Sustainable Development Goals
FROM THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL
Secretary-General’s Press Encounter at G20 Summit
Osaka, Japan, 28 June 2019
Secretary-General: Good morning, this G20 meeting takes place in a moment of high tension, high political tension. We have global warming, but we have also global political warming, and this can be seen in relation to trade and technology conflicts, it can be seen in relation to situations in several parts of the world, namely the Gulf.
And it is also a moment in which there are uncertainties about the global economy – uncertainties due to trade conflicts, but also uncertainties related to high levels of debt, to potential instability in financial markets, the risk of slowdown in global growth, and obviously, in a situation like this, even if I pay tribute to the very committed engagements of the Government of Japan and the Prime Minister of Japan for meaningful conclusions of this summit, it is clear that it will be very difficult to have a breakthrough in relation to some of the most difficult challenges that the international community is facing. But, of course, the UN is not part of the G20, we are not members of the G20, but I am grateful for this opportunity to address the leaders and to convey to them our concerns.
And I will today, essentially mention two: first, climate change, second, the implementation of the Agenda 2030. And in both, we are lagging behind.
Climate change is running faster than what we are. We are seeing heat waves in Europe, drought in Africa, storms happening also in Africa and the Caribbean, even the United States. We are seeing a multiplication of natural disasters that are becoming more intense, more dramatic, with worsening humanitarian consequences and more frequent. And we are seeing glaciers melting, corals bleaching, the Arctic with the lowest levels ever in relation to the parts covered by ice. We see the melting in Greenland and Antarctica, it’s extremely worrying.
And so all the analyses that can be made show the situation, in practical terms, is worse than what we could have forecasted and the political will has been failing. This is a paradox that needs to be addressed.
Now, I believe in science. I believe in what has been considered by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report, the most valid scientific position today, which is that we need to make sure that we do not reach more than 1.5 degrees Celsius of
global warming at the end of the century. And for that, we need to be carbon neutral in 2050 and we need to have a much more ambitious expression by governments and other actors of their commitments when the Nationally Determined Contributions will be reviewed in 2020. And that is reason why I’m convening a climate summit in New York in September, and that is the reason why I will be appealing to the leaders here in relation to a much stronger commitment of their countries for climate action, and there are many aspects of that that are absolutely essential on this: putting a price on carbon, ending subsidies to fossil fuels, not accepting the idea that we still have an acceleration of the construction of coal power plants, and many other aspects of that that are extremely relevant in order to make sure that we are able to abide by what the scientific community is telling us is absolutely essential to rescue the planet.
And then in relation to the Agenda 2013, it is clear that we are lagging behind. If we project the different Sustainable Development Goals, the evolution since the beginning until now to 2030, we will be more or less at midway of what the international community has determined when the Agenda 2030 was approved, which means that we need to accelerate, accelerate the mobilization of resources, natural resources, countries need to do more, mobilizing their own internal resources, improving their governance, reducing corruption, implementing the rule of law.
At the same time, we need to do more in mobilizing the private sector. Without the private sector, it would be impossible to achieve these Goals. And a lot needs to be done in order to raise awareness and to show the opportunities that exist and to create mechanism to reduce risks.
At the same time, we need to do more to enhance international solidarity, because indeed, we are lagging behind and we need to accelerate. And this will be again, one of the objectives of the summit that we will convene in September, together with the climate summit, both about the Sustainable Development Goals and about the aspects related to the high-level political forum of Member States, and about the financing for development.
And so an appeal, an appeal for a much stronger commitment of the members of the G20 that represent 80 per cent of the emissions in climate change and that represent a very important area of international financial and economic cooperation, and an appeal for a much stronger engagement for an enhanced commitment in order to be able to avoid the present situation in which climate change is running faster than what we are and we are lagging behind in the implementation of the Agenda 2030.
Question: This afternoon, the presidents of the United States and Russia are supposed to be here in Osaka, and I guess they will discuss non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament issues. Because of their confrontation, the INF treaty was suspended and the START treaty is also at risk. So what is your message to nuclear weapons states and your views on NPT review conference, which will be held in New York next year? And secondly, Japan is the only country to have come under nuclear attack in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so what would you expect from Japan to do?
Secretary-General: I was in Nagasaki, as you know, on the memorial day of the atomic bomb that fell in Nagasaki, and this is a matter of grave concern to me.
There was important progress during the Cold War in order to establish the mechanisms of disarmament and some mechanisms of control. And unfortunately, we are witnessing the possibility of those mechanisms being dismantled without anything to replace them. And this is, of course, a matter of great concern to me.
I do believe that nonproliferation is essential. A world in which is nuclear weapons, or others, chemical weapons, proliferate is a world that becomes much less safe. Nonproliferation is essential, but I see nonproliferation always linked to the disarmament agenda. So my appeal is for a solution of the problem of the NPT and for the start of negotiations about the renewal of the new START, and the new START is not only important in relation to the weapons themselves, but in relation to the mechanisms of control that were established and, if dismantled, would strongly increase global insecurity. So I do believe it is absolutely essential for that disarmament agenda, that nonproliferation agenda, to be taken seriously. And, of course, the role of the Russian Federation and the United States is essential, and I hope that it will be possible to have a breakthrough in relation to these in the months and the short period of years to come.
Question: Secretary-General, tensions between the US and Iran continue to rise. As you know, Iran is expected soon to breach its caps under the 2015 nuclear deal on the enrichment of uranium. What is your message to Iran and to the US? And even though Iran is not here, could this be a venue where you could make progress?
Secretary-General: First of all, I have always believed and will go on believing that the JCPOA is a very important instrument that was achieved and it was a factor of stability, and that it will be very important to preserve it. And so I made that appeal to everybody, including to Iran. Obviously, it is essential to de-escalate the situation in the Gulf. It is essential to avoid that a confrontation takes place in the Gulf. I think the world couldn’t afford this. It is a question that, I’m sure in my own context, of course, this will be on the table, but I have no news on the developments of the key protagonists or others, but it is a question that I’ve seen already, is now a major concern for the key players that are together here at the G20.
Question: Secretary-General, you were at one point the High Commissioner for Refugees. And we have seen that the subject is being brought up again because of the situation of the border between the United States and Mexico, and also because of what is happening in Venezuela. You have been closely following what happens in the region – lately, the images of the child dying with her in the river. How can a group like the G20 be able to address this type of issue that we have seen lately, where countries are taking decisions that might impact the lives of these people, people that at one point were under the United Nations Refugee Agency?
Secretary-General: I am not sure whether this will be or not discussed at the G20, but I know what is the answer to this situation. So the answer to the situation is to make full use of the Global Compact on Migration and to restore the integrity of the refugee protection treaty.
Question: We know that the digital economy has been included into the leaders’ topic, so what do think you think about the G20’s role in establishing a necessary global governance system about the digital economy? And what actions the UN will take to facilitate the healthy development of the digital economy?
Secretary-General: We have just had the conclusions of a high-level panel on the digital cooporation that I have appointed. It is clear that, first of all, we need to recognize that, with the digital economy and with artificial intelligence, there will be huge impact on the global economy. We will see a massive destruction of jobs and the massive creation of jobs, but the jobs will be different. So there must be, and the G20 can play a very important role on that, a strong commitment to guarantee that countries are able – through education, through lifelong learning, through new forms of social protection, through regional programs and job creation programs – to minimize the negative impacts of that change and to, at the same time, optimize the positive contributions of the fourth industrial revolution.
On the other hand, there are questions related to cybersecurity that need to be addressed. There are questions related to peace and security, namely, as you know, I’ve been very clearly in favor of a ban on autonomous weapons that would be able to kill them without human interference in their decisions.
So there are a lot of things that will have to be discussed in different fora, from the committees of the General Assembly at the United Nations, to the discussions among the different stakeholders, companies, governments, research centers, etc. So there is a lot to be done, but I believe that some of these aspects fit perfectly in the agenda of the G20.
Question: You haven’t mentioned President Trump by name, but many of the disagreements among the leaders here revolve around President Trump: Iran, trade, climate change. To what extent do you hold President Trump responsible for the disagreements among the leaders here at the G20?
Secretary-General: I think that it is very important that dialogue that is foreseen between the Presidents of China and the US – that is probably the most relevant bilateral meeting that will take place in the G20 – will lead to a success. And it’s important in relation to the other aspects – climate change and others – that the international community is able to stand together and to make sure that what was agreed in Paris and what was agreed in other fora moves forward independent of the political will of this or that statesman. Thank you very much.