24 Feb 2020 Speech Climate change

52nd session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Photo by IPCC

H.E. Ms. Elisabeth Borne, Minister of Ecological and Inclusive Transition

H.E. Mr José Cassandra, President of the Regional Government of Principe Autonomous Region – Principe Island

Dr. Hoesung Lee, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

Mr. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

Mr. Florin Vladu, Manager,  Adaptation Programme, UNFCCC Secretariat

Distinguished delegates, Bureau members of IPCC and experts

I am honoured to address you today at the 52nd session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because the IPCC has been, without a doubt, an incredible, positive scientific force in laying out the scale and consequences of climate change and what we must do to lessen the threat it poses to humanity and the planet.

Everybody involved in the work of the last few years should be proud of how influential this body has been. So, let me congratulate you all for last year’s marathon in getting out the two special reports, on climate change and land; and climate change, the ocean and cryosphere; and updating the methodology for greenhouse gas inventories. Your special reports have undoubtedly fueled societal climate change movements, notably among young people, and built momentum for the action we must take. I am also happy that the three Working Group Reports of the Sixth Assessment Report are on track.

This is all good news. Unfortunately, there is so much bad news on climate change. Only in the last few weeks, the WMO warned that 2020 will see higher than ever concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We heard that that January 2020 was the hottest on record. Preliminary measurements, still to be verified, said that the Antarctic had posted temperatures in excess of 20 degrees Celsius for the first time.

As things stand, we are heading for the hotter-than-1.5 degree Celsius world you warned us of, with all of the more intense climate impacts this will entail. UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report in 2019 told us that to stay on track for 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, we need to cut emissions 7.6 per cent every year between 2020 and 2030. The UN Climate Change Conference - COP 25, unfortunately, did not deliver the stronger pledges we need to get there. There remains a huge gap between ambition under the Paris Agreement and where the world needs to be in 2030. We need nations to deliver that increased ambition in Glasgow this year – a five-fold increase – and quickly begin shifting their economies to deliver on their commitments.

This reality means that we need the IPCC more than ever. We need you to stand firm, step up your efforts and inject further impetus for climate action. The world is now looking towards the Sixth Assessment Report, in particular its Synthesis Report, to help guide us.

To this end, I call on the Chair, the Vice and Co-Chairs, and all IPCC members to work together, with the support of the Secretariat, in solidarity, with governments to deliver a high quality and timely synthesis report, which can provide the scientific foundation for transformational global action to bend the curve on climate change. In this noble and critical mission, please be assured that we, at UNEP, take our role as co-sponsor along with our partner the World Meteorological Organization very seriously, and endeavour to provide you with the strongest support possible.

Another key point I would like to make is on the Super Year for Nature in 2020. As you know, this year we have many opportunities to set out a pathway to reversing the degradation of ecosystems and biodiversity, in so doing setting up a mutually supportive relationship with the climate.

In Kunming, China, the world will agree to the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which must set ambitious targets to halt and reverse the trend of biodiversity loss. In 2020, countries are also asked to submit their enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions which provides an opportunity to include nature-based solutions in their climate pledges. This could deliver up to one-third of the climate solution by 2030. The President of the General Assembly is also convening the first Nature Summit in September this year to build momentum for nature, and to ensure that we secure a strong and meaningful biodiversity framework.

These are just a few key moments, with much more going on.

From the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP's) perspective, this year is critical.

Conclusion of negotiations on Article 6 are vital for whether or not we achieve our collective climate goals. International carbon markets and a price on carbon are absolutely crucial if we are to have any chance of stabilizing global temperature rise and avoiding runaway climate change.

Nature is the foundation of human societies and economies. Virtually every problem we face, can be traced back to the breakdown of our relationship with nature. It is time to put the conservation and restoration of nature at the heart of our societies, and we are working hard to push this agenda.

One strand of our work in this regard is to collect the best science to support the Nature Summit and Convention for Biological Diversity-COP15. UNEP is developing a Synthesis Paper, based on global assessments. This includes the three IPCC reports and Fifth Assessment Report, reports from the Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and others. I would be most grateful if the IPCC can be a champion in developing this report.

I am also pleased to see an agenda item on joint activities  between IPCC and IPBES in your deliberations this week. I believe this will go a long way in improving our understanding of the inter-linkages between nature, biodiversity and climate change.

In conclusion, let me run through a few specifics on UNEP’s ongoing support to the IPCC.

  • I am proud and pleased to announce the appointment of the new Deputy Secretary Designate, Ms. Ermira Fida who will work closely with and support the Secretary to enhance management and provide quality services to the Panel.
  • We would be honoured if UNEP could host the next session of IPCC, IPCC-53 in Nairobi. If approved, our chief scientist will work closely with the Secretariat to make it another success.
  • We are increasing our contribution to the IPCC Trust Fund, starting this year.
  • We shall work together to consolidate the Global Assessment Dialogue (IPCC, IPBES, Global Environment Outlook, International Resource Panel and the Global Sustainable Development Report) as requested by the UN Environment Assembly - 4 through Resolution 23, to present a united front on science, to catalyse and scale up actions on climate change and biodiversity loss.

Let me just once again, thank the IPCC for your intellectual leadership and for the pivotal role you play in pushing global climate action forward. You have done so much, and can do such more. It is important to remember throughout this Plenary, that you shape the future of this vital body.

I wish you every success.

Thank you.


Inger Andersen

Executive Director, UN Environment Programme

(Prepared for delivery)