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High-level Roundtable on Climate Action

24 September 2020 | Virtual

Highlights for Thursday, 24 September 2020

This roundtable was convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to provide a platform for highlighting high-impact solutions that government, finance sector, and civil society leaders are implementing, and targets they are setting. In particular, it aimed to underscore the multiple benefits of sustainable COVID-19 recoveries which are aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5°C by achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The event also sought to encourage implementation of 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.

The roundtable also sought to keep up momentum by highlighting the urgent need for countries to raise climate ambition by presenting ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and long-term climate strategies in 2020 or by the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP 26) in 2021.

“The world has a high fever and is burning up,” Guterres cautioned in his opening speech. He 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. Guterres also called on:

  • all countries to prepare NDCs and long-term strategies as early as possible and well before COP 26;
  • major emitters to present concrete policies to reach carbon neutrality by 2050; and
  • developed countries to deliver on the climate finance commitment of USD 100 billion per year by 2020.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on behalf of the incoming COP 26 presidency, outlined 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. He highlighted the UK’s net-zero by 2050 pledge and congratulated China on its recent carbon neutrality by 2060 pledge.

On climate ambition, President of Chile Sebastián Piñera drew attention to Chile’s net-zero emission economy target for 2050. He said policies to achieve it include a phaseout of 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. She said the EU is ready to engage in multilateral collaboration and form a high-ambition coalition with like-minded partners.

  • Ursula von der Leyen

On needs and barriers, President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou shared that the Sahel Climate Commission has a climate investment plan for the region totalling USD 440 billion and called on developed countries to commit to financing adaptation. Stressing the need to transition into a more climate-resilient financial sector, with regular reporting on climate risks, Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama said his country intends to make this mandatory across all government ministries. Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau said Canada has worked with the UN Secretary-General and Jamaica to lead an economic response to the pandemic in support of the 2030 Agenda.

On finance, Candido Botelho Bracher, Itaú-Unibanco, stressed the financial sector can and must go further to prevent deforestation in the Amazon, and called for public-private collaboration. Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte said finance must play a crucial role in decarbonizing energy systems and redirecting capital flows toward sustainable investments. Mark Carney, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, stressed that climate risk disclosure is needed from all companies and noted Fiji, Canada and the EU are moving to make these mandatory.

On plans to support implementation of the Paris Agreement, Prime Minister of Bhutan Lotay Tshering suggested his country embarked on an NDC decades ago, with a 60% forest cover target enshrined in the country’s constitution. Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar State, India, noted the population of his state comprises 2% of the world’s population and shared on his government’s support to community-driven afforestation, food forestry, and enhanced green cover. Dinah McLeod, Global Cement and Concrete Association, highlighted a commitment to deliver carbon-neutral concrete by 2050 by 40 leading companies from her sector. Brad Smith, Microsoft, shared his company’s commitment to carbon negativity by 2030 and removing from the environment all carbon the company has emitted since its establishment in 1975 by 2050. Kahori Miyake, Japan Climate Leaders’ Partnership, call for Japan to adopt a 50% renewable power mix by 2030 target. Laurence Tubiana, European Climate Foundation, said 21 countries have already committed to net-zero by 2050 and 100 more are considering this.

On adaptation and resilience, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina called for international collaboration, limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C, facilitating finance for vulnerable countries, and increasing ambition in NDCs. She stressed rehabilitation of climate refugees is a global responsibility. Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Alphonso Browne described the current global response system to loss and damage as unsustainable and called for full implementation of the Paris Agreement. Vladimir Kattsov, UNFCCC Adaptation Committee, called on governments to enhance scientific observation and research. Tasneem Essop, Climate Action Network, called on industrialized countries to support poor countries to address immediate recovery efforts, adaptation, loss and damage, and resilience.

Closing the event, Secretary-General Guterres thanked participants for a rich discussion. He outlined three conclusions and goals:
  • The common objective should be based on science, namely limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C and reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. For this, NDCs presented before COP 26 must be aligned with these objectives.
  • All actors need to have their own net-zero transition plans for 2050, and all policies and regulatory mechanisms should be put at the service of this objective. Governments should create the conditions for this, including through carbon pricing and mandatory climate risk disclosure, and remove obstacles, including fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Many people are already suffering. Adaptation must therefore be a priority and must receive financing. Adaptation should be given the same priority as mitigation.

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