Addressing ministers at a virtual meeting on sustainable recovery from COVID-19 on Thursday, the UN chief said that the world is confronting two crises: COVID-19 and climate change.
“Let us tackle both and leave future generations with the hope that this moment is a true turning point for people and planet,” urged Mr. Guterres, in a video message.
The ministerial meeting, convened by the Government of Japan, saw the participation of senior officials from several countries, as well as representatives from youth groups, civil society organizations, businesses and local governments.
In parallel, an online portal that showcases climate and environment policies and actions in recovery from COVID-19 was launched. The Platform for Redesign 2020 will help build momentum for COP26, the UN conference that assesses progress in dealing with climate change, to be held in 2021.
Renewables cheaper and more efficient
The Secretary-General outlined six climate-positive actions to for a sustainable recovery, which include: investing in green jobs; not bailing out polluting industries; ending fossil fuel subsidies; accounting for climate risk in all financial and policy decisions; working together; and – most important – leaving no one behind.
There is simply no rational case for coal power in any investment plan – Secretary-General Guterres
Mr. Guterres spoke of governments and businesses shifting towards them, realizing that clean energy brings more jobs, cleaner air, better health and stronger economic growth.
“The world’s top investors – including some in Japan – are abandoning fossil fuels because renewables are cheaper and more efficient,” he continued, adding:
“They understand that it makes no economic sense to burn money on coal plants that will soon become stranded assets.”
The UN chief also called on all countries, especially G20 members, to commit to to carbon neutrally before 2050. He urged them to submit “more ambitious” nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and long-term strategies before COP26 aligned with the goal to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius.
World Bank/Jutta Benzenberg
Japan can be a world leader
Recognizing Japan’s technological development in many fields, the Secretary-General said the country can become a world leader on the sustainable and resilient recovery.
He called on Japan to stop investing in coal power plants and increase its share of renewables.
“I sincerely hope Japan will end external financing of coal power plants, commit to carbon neutrality before 2050, set an early phase-out transition for domestic coal use and significantly increase the share of renewable energy,” said Mr. Guterres.
A window of opportunity
Also speaking at the meeting, Patricia Espinosa, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary, said that the convergence of COVID-19 and the climate crisis has provided a window of opportunity, to not only recover from the pandemic but also to build a better future.
She called on governments to move away from new carbon intensive infrastructures. Doing so would help bring down emissions for decades to come.
“Preventing the spread of coronavirus has been the most effective approach to the pandemic, so preventing future emissions is the most effective approach to address climate change,” she said.
Highlighting the importance of a coordinated global effort, she urged everyone to “embrace the strength of multilateralism” to recover from COVID-19, make progress on climate change agenda, and build a more sustainable future.