We are the first generation that has the power to make both people and planet thrive

Posted August 13, 2021

Data collected through the Climate Promise shows that Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States are leading the way on climate ambition.

UNDP South Sudan

The new IPCC climate report is clear: we are moving dangerously closer to 1.5 degrees, and facing an inevitable, unprecedented and irreversible global climate crisis. It is a "code red for humanity", in the words of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres that can reverse any development gains achieved in the last decades and prevent us from making progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report is coming at a moment in time when momentum is growing. I am hopeful its stark truths will drive the action needed to reduce fossil fuel emissions – by governments, capital markets, investors, insurers, and customers. 

This is exactly what needs to happen.

The world is far off track from keeping global warming within the 1.5 degrees limit, a target that nearly 200 countries agreed to work towards as part of the Paris Agreement. Our current trajectory will lead to many more lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems lost, push up to 132 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, and hit those who are already poor and vulnerable the hardest.

We still, just, have time to change this trajectory before its worst consequences become irreversible. Significant, urgent, and decisive reductions in emissions would limit the impacts of climate change. We are the last generation who can get the world on track. We are also the first generation that can pioneer a new way for people and planet to thrive, together.

We need bold and ambitious climate pledges from every part of society and strong Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that are at the engine behind the Paris Agreement. UNDP supports 119 countries in this endeavor through its Climate Promise – the world’s largest offer of its kind, covering 80 percent of all developing countries. Countries are moving forward with more ambitious, more inclusive NDCs that tackle the root causes of climate change.

However, we need all countries to step up. The data collected through the Climate Promise shows that Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) continue to lead the way on ambition, while higher-emitting countries are falling short. This must change. Developed countries must meet their responsibilities while supporting the most vulnerable countries, who face the heaviest burden of climate change impacts.

The alarm bells have been ringing for a long time, but I believe that we have already left the starting blocks and are heading in the right direction. We now need to be relentless in how fast and how fairly change happens. It will be a race between the pace of our changing climate and the best of humanity's ability to mobilize more, move faster and dig deeper. Qualities I know we have. Qualities seen daily across the world, as people fight wildfires, heatwaves, devastating floods, conflict and inequality, and commit to build forward better from the COVID-19 pandemic.

With COP 26 just around the corner, now is the time to act at far greater scale to address our climate crisis, our transition to sustainable energy, and our commitment to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals propelled by rigorous science and led by common purpose of a thriving future for all. It is the time for bold, and far-reaching choices by everyone, most importantly by decision makers. Because the choices we make now will not only have an immediate impact of the lives of million but will also define the wellbeing of people and planet for generations to come.