Skip to main content

UN Secretary-General's 'State of the Planet': It is time to flick the "green switch"

  • Published on December 4, 2020
Speaking at Colombia University, the UNSG António Guterres delivered the 'State of the Planet' urging a transformation of the world economy.

While delivering the 'State of the Planet' UNSG António Guterres offered concrete actions to be taken (UN, 2020): 

1) We need to achieve global carbon neutrality within the next three decades.

  • Every country, city, financial institution and company should adopt plans for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050.
  • Every individual must also do their part -- as consumers, as producers, as investors.
  • We must recognize the human costs of the energy shift. Social protection, temporary basic income, re-skilling and up-skilling can support workers and ease the changes caused by decarbonization.
  • We need to see enforceable regulatory and fiscal steps so that the industries can deliver on their commitments.

2) We have to align global finance behind the Paris Agreement, the world’s blueprint for climate action.

  • Governments to translate these pledges into policies, plans and targets with specific timelines. This will provide certainty and confidence for businesses and the financial sector to invest for net zero.
  • Put a price on carbon.
  • Phase out fossil fuel finance and end fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Stop building new coal power plants -- and halt coal power financing domestically and overseas.
  • Shift the tax burden from income to carbon, and from taxpayers to polluters.
  • Integrate the goal of carbon neutrality into all economic and fiscal policies and decisions. And to make climate-related financial risk disclosures mandatory.
  • Funding should flow to the green economy, resilience, adaptation and just transition programmes.
  • Align all public and private financial flows behind the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Multilateral, regional and national development institutions, and private banks, must all commit to align their lending to the global net zero objective.
  • Companies need to adjust their business models – and investors need to demand information from companies on the resilience of those models.

3) We must deliver a breakthrough on adaptation to protect the world – and especially the most vulnerable people and countries -- from climate impacts.

  • We have both a moral imperative and a clear economic case for supporting developing countries to adapt and build resilience to current and future climate impacts.
  • We need to move to large-scale, preventive and systematic adaptation support.
  • More and bigger effectively managed conservation areas, so that our assault on species and ecosystems can be halted.
  • Biodiversity-positive agriculture and fisheries, reducing our overexploitation and destruction of the natural world.
  • Phasing out negative subsidies -- the subsidies that destroy healthy soils, pollute our waterways and lead us to fish our oceans empty.
  • Shift from unsustainable and nature-negative extractive resource mining, and to broader sustainable consumption patterns.
  • Drastically reducing deforestation and systemically restoring forests and other ecosystems is the single largest nature- based opportunity for climate mitigation.

"This is a moment of truth for people and planet alike." - António Guterres (UNSG)

Read the full statement here


After the speech, the UNSG joined an exclusive, hour-long programme organized by BBC World News and BBC World Service radio hosted by presenter Lucy Hockings. Listen to the exclusive here. Also featured throughout the day on those outlets and were stories from those directly impacted by the climate emergency and outlined steps they are taking to make a difference.

More on this

You might also be Interested in