UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on world leaders to change course and end a “senseless and suicidal war against nature” at the opening of the UN Environment meeting Stockholm+50.
“We know what to do. And, increasingly, we have the tools to do it. But we still lack leadership and cooperation. So today, I appeal to leaders in all sectors: Lead us out of this mess,” Mr. Guterres said.
The two-day meeting, 2 and 3 June 2022 kicked-off this morning under the theme “Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity.” Six thousand people have registered to attend in person, including 10 heads of state or government and 110 ministers from 146 participating Member States.
Hot air is killing us
“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement show the way,” Mr. Guterres said in his opening remarks. “But we must act on these commitments. Otherwise, they are nothing but hot air. And hot air is killing us.”
The Secretary-General pointed out that later this year, leaders will finalize a new global biodiversity framework to reverse nature loss by 2030. Work is ongoing to establish a treaty to tackle plastics pollution. In addition, the United Nations Ocean Conference could galvanize efforts to save the seas.
“But there is one thing that threatens all our progress. The climate crisis. Unless we act now, we will not have a livable planet. Excellencies, friends, scientists recently reported that there is a 50:50 chance that we could temporarily breach the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next five years. We cannot let that happen,” Mr. Guterres said.
Stockholm+50 will commemorate the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and celebrate 50 years of global environmental action. By recognizing the importance of multilateralism in tackling the Earth’s triple planetary crisis – climate, nature, and pollution – the event aims to act as a springboard to accelerate the implementation of the UN Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, including the 2030 Agenda, Paris Agreement on climate change, the post-2020 global Biodiversity Framework, and encourage the adoption of green post-COVID-19 recovery plans.
In his remarks Guterres said that past successes, such as the rescuing of the ozone layer, should inspire the world, as we go forward. However, if global consumption were at the level of the world’s richest countries, we would need more than three Earths.
“We face a triple planetary crisis. A climate emergency that is killing and displacing ever more people each year. Ecosystem degradation that is escalating the loss of biodiversity and compromising the wellbeing of more than 3 billion people. And a growing tide of pollution and waste that is costing some 9 million lives a year.”
The Secretary-General estimates that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 45 per cent by 2030 to reach net-zero by 2050. Developed nations must at least double support to developing countries so they can adapt and build resilience to the climate disruption that is already happening. Mr. Guterres called on G20 governments to dismantle coal infrastructure, with a full phase-out by 2030 for OECD countries and 2040 for all others.
“Today, I urge countries to embrace the human right to a clean, healthy environment for all people, everywhere,” the Secretary-General concluded. “Throughout history, humanity has shown that we are capable of great things. But only when we work together. If we want to survive and thrive, let us protect and nurture our planet, our only home. Let us recommit – in words and deeds – to the spirit of responsibility enshrined in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration. There is Only One Earth.”