UNDP Climate Summit Flagship Event: Global NDC Outlook Launch & Climate Promise Event

Opening Remarks at UNDP Flagship Climate Promise Event

September 18, 2019

As prepared for delivery

Madam Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed,


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start by congratulating all those who brought this event together today. They had no money to spend, just great ambition and ideas they wanted to share with the world.

It is a pleasure to welcome you all as we prepare for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, focused on the defining issue of our generation – possibly of all generations.

For most of the world leaders slated to attend, the journey here will not be unusual. It will follow September’s well-trodden, annual path to the General Assembly. Nor is it unusual for decision-makers to gather in this iconic building to tackle intractable problems. The United Nations is no stranger to adversity.

But this Climate Action Summit is a little different.

It asks politicians, business leaders, financiers, and activists young and old not just to imagine a different future, but to explain how they are building it – and quickly; because effective climate action is all about time.
The emergency of global warming is like a runaway train. Carbon-intensive lifestyles are in the driving seat, racing towards a cliff and dragging the rest behind.

Either we decouple from that way of life now, wave goodbye to our carbon dependence, and build a future to be proud of, or we go over the edge.

Let us be clear: none of us intend to go over the edge.

This Summit, therefore, is a chance for all sectors of society to table what they will do, at a time when humanity does not have the luxury of a poor imagination.

As the Deputy Secretary-General has just conveyed, three elements will be key to climate success: ambition, acceleration and mobilization, and they will shape our support as the UN Development Programme in the important years ahead.


First, ambition – this is the challenge of our generation. It is not something that can be projected onto ‘someone else’. It is about how each one of us takes responsibility.

While we hope to hear more commitments in the coming days, a clear picture is now emerging of whether countries are ambitious enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Working together, UNDP and UN Climate Change (UNFCCC), we are trying to help countries answer the question: is the Paris Agreement working?

This new report, The Heat Is On: Taking Stock of Global Climate Ambition, developed in partnership by UNDP and UN Climate Change, offers the most detailed analysis to date.

So what does the evidence tell us? It tells us that in a very short period of time, people are taking the Paris Agreement very seriously.

According to the report, nearly half of the world -- 75 nations representing 37 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) – are deeply committed to doing the right thing right now. That means they are planning to take more climate action than they have already promised.

This includes those countries most vulnerable to and least responsible for rising temperatures.

This is perhaps not surprising, but it says something very powerful: that this is not theory, this is about survival.

Only 14 countries indicated they have no plans to revise their NDCs, but I am hopeful that they may yet change their minds.

And then there are those in the middle: 71 countries are still deliberating – including many of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters. I hope they draw inspiration to act from the examples of leadership emerging across the globe.

The Marshall Islands, for example, plans to generate more electricity from local, sustainable sources -- wind, biofuels from coconut oil, and solar panels floating on lagoons – to shift away from importing diesel. At the same time, it is set to increase coastal defenses and revise building codes to ensure new buildings are elevated.

Morocco, with one of the world’s biggest solar power plants on the northern edge of the Sahara Desert is connecting wind farms to the grid to cut dependence on fossil fuels. It is also taking steps to adapt to a warming climate, slowing desertification by planting orchards of Argan trees, whose oil is in high demand from the cosmetics and food industries.

Chile, the host of the 25th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP25) this year, recently announced plans to close eight coal-fired power plants in the next five years, and their intention to shut down all remaining coal-fired power plants by 2040 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 -- meaning that as they grow, Chile’s forests will soak up as much CO2 as is emitted by human activities.

The next question then, is how can more countries and sectors be encouraged to follow suit?


Here, UNDP is proud to launch our “Climate Promise” to ensure that as many countries as possible revise and submit enhanced NDCs by 2020.

It is one thing to press countries to raise their ambition, but we need to also consider how they will do that.

Over the next 12 to 15 months, in line with the UN System Joint Approach on NDCs, UNDP commits to support 100 countries to accelerate the enhancement of national climate pledges by 2020, building on our climate action portfolio and existing support to NDCs in over 140 countries.

The challenge of financing this work is something that comes up in every conversation on climate change. Therefore, UNDP will commit US $25 million to support this effort.

We promise to walk by countries’ side as they take their climate responsibilities seriously.

This promise will be implemented in close coordination with key partners, including the NDC Partnership as part of the Climate Action Enhancement Package, the Government of Germany, and the European Union. As part of our role in advancing an integrated approach to development, we will focus on helping countries to align climate plans with the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.

As an institution, UNDP is also taking responsibility for its carbon footprint. We have set a target to aggressively reduce emissions by 50 per cent by the year 2030 as well as greening our business practices, because we cannot expect of others what we are not prepared to do ourselves. Let me be clear, we have no idea yet how we are going to do it, but we are committed to deliver on the promise.


The third critical pillar is mobilization. As part of our ambition to become a ‘Digital UNDP’, we decided to explore a new partnership with the gaming community. UNDP is developing new ways to mobilize all people to inform climate action, reaching out through technology to engage new audiences at scale, such that every person becomes a “player”, in the true sense of the word, in building our climate future. We will give you a taste of what’s to come today but stay tuned for upcoming announcements on ‘Mission 1.5’ this Fall.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These three pillars of ambition, acceleration and mobilization will guide us as we support progress towards the Paris Agreement - the blueprint for a zero-carbon future.

As I hand over to my colleagues to go through the Report and our climate promise in more detail, permit me to reiterate this call: this is not a time for fear. It not a time for just talking – important though talking is to reach agreement. It is a time for action.

In the days ahead, at the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, I hope that everyone shows how we can put human ingenuity to the test to create a new way of life, and to protect our home.