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Making a pledge to secure peace, build a sustainable world

António Guterres in UN Headquarters, New York   | Published: August 03, 2019 21:15:35


Extreme weather events are just the tip of rapidly melting icebergs

First August. It is the middle of summer in the northern hemisphere. We are witnessing not only record global warming but global political tensions are also heating up.

Both are dangerous and both are avoidable. Let me begin with the climate emergency.

We have always lived through hot summers. But this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfather's summer.

According to the very latest data from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and its climate centre- - the month of July at least equalled if not surpassed the hottest month in recorded history.

This follows the hottest June ever. This is even more significant because the previous hottest month, July 2016, occurred during one of the strongest El Niño's ever. That is not the case this year.

All of this means we are on track for the period from 2015 to 2019 to be the five hottest years on record.

This year alone we have seen temperature records shatter from New Delhi to Anchorage - from Paris to Santiago - from Adelaide to the Arctic Circle.

If we do not take action on climate change now, these extreme weather events are just the tip of the iceberg. And that iceberg is also rapidly melting.

Indeed, the heatwave which affected Europe in the last month has now raised temperatures in the Arctic and Greenland by 10-15 degrees Celsius.

This at a time when Arctic Sea ice is already near record low levels.

Preventing irreversible climate disruption is the race of our lives and for our lives. It is a race we can - and must - win.

The urgent need for climate action is precisely why I am convening the Climate Action Summit on September 23rd.

This will be preceded by a Youth Climate Summit on September 21st. I look forward to welcoming young leaders like Greta Thunberg and so many others.

I have told leaders - from governments, businesses and civil society - that the ticket to entry is bold action and much greater ambition.

The world's leading scientists tell us we must limit temperature increases to 1.5C if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

We need to cut greenhouse emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. We need carbon neutrality by 2050.

And we need to mainstream climate change risks across all decisions to drive resilient growth, reduce vulnerability and avoid investments that could cause greater damage.

That is why I am telling leaders don't come to the Summit with beautiful speeches.

Come with concrete plans - clear steps to enhance nationally determined contributions by 2020 - and strategies for carbon neutrality by 2050.

There is fortunately some good news. Around the world, governments, businesses and citizens are mobilising to confront the climate crisis.

Technology is on our side - delivering renewable energy at far lower cost than the fossil-fuel driven economy.

Solar and onshore wind are now the cheapest sources of new power in virtually all major economies.

Norway's Parliament has voted to divest the world's largest sovereign wealth fund - worth $1.0 trillion - from fossil fuels.

Many countries - from Chile to Finland, and from the United Kingdom to the Marshall Islands - have concrete and credible plans to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century.

And many others - from Ethiopia to New Zealand to Fiji to Pakistan - are planting hundreds of millions of trees to reverse deforestation, buttress climate resilience, and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Credit ratings agencies are moving to better account for the widespread perils of climate disruption - and more banks and financial institutions are pricing carbon risks into financial decisions.

Asset managers representing nearly half the world's invested capital - some $34 trillion - are demanding urgent climate action, calling on global leaders in a letter recently published and I quote "to phase out fossil fuel subsidies … and thermal coal power worldwide", and "put a meaningful price on carbon".

Leading businesses around the world are also recognising that moving early from the grey to the green economy will deliver competitive advantages, while delaying will lead to huge losses.

Here at the United Nations, the Global Compact has launched a campaign calling on businesses to join the fight to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C.

Already, businesses with a combined value of more than $1.3 trillion are on board and that number is growing fast.

We need rapid and deep change in how we do business, generate power, build cities and feed the world.

POLITICAL HOT SPOTS: And - having endured what is possibly the hottest month in recorded history - we need action now. In addition to heat waves, we are also confronting many political hot spots.

Allow me to touch on three.

First, I am worried about rising tensions in the Persian Gulf. A minor miscalculation could lead to a major confrontation.

I stress the need to respect the rights and duties relating to navigation through the Strait of Hormuz and its adjacent waters in accordance with international law.

I have consistently conveyed a clear message to leaders both publicly and privately in numerous meetings and calls. That message can be boiled down to two words: maximum restraint.

I once again urge all parties to refrain from any actions that will escalate tensions further.

The last thing the world needs is a major confrontation in the Gulf that will have devastating implications on global security and the global economy.

Second, I am troubled by growing friction among the two largest global economies. We need to learn the lessons of the Cold War and avoid a new one.

Looking into the not so distant future, I see the possibility of the emergence of two competing blocs - each with their own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, their own internet and artificial intelligence strategy, and their own contradictory geopolitical and military views.

We still have time to avoid this. As I said in my address to the General Assembly last year, with leadership committed to strategic cooperation and to managing competing interests, we can steer the world onto a safer path.

Third, I am concerned about rising tensions between nuclear-armed States.

The Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty - the INF - is a landmark agreement that helped stabilise Europe and end the Cold War.

When it expires August 02, the world will lose an invaluable brake on nuclear war. This will likely heighten, not reduce, the threat posed by ballistic missiles.

Regardless of what transpires, the parties should avoid destabilising developments and urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control.

I strongly encourage the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called 'New Start' agreement to provide stability and the time to negotiate future arms control measures.

I also call on all State Parties to work together at the 2020 Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to ensure the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) remains able to fulfil its fundamental goals - preventing nuclear war and facilitating the elimination of nuclear weapons.

In the context of non-proliferation, I also reiterate that any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent and impunity for their use is inexcusable. It is imperative to identify and hold accountable all those who have used chemical weapons.

The heating of the global political atmosphere complicates all our efforts to resolve troubling situations - from Libya to Syria, from Yemen to Palestine and beyond.

We will do everything to intensify our surge in diplomacy for peace.

We will never give up our efforts to secure peace, reduce human suffering and build a sustainable world for people and planet.

António Guterres is Secretary-General of the United Nations. This is the text of the  opening remarks he made at a press encounter at UN Headquarters, New York on August 01, 2019

—Inter Press Service

 

 

 

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