‘Mountains are Issuing a Distress Call’, Secretary-General Tells Dubai Event, Stressing Upcoming Climate Change Conference Must Respond with Rescue Plan

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the “Call of the Mountains:  Who saves us from the climate crisis?” event, in Dubai today:

It is a pleasure to join you today.  And I thank the Prime Minister [of Nepal] for organizing this important event.

Just weeks ago, I was standing in the mighty Himalayas — on an unforgettable visit to beautiful Nepal enjoying the most wonderful hospitality that I could ever imagine, and I am very grateful to the Government and the people of Nepal for their warm welcome and for the opportunity that they provided to me.

It is deeply shocking to learn how fast the Himalayan glaciers are melting.  And deeply distressing to hear first hand from local communities about the terrible impact on their lives.

Nepal, and other vulnerable mountain countries, are being pounded by a crisis that is not of their making.

The country has lost close to a third of its ice in just over 30 years — a direct result of the greenhouse-[gas] pollution heating our planet.

That means swollen lakes and rivers flooding, sweeping away entire communities.  It means rising seas threatening communities around the world.  And melting is accelerating.

Unless we change course, we will unleash catastrophe:  the glaciers could disappear altogether.  That means massively reduced flows for major Himalayan rivers like the Indus, the Ganges and Brahmaputra.  Deltas decimated by saltwater.  Low-lying communities wiped out, millions of people forced from their homes, and floods and droughts accelerating around the world.

Nepal’s mountains are crying out for help and COP28 [the twenty-eighth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] must respond.

The Global Stocktake must look forward and create the conditions for a surge in global climate action in 2025 and beyond.  Critically, we need this COP to deliver in three areas:

First, finance and climate justice.  There can be no climate action without the money to pay for it.  I am calling for developed countries to clarify the delivery of the $100 billion, and to produce a clear plan to double adaptation finance to $40 billion a year by 2025 — as a first step to devoting half of climate finance to adaptation.  But, those sums are dwarfed by the scale of what’s needed.

So, we need the outcome of this COP to call for reform of the international financial institutions so that they reflect today’s world and are far more responsive to the needs of developing countries.

And for reform of the business models of the multilateral development banks so that they can leverage far more private finance at reasonable cost to developing countries like Nepal.  Responding to the climate disaster shouldn’t create a financial disaster. So, we also need the outcome of the COP to support an increase in the proportion of climate finance delivered as grants and concessional finance.  And I am calling for countries to boost support for the loss and damage fund.  It was an extremely important decision to move forward with it, but we must […] serious money into it.

Second, this COP needs to set the world up for emissions to plummet.  The door is closing on 1.5°C.  But, a sliver of light remains.  This COP outcome must set a clear expectation that countries’ 2025 Nationally Determined Contributions will align with the 1.5°C limit, cover the whole economy and be delivered on time.  And it must chart a course for a fair, just and equitable transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

The science is clear:  ultimately, fossil fuels must go.  We need a clear commitment to double energy efficiency, and bring clean energy to all, by 2030.  And to phase out fossil fuels on a timeframe compatible with achieving the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.

Finally, the Global Stocktake must strengthen international cooperation.  The goals of the Paris Agreement depend on it.  We need collaboration between Government, and between countries and companies, to drive down emissions, and to protect everyone on Earth with an effective early warning system by 2027 and Nepal is an essential candidate to have an effective early warning system.

The mountains are issuing a distress call.  COP28 must respond with a rescue plan and let’s give our all to making that, that reality emerges from the COP.

For information media. Not an official record.