Press Releases

    For information only - not an official document

    UNIS/INF/525
    20 June 2017

    As Prepared for delivery

    United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed:

    Remarks at R20 Austrian World Summit

    Vienna, 20 June 2017

    (delivered by Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment)

    VIENNA, 20 June (UN Information Service) - I am very pleased to be with you today to participate in the first annual R20 Austrian World Summit.

    As we know well, this Summit comes at a time of unprecedented urgency for action on climate change.

    2016 was the hottest year on record and the ten hottest years ever recorded have all occurred since 1998.

    The frequency and severity of storms are at a global peak.

    And, studies just released by WHO and UNICEF reveal that air pollution is at unprecedented levels, contributing to the deaths of some 600,000 children aged under five every year.

    All predictions show that it is the poorest who will be hardest hit by the devastating impacts of climate change.

    Even though they contribute least to the problem, they will carry the heaviest burden.

    These threats to human life and the planet are growing with every day we delay in substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Climate action is the keystone in the architecture of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

    This is our global blueprint for peace, prosperity dignity and opportunity for all people on a healthy planet.

    Climate action has its own Sustainable Development Goal, but is a thread that runs through all.

    Without it, this complex tapestry will unravel.

    Governments recognized this in the 2030 Agenda, and in coming together around Paris Agreement.

    That is why we must adhere to and expand the commitments of the Paris Agreement and make sure climate action informs all our decision making as we pursue the 2030 Agenda.

    Climate change has the real potential to reverse hard-earned development gains and impede advances.

    Low-lying countries and coastal cities are threatened by sea level rise.

    Floods and wildfires will become more common and more damaging.

    And droughts will become more widespread and frequent, threatening food security.

    We could see waves of forced migration at levels never seen before.

    All this has the potential to undermine and exceed the coping capacities of governments, communities and households in all regions.

    The very security of humankind is at stake.

    As the Secretary-General emphasized just a few weeks ago, there is only one option: climate action.

    Fortunately, today, we have a growing coalition of leaders from government, business and civil society that have the vision to see what is ahead and the courage to address it, even in the face of vested interests who refuse to see the way the wind is blowing.

    And innovations are arriving on a daily basis that promise to provide solutions.

    This Summit represents a new opportunity to champion climate action among influential leaders and throughout all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

    The climate challenge requires all hands on deck.

    To meet the goal of limiting temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees requires a significant bending of global emissions curve.

    With existing emission reduction commitments we could still see temperatures rise beyond three degrees.

    National governments cannot do what's needed alone.

    And isolated solutions alone from one country, city, province or company will not move the thermostat.

    We need bold action by all countries, cities, states and provinces, businesses and concerned citizens everywhere.

    Today, you can breathe new energy into climate action.

    I see four priority areas where can do so.

    First, measure your efforts and make those figures public.

    We need to measure commitments to hold one another accountable and to push for greater ambition.

    I encourage you to join existing platforms to do this - such as the Compact of States and Regions and the Under2MOU Coalition. 

    Second, transform the grid.

    As we know, sustainable energy is the key to reducing emissions and promoting equitable inclusive development.

    We must all work towards transforming the energy on which the world relies.

    It is in states, provinces and regions where decisions on energy grids and building energy efficiency are made.

    I ask this Summit to showcase the leaders that will change the grid.

    Begin a new global coalition committed to sustainable building codes and renewable energy targets. 

    Third, decentralize financing.

    We must develop new ways to secure financing for state and regional climate action, and we need businesses to help.

    As climate leaders across the government and business arena, you can help communities, cities and provinces to obtain financing for low-emission and resilient infrastructure and develop insurance markets to protect against climate-related impacts and natural disasters.

    Climate financing must reach the local levels and those most vulnerable to climate impacts.

    Through this Summit and the actions that happen when you return home, I ask you to start new vehicles for local-level climate and sustainability financing.

    Help your city to develop a green bond; connect with R20's project preparation facility and, if you are a company, decarbonize your portfolios and make climate action and SDG action central to your business model.

    Fourth, focus on the furthest behind first.

    We cannot tackle climate change without tackling poverty reduction.

    This means keeping the interests of the most vulnerable firmly in mind as we cultivate climate solutions.

    City leaders need to prepare vulnerability assessments and resilience plans for the hardest to reach dwellers.

    Businesses need to make their products, including new finance sources and insurance solutions, accessible to all.

    And governments and businesses at all levels must ensure that the air people breathe is clean, the water safe, and sanitation systems protected from climate-induced disasters.

    I am optimistic that raising the bar on climate action is possible.

    To increase ambition, the Secretary General has announced a climate summit in 2019 after the first review of Paris Agreement implementation.

    The Summit will focus on implementation of the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030.

    It will aim at securing visible progress in emissions reduction, strengthening resilience, an energy transition for fair globalization, the greening of investments in infrastructure and transport, and progress on carbon pricing. 

    Today represents a new opportunity for taking concrete steps toward these ends -- steps that will make possible the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals. 

    I applaud R20 and Governor Schwarzenegger for their leadership. 

    And I look forward to working with you as you promote the bold, concrete solutions that will build a future of peace, prosperity and dignity for all.

    Thank you.

    * *** *