UN Deputy Secretary-General’s remarks at Closing of One Planet Summit

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By UN Deputy Secretary-General

Your Excellency Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya, Your Excellency Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, Your Excellency Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, Interim President of the World Bank, Excellencies, distinguished guests and partners, ladies and gentlemen,    I thank Presidents Macron and Kenyatta for bringing us here today.   2018 was a record-breaking year for all the wrong reasons.   It was the fourth warmest year on record.   Not a single region of the world was spared the effects of climate disruption– from Super Typhoons in the Philippines and South China to extreme drought in Argentina and Capetown, South Africa.   To avert further disruption, according to the IPCC, we need a rapid global transformation to reduce emissions by 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050.   Friends and colleagues, we can achieve these climate targets. The One Planet Summit is a vital part of global efforts to step up climate action and hold ourselves accountable. It is part of the path towards 2020 –when emissions must peak and begin to decline.   It is fitting that the first regional convening of the One Planet Summit takes place in Africa, whose nations are among the least responsible for climate change, yet face some of the worst consequences.   And it is in Africa where we will see the greatest population and infrastructure growth in the world between now and 2050, increasing pressure on earth’s resources if not well planned.   This population explosion is daunting, but we must see it as an opportunity. Earlier this morning, I was pleased to hear about new business models for renewable energy in Africa. By 2030, renewable energy could cover almost a quarter of Africa’s energy needs.   I urge you to harness that potential.

I was also inspired by the discussions on solutions to strengthen the resilience of African ecosystems. Your solutions are clearly urgently needed to protect the world’s rich flora and fauna.   Building on this morning’s discussions and as an input for this afternoon’s panels, I would now like to outline four key opportunities for climate action and for a transformed development pathway in Africa, and elsewhere around the world:   One, we need to invest in green, sustainable infrastructure and finance.    Significant political will to accelerate the transition to sustainable infrastructure and finance is evident in Africa.    In Benin, female farmers increased incomes by 80 per cent using solar-powered micro-irrigation, using 40 to 80 per cent less water while doubling their yields.   Here in Nairobi, the government is catalyzing investment in non-motorized transport.   These actions are not only smart for the environment. They make economic sense.   It is estimated that climate action will yield economic gains of US $26 trillion by 2030 compared with business-as-usual.    Two, as leaders we must respond to the needs and hopes of the younger generation.    The future is for and about young people. In Africa, close to 50 per cent of the population is below the age of 18.   We must see climate action as an opportunity to deliver jobs, opportunities, and economic security for this large and dynamic generation.   We must think ahead about the skills that today’s young people will need to thrive. Many of these jobs can and should be in renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure.   This brings me to my next key point:   Three, we must leverage the digital revolution for good – for climate action.   5G technology and AI can help to build smarter agricultural systems, energy efficient buildings, more connected energy grids and give us real time information to better respond to climate-induced natural disasters.   Real-time information about weather patterns increases crop productivity, improving both food yields and economic security.   The opportunities that these new technologies will create for climate action are immense.   But they do come with potential risks.   5G is projected to use twice as much energy as we consume for today’s digital networks.  This is concerning for a world that needs to lower emissions – not grow them.   Governments must ask digital and internet companies to power their new infrastructure and data centers with clean energy and cool the centers with waste water.   The new technology reality will require us to plan ahead – and invest differently.   My fourth and last point today about climate action is to call for investment and innovation to harness our oft-forgotten defence against climate change – nature.    Nature could provide up to one third of the emissions reductions we need between now and 2030 to keep global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees.   But today, nature-based solutions such as reforestation and improved agricultural practices comprise only 3% of public funding.   Africa is a leader in restoring degraded ecosystems.   27 African countries have already pledged to restore 100 million hectares of degraded landscapes, an area the size of Egypt.   It is essential that we support this pledge with finance and capacity, so that Africa and the world can reap the benefits of restoration.   Ladies and Gentlemen,   By deploying new forms of green financing, developing the skills of young people, harnessing new technologies, and developing nature-based solutions, Africa can be a model for a new form of low-emission, climate resilient infrastructure and development.   The clock is ticking.   We all need to take a great leap in our ambitions. This is why the Secretary-General has invited Heads of State to the Climate Action Summit on the 23rd of September at UN Headquarters.   The Secretary-General is calling on all leaders to come to New York with concrete plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020. I count on African leaders to show such leadership.     I also ask for your help to engage and partner with the largest economies in the world – G20 leaders in particular – to ensure that their NDC’s and long-term strategies are as ambitious as we need.   I look to the leaders of this dynamic continent to ensure that their countries are at the forefront of the global drive towards the future we all want.   Thank you.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations – Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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