Geopolitical Divisions ‘Must Not Torpedo World’s Climate Fight for 1.5°C’, Secretary-General Tells Major Economies Forum

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the Major Economies Forum, held virtually today:

President [of the United States, Joseph R.] Biden, excellencies, thank you for this opportunity.

You are the major economies — but also the major emitters. And our world has a major climate challenge before us.  Today’s policies would make our world 2.8°C hotter by the end of the century.  And this is a death sentence.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, has made clear that it is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.  But, only if the world takes a quantum leap in climate action.  And that depends on you.

We need global acceleration through cooperation.  And that means rising above disagreements, differences and tensions.  Geopolitical divisions must not torpedo the world’s climate fight for 1.5°C.

I have proposed to the G20 [Group of 20] a Climate Solidarity Pact — in which big emitters make extra efforts to cut emissions; and wealthier countries support emerging economies to achieve this.

And last month, I presented a plan to super-charge our efforts:  the Acceleration Agenda.  We need accelerated action in three areas.

First, net zero deadlines.  My proposal is for leaders of developed countries to commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040 — the limit you should all aim to respect. And for leaders of emerging economies to commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2050 — again, the limit you should all aim to respect.  And I also urge all countries — developed and developing — to step-up their national climate action plans, or NDCs [nationally determined contributions], to bring them in line with the 1.5°C.

Second, I urge you to accelerate your move away from fossil fuels and towards a fair and just decarbonization of every sector.  Renewables can deliver — on access, affordability and energy security.  And the science is clear:  new fossil fuel projects are entirely incompatible with 1.5°C.  Yet, many countries are expanding capacity.

And I urge you to change course: phase out coal by 2030 in OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries and 2040 in all others; end all licensing or funding — both public and private — of new fossil-fuel projects; make sure generation of electricity is net-zero by 2035 in developed countries, and 2040 elsewhere; decarbonize major sectors faster — from shipping, aviation and steel, to cement, aluminium and agriculture — in close cooperation with the private sector; put a price on carbon; and shift fossil fuel subsidies to finance a just transition to renewables. The International Energy Agency estimated that these subsidies came to $1 trillion in 2022 — which is insanity.

Third, we must accelerate climate justice by reforming the international financial system.  As major shareholders of the multilateral development banks, I urge you to push them to coordinate their operations better, and to overhaul their business models and approaches to risk, in order to turbocharge climate action and sustainable development.

You have the power to ensure that they leverage their funds to mobilize much more private finance at reasonable cost to developing countries, and that they end all support for fossil fuels.  You can pressure them to urgently transition and scale up their funding to renewables, adaptation and loss and damage.

Developed countries must also deliver on the commitments made in Copenhagen, Paris and Glasgow.  Adaptation must reach 50 per cent of climate finance.  The loss and damage fund must be operationalized, and the Green Climate Fund must be replenished.

Excellencies, I welcome early-movers on the Acceleration Agenda to the Climate Ambition Summit here in New York in September.  And I hope to see you there.  Because this final fight for 1.5°C will be won or lost on your watch.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.