António Guterres
1,387,967 views • 5:17

We are all here today because the climate countdown has begun, and we are nowhere near where we need to be. Science tells us we must limit to global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We are on track for three degrees at least.

Billions of people around the world are already suffering from our failure to act. Climate disruption, due to our outdated addiction to fossil fuels, is causing unprecedented wildfires, more intense and frequent cyclones, floods, droughts, and other weather extremes. Toxic air pollution is choking our major cities and harming our health, and biodiversity on land and sea is under growing pressure.

No country's immune from the climate crisis. But in every country, it is the poorest and most vulnerable who are hardest hit, despite having done least to cause the problem. Over the past 25 years, the richest 10 percent of the global population has been responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions, and the poorest 50 percent were responsible for just seven percent of emissions. Rank injustice and inequality of this scale is a cancer. If we don't act now, this century may be one of humanity's last.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the fundamental injustices and inequality of our societies. The upheaval of this pandemic presents an opportunity to chart a new course, one that can address every aspect of the climate crisis head-on. History shows that when we grab such moments, we can succeed. We can build a safer, fairer, more resilient world. But we need to move quickly.

That is why I'm urging governments to take six climate-positive actions to recover better together: Invest in green jobs; do not bail out polluting industries, especially coal; end fossil fuel subsidies, and put a price on carbon; take climate risks into account in all financial and policy decisions; work together in solidarity; and most important, leave no one behind.

This is the course of action that thousands of companies, cities, states, regions, universities, and investors are already choosing by committing to net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. They are moving to protect people and our planet. Momentum is building.

Cities and regions with a carbon footprint greater than the United States and companies with revenues of more than 11.4 trillion US dollars have now committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. That's doubled the number from when this initiative was launched at the Climate Action Summit in 2019. Likewise, investors managing over four trillion US dollars have joined the race to zero. This number has also more than doubled since the initiative was first launched at the same summit.

But it is still necessary for governments to create the tax and regulatory frameworks that will further stimulate climate action by the private sector. European Union has announced plans to cut its emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. And China has recently announced its intention to become carbon neutral before 2060. I now count on these and other main emitters to present before COP26 concrete plans and policies that will bring the world to carbon neutrality by 2050.

We must make sure that each country, each city, company, bank, and international organization has a transition plan to reach zero net emissions. We also need to see much greater efforts to build resilience in vulnerable countries, which do least to cause climate change but bear the worst impacts. In the big coastal deltas, the islands of the Pacific and the Caribbean, and dry lands such as the Africa Sahel region, we must help people adapt to climate impacts as they recover from COVID-19.

I call on developed countries to meet their commitment to mobilize 100 billion US dollars a year for mitigation, adaptation, and resilience in developing countries. We must work to create the conditions needed for a massive mobilization of funds. Also from financial institutions and private investors. We must keep building climate ambition.

On the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement in December, leaders from government, business, and civil society will gather online to do just that. We need to kickstart the race to the Glasgow Climate Conference in 2021. To those who have already joined the race, I applaud you, but I also ask you to do more and much faster. You have raised your ambition and your commitment. We need you now to also raise your voices and push governments to do better, especially those who emit the most.

To those yet to join, my message is simple: We can only win the race to zero together. So I urge you all to get on board.

The countdown has begun.