is killing us.
So let me get concrete about new opportunities. Later this year, leaders will finalize a new global biodiversity framework to reverse nature loss by 2030. Work is ongoing to establish a treaty to tackle plastics pollution. And the United Nations Ocean Conference can galvanize efforts to save our oceans.
But there is one thing that threatens all our progress. The climate crisis. Unless we act now, we will not have a liveable planet. Scientists recently reported that there is a [50:50] chance that we could temporarily breach the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5°C in the next five years. We cannot let that happen. We must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 to reach net-zero by 2050. And developed nations must at least double support to developing countries so that they can adapt and build resilience to the climate disruption that is already happening.
Today, I call on G20 Governments to dismantle coal infrastructure, with a full phase-out by 2030 for Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and 2040 for all others. And I call on all financial actors to abandon fossil fuel finance and invest in renewable energy.
Renewable energy technologies should be seen as a global public good. The necessary raw materials should be available to all. We must scale up and diversify supply chains; reform bureaucracies to provide clarity to investors; fast-track permits for renewable energy projects and accelerate grid modernization; shift subsidies from fossil fuels to support vulnerable people and to advance renewables; and triple investments in renewables to at least $4 trillion dollars a year.
On top of this we must rapidly and vastly improve energy efficiency. We must reduce deforestation and promote more forest cover by 2030. We must vastly intensify efforts to restore coastal ecosystems and at least 1 billion hectares of degraded land in the next decade. And we must also triple investments in nature-based solutions.
If we do these things we can avert climate catastrophe, end a growing humanitarian and inequality crisis and promote inclusive and sustainable development.
Today, I urge countries to embrace the human right to a clean, healthy environment for all people, everywhere — especially poor communities; women and girls; indigenous peoples; young people and the generations to come. To rescue the global environment — and humanity’s future — we must transform the accounting systems that reward pollution and waste.
We must place true value on the environment and go beyond gross domestic product as a measure of human progress and well-being. Let us not forget that when we destroy a forest, we are creating gross domestic product (GDP). When we overfish, we are creating GDP. GDP is not a way to measure richness in the present situation in the world.
Instead, we must shift to a circular and regenerative economy. That demands a strengthened, networked multilateralism based on trust and global cooperation — as envisaged in our United Nations report on Our Common Agenda. Every Government, business and individual has a role to play.
Throughout history, humanity has shown that we are capable of great things. But only when we work together. If we want to survive and thrive, let us protect and nurture our planet, that is our only home. Let us recommit — in words and deeds — to the spirit of responsibility enshrined in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration. Because there is only one planet Earth.