“The future of humanity is in your hands…”

Tara C. Trapani

Earlier this week, the UN held the Climate Ambition Summit at UN Headquarters in New York. A project of the Secretary General, his goal with this gathering was to “showcase 'first mover and doer' leaders from government, business, finance, local authorities, and civil society who came with credible actions, policies and plans – and not just pledges – to accelerate the decarbonization of the global economy and deliver climate justice in line with his Acceleration Agenda.” Speakers at this high-level event included presidents and prime ministers of many countries, US governors, and leaders of major activist organizations. 

Though there was no expressly religious content in the event, there was a strong focus on Delivering Climate Justice, one of the three main thematic areas covered in this event, which also included Credibility of Net Zero and Accelerating Decarbonization

Secretary General António Guterres of Portugal gave the opening address for the event–a powerful and direct call for nations to fully embrace the urgency of the situation and act now. We found this speech so moving and profoundly timely, we've provided the full text below, as well as the video of his address:

Excellencies, friends,
Our focus here is on climate solutions – and our task is urgent.
Humanity has opened the gates of hell.
Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects.
Distraught farmers watching crops carried away by floods;
Sweltering temperatures spawning disease;
And thousands fleeing in fear as historic fires rage.
Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge.
If nothing changes we are heading towards a 2.8 degree temperature rise – towards a dangerous and unstable world.

But the future is not fixed.
It is for leaders like you to write it.
We can still limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees. We can still build a world of clear air, green jobs, and affordable clean power for all.

The path forward is clear.
It has been forged by fighters and trailblazers – some of whom are with us today:
Activists refusing to be silenced;
Indigenous Peoples defending their lands from climate extremes;
Chief Executives transforming their business models and financiers funding a just transition;
Mayors moving towards to a zero-carbon future;
And governments working to stamp out fossil fuels and protect vulnerable communities.

But if we are to meet the 1.5 degree limit and protect ourselves from climate extremes, climate champions, particularly in the developing world, need solidarity;
They need support;
And they need global leaders to take action.  
Action to reduce emissions.

The move from fossil fuels to renewables is happening – but we are decades behind.
We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels.
The proposed Climate Solidarity Pact calls on major emitters – who have benefitted most from fossil fuels – to make extra efforts to cut emissions, and on wealthy countries to support emerging economies to do so.

And the Acceleration Agenda I proposed calls on governments to hit fast forward:
So that developed countries reach net zero as close as possible to 2040, and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050 according to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
It also urges countries to implement a fair, equitable and just energy transition, while providing affordable electricity to all:
By ensuring credible plans to exit coal by 2030 for OECD countries and 2040 for the rest of the world;
By ending fossil fuel subsidies – which the IMF estimates reached an incredible US $7 trillion in 2022;
And by setting ambitious renewable energy goals in line with the 1.5 degree limit.

The Acceleration Agenda also calls for climate justice.
Many of the poorest nations have every right to be angry.
Angry that they are suffering most from a climate crisis they did nothing to create.
Angry that promised finance has not materialized.
And angry that their borrowing costs are sky-high.
We need a transformation to rebuild trust.

Governments must push the global financial system towards supporting climate action.
That means putting a price on carbon, and overhauling the business models of Multilateral Development Banks so that they leverage far more private finance at reasonable cost to developing countries.
All parties must operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28.
Developed countries must meet the $100 billion commitment, replenish the Green Climate Fund, and double adaptation funding.
And everyone must be covered by an early warning system by 2027 – by implementing the Action Plan we launched last year.

At the same time, my Acceleration Agenda calls for business and financial institutions to embark on true net zero pathways.
Shady pledges have betrayed the public trust.
Shamefully, some companies have even tried to block the transition to net zero – using wealth and influence to delay, distract and deceive. 
Every company that truly means business must create just transition plans that credibly cut emissions and deliver climate justice, in line with the recommendations of my High-Level Expert Group.

Excellencies, friends,
The future of humanity is in your hands.
One Summit will not change the world.
But today can be a powerful moment to generate momentum, that we build on over the coming months. 
We can – and we must turn up the tempo.
Turn plans into action.
And turn the tide.

Thank you.