India Can Help Usher in New Era of Sustainability, Secretary-General Tells Lifestyles Launch, Hailing Commitments for Environmentally Sound Policies

Following are the UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the launch of Lifestyles for the Environment Initiative at the Statue of Unity, in Ekta Nagar, Narmad, India, today:

I am honoured to be with you at the Statue of Unity to launch the Lifestyles for the Environment initiative.  In these perilous times for the planet, we need all hands on deck.  I know that sometimes the enormous scale of a challenge might be reason enough to throw up one’s hands in resignation.  And there isn’t a larger challenge in our world today than the climate crisis.

But, this Lifestyles for the Environment initiative is designed to highlight an essential and hopeful truth:  All of us, individuals and communities, can — and must — be part of the solution of protecting our planet and our collective future.  After all, overconsumption is at the root of the triple planetary emergency of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

We are using the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to maintain our lifestyles.  And that great excess is compounded by great inequality.  The combined greenhouse‑gas emissions of the richest 1 per cent are more than twice the poorest 50 per cent.  So, we need to urgently transform our economic systems to make them friendly to the planet — and to make them equitable, so all can have equal opportunity to thrive in developed and developing countries.

Each one of us will have to learn to live sustainably and reduce our environmental footprint.  By saving energy and reducing pollution and waste.  By using less plastic.  By taking advantage of clean cooking technologies.  By eating more sustainably and not throwing away food.  By using renewable energy.  By making our money count as consumers by supporting sustainable products.  And many other examples we have seen in the wonderful film at the start of this ceremony.

And we also need to be speaking up and demanding that leaders support clean, green lifestyles and ambitious climate action.  This is the mission of the Lifestyles for the Environment initiative that I hope can spread throughout the world.

I am immensely encouraged by the commitments that India has made to pursue environmentally sound policies.  These efforts include a pledge to significantly increase investment and deployment of renewable energy.  Championing the International Solar Alliance.  And joining the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which aims to protect and conserve 30 per cent of the world’s ecosystems by 2030.

I also congratulate India on its upcoming G20 [Group of 20] presidency.  The G20 accounts for 80 per cent of global greenhouse-gas emissions.  But, it also represents 80 per cent of global GDP [gross domestic product].

So, the G20 combined has the resources, the know-how and the power to end our war against nature and set us on course to more sustainable living.  Central to that goal is the urgent need to pivot from economies based on fossil‑fuel consumption to economies powered by renewable energy.

A revolution in which developed countries must invest massively, financially and in technological support to allow emerging economies themselves to also be able to present more ambitious targets.

The world counts G20 economies to lead the way in progressive ending the use of coal by 2030 in OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries and 2040 in non-OECD countries.  Developed countries must follow through on their commitments to provide meaningful financial and technological support to countries like India through this transition.  We need to unleash a renewables revolution — and I look forward to working with India in driving this agenda forward.

In three weeks, world leaders will meet in Egypt for the next United Nations climate change conference, COP27 [twenty-seventh conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change].  COP27 represents a key political opportunity to rebuild trust and accelerate action across all the pillars of the Paris Agreement.  Adaptation.  Mitigation.  Finance.  And loss and damage.

Full implementation of the financial commitments made in Paris, a quantum leap in support to adaptation in developing countries, and measurable progress and serious progress in loss and damage are essential conditions to re-establish trust between developing and developed countries around the world.

With its vulnerability to climate impacts, and its massive economy, India can play a critical bridging role.  We have no time to lose.  We are in imminent danger of failing to meet the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C.  Our global goal has to be net‑zero emissions by 2050.  And to achieve this, we must collectively halve global emissions from 2010 levels by 2030.

And as the [Lifestyles for the Environment] initiative highlights, every citizen has a role to play ­ and that includes everyone, everywhere, using their voice to urge their leaders to take much needed ambitious climate action.

As the Prime Minister of Mauritius has recalled, Mahatma Gandhi reminded us that:  “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”  That perfectly captures the situation we face now.  Unfortunately, for the time being, greed is prevailing over need.  And we need to reverse this trend.

The planet is able to support each and every one of us — but we must treat its resources with wisdom and respect.  So, today, let us pledge to alter our economies and our lifestyles so we are able to share Earth’s resources fairly and take only what we need.

And let us count on India — as it assumes the G20 presidency — to help usher in a new era of sustainability, fully in line with its history, its culture and its ambition.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.