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Window Preventing Worst Impacts of Climate Crisis Closing Fast, Secretary-General Warns Austrian World Summit, Calling Renewables Twenty-First Century’s Peace Plan

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the sixth Austrian World Summit, in Vienna, today:

I thank the Austrian Government and Arnold Schwarzenegger for convening this important annual Summit.  It comes at a pivotal moment.  It is fifty years since the United Nations convened the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.  But since then, few of our promises on the environment have been honoured.

The window to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis is closing fast.  Our planet has already warmed by as much as 1.2°C.  To keep the 1.5°C goal within reach, we must reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by mid-century.

But current national commitments will lead to an increase by almost 14 per cent this decade.  Last year, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions grew by 6 per cent when they should be falling.

Let me be blunt:  most national climate pledges are simply not good enough.  This is not just my view.  Science and public opinion are giving timid climate policies a giant fail mark.  We are witnessing a historic and dangerous disconnect:  science and citizens are demanding ambitious and transformative climate action.  Meanwhile many Governments are dragging their feet.

This inaction has grave consequences.  Climate disruption is being felt right now, with nearly half of humanity in the danger zone.  And, at a time when we should all come together in the fight for our lives, senseless wars are tearing us apart.

The energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine has seen a perilous doubling down on fossil fuels by the major economies.  The war has reinforced an abject lesson:  our energy mix is broken.  Had we invested massively in renewable energy in the past, we would not be so dramatically at the mercy of the instability of fossil fuel markets.

Households and businesses face crippling prices.  Our world faces climate chaos.  New funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional.  It will only further feed the scourge of war, pollution and climate catastrophe.

I repeat my call for G20 [Group of 20] Governments to dismantle coal infrastructure, with a full phase-out by 2030 for OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries and 2040 for all others.  And I call on all financial actors to abandon fossil fuel finance and invest in renewable energy.

The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a liveable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels, especially coal, and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.

Renewables are the peace plan of the twenty-first century.  Cheaper, more reliable and fairer energy options are already available in the shape of wind and solar.  This is true for all regions.  The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade.  The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent.  On the other hand, oil and gas have reached record price levels.  And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

This is why I have proposed five concrete actions to jumpstart the renewable energy transition.  First, make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer.

Second, improve global access to supply chains for renewable energy technologies components and raw materials.  Third, reform the bureaucracies and red tape that hold up gigawatts of renewables projects.  We need fast-track approvals for solar and wind projects and more effort to modernize electricity grids. 

Fourth, the world must shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy, while addressing the potential consequences to the most vulnerable people.  And fifth, we need to triple investments in renewables.  This includes multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks.

All must step up and dramatically boost investments in renewables.  And, as climate impacts worsen, we must also invest far more in adaptation and resilience building to protect lives and livelihoods.  This requires elevating adaptation action onto an equal footing with efforts to cut emissions, doubling adaptation finance from 2019 levels.

And it means ensuring that every person on Earth is protected by early warning systems within five years.  I count on this meeting to amplify these messages.  Let’s work together for an inclusive transition to a sustainable world.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.