1 October 2020
High-level Roundtable Links Sustainable COVID-19 Recovery to Paris Agreement
Photo Credit: Casey Horner on Unsplash
story highlights

The roundtable encouraged countries to implement the Secretary-General’s six “climate-positive actions”: investing in jobs and green business; avoiding bailouts to polluting industries; ending fossil fuel subsidies; considering climate risks in all decisions; working together; and ensuring that no one is left behind.

Participants discussed climate ambition, needs and barriers, finance, plans to support implementation of the Paris Agreement, and adaptation and resilience.

A High-level Roundtable on Climate Action, convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, showcased high-impact climate solutions and targets by governments, the finance sector, and civil society. The event highlighted the benefits of sustainable COVID-19 recovery aligned with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The roundtable, which took place virtually on 24 September, encouraged countries to implement the Secretary-General’s six “climate-positive actions,” launched on Earth Day: investing in jobs and green business; avoiding bailouts to polluting industries; ending fossil fuel subsidies; considering climate risks in all decisions; working together; and ensuring that no one is left behind.

Guterres called for sustainable recovery plans, protecting the economy and society by acting in line with climate science, and prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable people and communities. He said all recovery packages need to accelerate decarbonization, and finance needs to shift to supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on behalf of the incoming presidency of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UNFCCC, highlighted the UK’s net zero by 2050 pledge. He outlined the steps his country is taking to “bounce back better and build back greener,” including through technologies such as wind power, hydrogen, electric vehicles, and carbon capture and storage (CCS). 

On climate ambition, President of Chile Sebastián Piñera emphasized Chile’s efforts to achieve net-zero emission economy by 2050 by phasing out coal, replacing fossil fuels in the transport system, and increasing forest protection. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen highlighted the Commission’s proposal to increase the EU’s mitigation target from 40% to at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2040.

On needs and barriers, President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou highlighted the Sahel Climate Commission’s USD 440 billion climate investment plan for the region, and called on developed countries to commit to financing adaptation. Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama said his country intends to make regular reporting on climate risks mandatory across all government ministries.

On finance, participants called for public-private partnerships (PPPs), redirecting capital flows towards sustainable investments, and climate risk disclosure, among other actions.

Among plans to support implementation of the Paris Agreement, participants highlighted:

  • Bhutan’s 60% forest cover target enshrined in its constitution;
  • Community-driven afforestation in India’s Bihar state;
  • 40 leading cement companies’ commitment to deliver carbon-neutral concrete by 2050; and
  • Net-zero by 2050 commitments by 21 countries, with another 100 states considering such commitments.

On adaptation and resilience, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina identified rehabilitation of climate refugees as a global responsibility. Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Alphonso Browne said the current global response to loss and damage is unsustainable. Climate Action Network (CAN) called for support for poor countries to address immediate recovery efforts, adaptation, loss and damage, and resilience.

In closing, Guterres presented three takeaways: NDCs must align with the science-based objectives of limiting global warming to 1.5°C and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050; governments should create enabling environments for all actors to have their own net-zero transition plans for 2050; and adaptation needs to receive finance as a matter of priority.

The roundtable sought to keep up momentum towards the Fifth Anniversary of the Paris Agreement on 12 December and the 2021 Glasgow Climate Change Conference. [IISD RS Coverage] [UN Climate Action Website


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