Press Conference: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

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15-Jun-2023 00:33:15
Press Conference: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

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Press Conference by Secretary-General António Guterres at United Nations Headquarters
Following is the transcript of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference, in New York today:

Secretary-General: Good afternoon, everybody, and as Stéphane [Dujarric] just said, I met with a group of civil society climate leaders from around the world.

We are months away from the SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] and Climate Ambition Summits, with COP 28 [twenty-eighth United Nations Climate Change Conference] following soon after.

I am very worried about where the world stands on climate. Countries are far off track in meeting climate promises and commitments. I see a lack of ambition. A lack of trust. A lack of support. A lack of cooperation. And an abundance of problems around clarity and credibility.

The climate agenda is being undermined. At a time when we should be accelerating action, there is backtracking. At a time when we should be filling gaps, those gaps are growing.

Meanwhile, the human rights of climate activists are being trampled. The most vulnerable are suffering the most. Current policies are taking the world to a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century.

That spells catastrophe. Yet the collective response remains pitiful. We are hurtling towards disaster, eyes wide open — with far too many willing to bet it all on wishful thinking, unproven technologies and silver bullet solutions.

It’s time to wake up and step up. It’s time to rebuild trust based on climate justice. It’s time to accelerate the just transition to a green economy. Limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C is still possible. We must consider this as a moment of hope. But it will require carbon emissions to be cut by 45 per cent by 2030.

To help get us there, I have proposed a Climate Solidarity Pact in which all big emitters would make extra efforts to cut emissions and wealthier countries support emerging economies to do so.

And I have put forward an Acceleration Agenda to supercharge these efforts. I urge Governments to make it happen by hitting fast forward on their net zero deadlines so that developed countries commit to reaching net-zero as close as possible to 2040 and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050.

Developed countries must abide by their commitments on finance, adaptation, and loss and damage. They must also push Multilateral Development Banks to adapt their business models, skill sets, and approaches to risk in order to leverage far more private finance at reasonable cost to developing countries to allow for a massive increase in investment in renewables. That investment is the only way to achieve global energy security independent of the present unpredictable market fluctuations.

And in every country, without exception, civil society voices must be heard. They must be at the table helping to shape policy and on the ground helping to deliver change.

All of this action must be global. It must be immediate. And it must start with the polluted heart of the climate crisis: the fossil fuel industry. Let’s face facts. The problem is not simply fossil fuel emissions. It’s fossil fuels — period.

The solution is clear: the world must phase out fossil fuels in a just and equitable way — moving to leave oil, coal and gas in the ground where they belong and massively boosting renewable investment in a just transition.

Fossil fuel industry transition plans must be transformation plans that chart a company’s move to clean energy and away from a product incompatible with human survival. Otherwise, they are just proposals to become more efficient planet-wreckers.

Of course, we must recognize that transformations don’t happen overnight. Transition plans are precisely to provide a road map for a managed, orderly process that guarantees affordability, access and energy security.

How do we get there? Our Acceleration Agenda calls on Governments to: commit to no new coal; complete phasing out coal by 2030 in OECD countries and 2040 elsewhere; end all international coal funding — both public and private.

End licensing or funding of new oil and gas; stop the expansion of existing oil and gas reserves and support the just transition of the impacted developing countries; ensure net zero electricity generation by 2035 in developed countries and 2040 everywhere else.

Shift subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables and to a just energy transition; put a price on carbon; and establish a progressive global phase-out of existing oil and gas production compatible with global net zero emissions by 2050.

But the fossil fuel industry and its enablers have a special responsibility. Last year, the oil and gas industry reaped a record $4 trillion windfall in net income. Yet for every dollar it spends on oil and gas drilling and exploration, only 4 cents went to clean energy and carbon capture… combined.

Trading the future for thirty pieces of silver is immoral. The world needs the industry to apply its massive resources to drive, not obstruct, the global move from fossil fuels to renewables and reap the benefits in they themselves lead the transition.

Yet right now, the industry is not even reaching the very low operational emissions reductions targets it has set for itself. Many are running late, and most rely on dubious offsets. I call on all fossil fuel companies to present credible, comprehensive and detailed new transition plans — fully in line with all the recommendations of my High-level Expert Group on net zero pledges.

These plans must cover all activities — up and down the value chain. That must include reducing emissions from production, processing, transmission, refining, distribution and use. And they must establish clear, near-term targets that chart the business’ transition to clean energy.

Fossil fuel companies must also cease and desist influence peddling and legal threats designed to knee-cap progress. I am thinking particularly of recent attempts to subvert net zero alliances, invoking anti-trust legislation.

Governments are pivotal in setting the record straight. They must help by providing clear reassurance: collective climate action does not violate anti-trust — it upholds the public trust.

At the same time, financial institutions must encourage this transformation of the fossil fuel industry. I urge all financial institutions to present public, credible and detailed plans to transition their funding from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Again, we know that this transition will not occur overnight. These plans should contain clear targets for 2025 and 2030. They should include an explicit strategy to progressively strip out fossil fuel assets from their portfolios to ensure they become credibly net-zero aligned.

They must show how capital expenditure, research and development, and investments are aligned with net-zero targets. And they must disclose all lobbying and policy engagement activities. Financial institutions everywhere must end lending, underwriting, and investments in coal anywhere — including new coal infrastructure, power plants, and mines.

And they must commit to end financing and investment [in] exploration for new oil and gas fields, and expansion of oil and gas reserves — investing instead in the just transition in the developing world.

To those finance institutions already shifting from fossil fuels to renewables, I have a special message of hope and encouragement: do not relent in the face of attacks on progress. You are doing the right thing. Keep going.

As my discussion with civil society leaders today made clear, there is simply too much at stake for us to be silent. There is too much at risk for us to sit on the side-lines. Now must be the time for ambition and action. I look forward to welcoming first movers and doers at my Climate Ambition Summit in September. The world is watching — and the planet can’t wait.

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