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LIVE: UN Climate Change Roundtable - a 'just transition' through climate action is key says Guterres

Greta Thunberg (centre), joins a climate demonstration (file)
UN Photo/Manuel Elías
Greta Thunberg (centre), joins a climate demonstration (file)

LIVE: UN Climate Change Roundtable - a 'just transition' through climate action is key says Guterres

Climate and Environment

Live coverage of the High-Level UN Climate Change Roundtable, featuring UN chief António Guterres, designed to rally momentum for more ambitious action to limit global warming and ensure sustainable post-pandemic recovery plans. 



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Our common objective must be a just transition, UN chief

The UN Secretary-General was listening to the interventions of Heads of State, CEOs and experts, and he came back at the end of the Roundtable to share his thoughts.

The main takeaway for Mr. Guterres was that a common conclusion has been reached: the global climate increase must be limited to 1.5 degrees, and carbon neutrality reached by 2050, with a dramatic reduction in emissions by 2030.

Countries need to present updated climate action plans before COP26, in a year’s time, and all actors, from cities, to companies to NGOs, need to present their own transition plans.

Let’s make sure we abide by what science tells us to do

The fundamental task of governments and other public institutions, said Mr. Guterres, is to avoid putting up barriers to these plans. This is still happening today, he said, in the form of taxation, and fossil fuel subsidies that are actively hindering climate action.

A tax on carbon, declared the UN chief, is essential.

Recounting a discussion with a Prime Minister who feared losing elections if they taxed carbon, Mr. Guterres suggested taxing pollution rather than income, as a move that would save jobs, and might even win elections. 

Responding to another Prime Minister’s complaint that they couldn’t remove fossil fuel subsidies, because small businesses and citizens need cheap fuel, the UN chief told them to instead give the money directly to the poor.

Even if effective action is taken, climate change is already here, and is having a terrible impact on vulnerable people, warned Mr. Guterres. Financing must therefore be mobilized, not just for climate mitigation, but also for climate adaptation to support those who are suffering.

“Let’s make sure we abide by what science tells us to do”, he concluded. “a 1.5 degree limit, carbon neutrality by 2050, and a just transition”.


The theme of the last section was “protecting people and planet to ensure a sustainable and just recovery”. Two Heads of State spoke on the subject: Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and Gaston Alphonso Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. 

The UN official involved was Vladimir Kattsov, who is a member of the World Meteorological Organization’s Scientific Advisory Panel and the UN Climate (UNFCCC) Adaptation Committee.

Mr. Kattsov declared that science is a powerful tool in climate adaptation. He took his own country, Russia, as an example: a huge country with vast differences in climate. Without regular monitoring, effective climate adaptation is not possible.

The UN official said that cost of making erroneous decisions is high, and that governments must therefore invest in research and intellectual capital, and ensure that there is strong dialogue between scientists and politicians.


Several UN agencies have been underlining the devastating impacts of climate change during the Roundtable.

UN Peacekeeping has listed global risks, and the links between climate and security issues, whilst the refugee agency UNHCR, tweeted a reminder of the effect that climate change has on the movement of people.

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The section of the event devoted to COVID-19 recovery packages has just wrapped up. The speakers, a mix of business and government leaders, were Lotay Tshering, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar State, India, Dinah McLeod, CEO of the Global Cement and Concrete Association, the head of Microsoft, Brad Smith, Kahori Miyake, Co-Chair of the Japan Climate Leaders' Partnership, and Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and formerly a French politician, who played a key role in the 2015 Paris climate talks.


The entire financial sector needs to adapt

The world leaders involved in the climate finance section of the roundtable have all had their say, including commitments to ramping up ambition. 

The last speaker was Mark Carney, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, and formerly the Governor of the Bank of England.

Mr. Carney declared that, to achieve the Paris climate goals, the whole economy needs to transition, including the financial sector, and every financial sector must take climate into account.

Disclosure, he continued, is essential, adding that it is unacceptable for companies not to disclose the impact of their decisions on the climate. The EU is making this mandatory, and banks are moving in the right direction.

This shift, declared Mr. Carney, will have a huge impact on companies’ plans.

The Special Envoy described the financial sector as being at a tipping point, and told world leaders that the climate actions they take over the next year, will allow the private sector to adjust in a way that will help us to achieve our climate goals.


Sophia Kianni is an 18-year-old climate and environmental activist from the United States

Youth climate activist Sophia Kianni is watching today’s event. She has been reacting to Mr. Guterres's speech.

"The Secretary-General is absolutely right in stressing that we need sustainable COVID-19 recovery plans that tackle climate change.

On the topic of us “prioritizing the most vulnerable people and communities,” it is especially crucial to include and prioritize indigenous people in climate change negotiations, as they have been protecting the earth for generations but their voices have been neglected or ignored in high-level discussions.

We must acknowledge and address the links between racial justice and climate justice as we work to devise a fair and just transition - Sophia Kianni

Additionally, we must acknowledge and address the links between racial justice and climate justice as we work to devise a fair and just transition away from fossil fuels that addresses structural inequities.

Young people are deeply concerned about climate change, as our generation will have to reckon with the disastrous implications of global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius. Millions of young people have turned out to strike for climate action, and it is crucial for us to have a seat at the table when discussing issues such as climate change that will have such a large impact on our futures. We have captured the world’s attention and now it’s time for governments to listen to our demands.

With the United States general election getting closer each day, it has been scary to imagine another 4 years without decisive climate action, especially after watching forest fires exacerbated by warmer temperatures ravage through California.

The new climate crisis countdown clock erected in New York City displays that there are only 7 years left until Earth’s current carbon budget is depleted. I am dismayed by the lack of climate action being taken by world leaders; as we bounce back from COVID-19, it will be crucial to include climate action in recovery efforts".


The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson addresses a virtual meeting on climate action hosted by the UN.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed Mr. Guterres. The UK will be hosting the next UN Climate summit, COP26, which has been delayed until November 2021. 

After going through some of the ways in which the UK is attempting to meet its climate commitments, Mr. Johnson expressed his desire to work with all world leaders to make COP26 a success, and looked ahead to the virtual event due to be co-hosted by the UN and UK on 12 December, the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The next part of the event focuses on climate finance, featuring Mark Carney, Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Sebastián Piñera Echenique, the country originally slated to host this year’s climate COP. They’ll be discussing ways to boost climate finance


‘the world has a high fever and is burning up’

In his opening statement, Secretary-General António Guterres told the Roundtable, that “the world has a high fever and is burning up”. 

Noting that climate disruption is “daily news”, he painted a picture of the past decade being the hottest on record, rising greenhouse gases and devastating wildfires, combined with record floods that are upending people and the planet.

“The recent United in Science report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is unequivocal”, he told the meeting. “We must urgently reverse course”. 

Against this backdrop, he urged everyone “to act on three urgent priorities”, beginning with sustainable COVID-19 recovery plans that tackle climate change.

In recovering from the pandemic, UN chief stressed the need for everyone to work together to end fossil-fuel subsides, put a price on carbon and consider climate risks in all financial and policy decisions. 

“And most important, leave no one behind”, he said.

The UN chief outlined specific action which needs to start immediately, including COVID-19 recovery packages that also decarbonize the global economy, and policies consistent with the key goal of limiting emissions to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Transitioning to renewable energy…will yield three times as many jobs as fossil fuels”, he said, noting, “the possibilities of a sustainable blue economy are still untapped”.

Secondly, the UN chief told the meeting that science must guide them in protecting economies and societies – zeroing in on a 45 per cent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2030. 

He described the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement in December, as “an important moment to continue raising climate ambition”.

Finally, the Secretary-General stressed that all solutions must prioritize the most vulnerable nations and communities through just transition policies, international cooperation and solidarity.

On the current path, “the scale of suffering around the world due to climate disruption will be beyond all our imaginations”, he said, urging everyone to commit “now” to sweeping climate action.



The event is about to begin! A reminder that you can watch the whole thing live here, thanks to our colleagues at UN Web TV

Climate Action Card
United Nations
Climate Action Card


The UN has been canvassing the views of young people on the future of the organization, and committing to taking their views into account.

In this powerful video, young people recount powerful stories of the devastating impact that climate change is having on their lives.

It includes climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose impassioned speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit made headlines around the world.



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And here's why it's all so important, in case you needed a reminder...


Who’s appearing on screen this morning?

Apart from Mr. Guterres and Mr. Johnson, a host of other leaders are expected to join via video conference. They include Mark Carney, Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Sebastián Piñera Echenique, the country originally slated to host this year’s climate COP. They’ll be discussing ways to boost climate finance. 

This will be followed by a roundtable on aligning COVID-19 recovery packages and business plans with the 1.5C and carbon neutrality goals. The leaders will include the head of Microsoft, Brad Smith, Laurence Tubiana, former French politician and now CEO of the European Climate Foundation, and  Lotay Tshering, the Prime Minister of Bhutan.

The last discussion will be on climate adaptation and resilience, which will involve the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, Vladimir Kattsov from the UN Climate (UNFCCC) adaptation committee, and Tasneem Essop, Executive Director of Climate Action Network. 

The whole event is expected to wrap up at about 13:00 New York time.



UN Secretary-General António Guterres (r) with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (file)

Good morning from New York, where the UN is hosting (online, of course, given the ongoing pandemic) a High-level Climate Change Roundtable, at 11:30 Eastern Time, featuring several world leaders, including Mr. Guterres, which is designed to showcase the vast benefits or recovering from the pandemic in a sustainable way, that helps to limit global warming to 1.5C or lower.

Mr. Guterres will kick things off, and he’s expected to outline the dangers of not acting faster, but also going through some of the positive actions undertaken since last year’s Climate Action Summit, which famously involved young climate activist Greta Thunberg delivering a fiery, angry speech, telling world leaders “you have failed us”.

UK Prime Minister will also deliver opening remarks, and he’s likely to give more detail of the 12 December event on climate that he is co-hosting with the UN. This event is being dubbed “the sprint to Glasgow”, in recognition of the fact the annual UN COP climate conference, due to be held in the Scottish city, has been postponed until November 2021.

We have more on the December event here.