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Urgent Multilateral Action Crucial for Tackling Growing Climate Emergency, Global Food Crisis, Secretary-General Tells Group of 20 Foreign Ministers Meeting

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message to the Group of 20 (G20) Foreign Ministers on strengthening multilateralism, in Bali, Indonesia, today:

This G20 meeting comes at an extremely challenging moment for multilateralism and global governance.

The international order is at risk of coming apart at the seams.  The climate crisis is close to the point of no return.  The COVID-19 pandemic has killed millions; hunger and poverty are rising; years of development gains are being lost.  A multifaceted war is raging in the heart of Europe, in violation of the United Nations Charter.  New and evolving forms of conflict, including in cyberspace, require multilateral solutions and frameworks that do not yet exist. 

Our unequal global financial system, designed by rich and powerful countries, is failing the developing world.  Poorer countries pay much higher borrowing costs than developed countries — and their economies are downgraded when they consider restructuring their debt or applying for debt relief.  Meanwhile, unequal access to vaccines has prolonged the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to continued suffering and death.

Strengthening multilateralism — the theme of this session — is not a choice, but a necessity.  It is the only way to avoid widespread food shortages, deepening climate chaos, and a wave of poverty and destitution that will leave no country untouched. 

I see three areas for urgent multilateral action:  The growing climate emergency; the food, energy and finance crisis; and the unequal recovery from the pandemic.  The climate crisis is our number one emergency.  The battle to keep the 1.5°C goal alive will be won or lost by 2030.  You represent the major economies — and 80 per cent of global emissions.  The responsibility for preventing the worst impacts of the climate crisis rests largely on your shoulders. 

Science tells us that global emissions need to decline by 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030, to keep 1.5°C goal alive.  But current national climate pledges would result in an increase in emissions of 14 per cent by 2030.  This is collective suicide.

We need a renewable energy revolution.  Ending the global addiction to fossil fuels is priority number one.  No new coal plants.  No expansion in oil and gas exploration.  I have appealed for the creation of [coalitions] around emerging economies to provide financial and technical support, as they accelerate the transition to renewable energy.  Important progress is being made — but much more is needed on all fronts.  Emerging economies must have access to the resources and technology they need.  Wealthier countries must finally make good on the $100 billion climate finance commitment to developing countries, starting this year.

We also need a radical boost for adaptation and early warning systems.  And access and eligibility frameworks must be reviewed, so developing countries, including middle-income countries, can get the finance they need on time.

Second, the food, energy and finance crisis.  Around the world, the war in Ukraine is amplifying other crises and threatening to unleash social and economic devastation.  Food prices are at near-record highs.  Fertilizer prices have more than doubled.  There is a real risk of multiple famines this year.  Next year could be even worse.  Without fertilizers, shortages could spread from corn and wheat to all staple crops, including rice, with a devastating impact on billions of people.

Meanwhile, record high energy prices are already triggering blackouts and fuel shortages.  We need to work together to bring stability to global food and energy markets and support developing economies.  Ukraine's food production, and the food and fertilizer produced by the Russian Federation, must be brought back into world markets — despite the war.  We are working to find a plan that allows for the safe and secure export of Ukrainian-produced food through the Black Sea, and unimpeded access to global markets for Russian food and fertilizers.  We have been coordinating closely with all parties, including many of your Governments.  I thank you for your continued cooperation.

But even as we try to increase supplies, we need to make resources and fiscal space available now for the poorest countries and communities.  The global financial system must use all the instruments at its disposal, with flexibility and understanding, to achieve this.

There is no solution to this finance crisis without a solution to the ongoing crisis of economic inequality in the developing world.   Which brings me to my third area for urgent multilateral action: the unequal recovery. 

Many developing countries have suffered devastating economic losses during the pandemic but cannot access finance for the recovery.  We need a New Global Deal to rebalance power and financial resources and enable developing countries to invest in the Sustainable Development Goals.  The international debt architecture requires urgent reform.  We need an operational debt relief and restructuring framework that takes account of vulnerability.  We must also consider changes to credit ratings and the issuance of Special Drawing Rights.

And we need a serious effort to increase the number of countries that can produce Covid-19 vaccines, therapies and tests, by sharing licenses and providing technical and financial support.

Our complex and interconnected world requires a multilateralism that is more effective, more networked, and more inclusive.  We need to combine the strengths of existing institutions to deliver together on humanity’s most pressing challenges.  I have put forward a number of ideas in my report Our Common Agenda.

One example:  I have proposed Biennial Summits to bring together the G20, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, the international financial institutions, and my office as Secretary-General, to work towards a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient global economy.  We are working closely with Member States to bring this, and many other recommendations from Our Common Agenda, to fruition.

I thank G20 members for your support and contributions.  Strengthening multilateralism is the only sustainable path to a peaceful, stable, prosperous world for all.  The United Nations was founded on these aspirations.  And the G20, representing 80 per cent of global economic power, can make them a reality.

For information media. Not an official record.