Remarks by Angel Gurría,
24 September 2019 - New York, USA
(As prepared for delivery)
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, the international community made decisive commitments to transform development and address the global climate emergency. Today, we are brought together by the conviction that these brilliant examples of multilateral cooperation must pave the way to a more sustainable and prosperous future.
With a little over a decade to go, it is time for countries to increase the ambition of their nationally determined contributions and to urgently prepare long-term targets and strategies. The coming year will be critical both for the SDGs and for the world’s climate objectives.
Climate change concerns everyone
Our development co-operation efforts must ensure that no one is left behind in the fight against climate change. This means focusing on the needs of the least developed countries and the poorest and most vulnerable communities. They are the ones already feeling the worst effects of the climate crisis and will need sustained support over the coming decades.
Small Island Developing States are just one example of those already experiencing the effects of a changing climate. Those with low-lying terrain fear vanishing completely as sea levels rise, while adaptation for all small islands will be more and more necessary and difficult as temperatures continue to increase.
The risks from climate change are greatest for those who have contributed to it least. This applies across countries and within them. Middle-income countries face particular challenges to ensuring a just transition for their populations. Many rely on unsustainable high-emissions growth and are experiencing biodiversity loss that puts at risk the livelihoods of indigenous populations.
Commitments are leading to progress
To tackle these challenges, countries need to work together on an equal footing to contribute to the upkeep of the global public good that is the environment. Providers of development co-operation – both bilateral and multilateral – need to play their part in this global agenda and must respond to the evidence that a sound climate policy is a sound development policy.
Many of the institutions in the room today have been leading the global efforts to align development co-operation with the Paris Agreement’s objectives. We have seen a number of promising commitments that place climate action at the centre of sustainable development using climate mainstreaming and joint roadmaps.
For example, The French Development Agency (AFD) has committed to ensuring that 100% of its activities are compatible with the Paris Agreement. And the United Kingdom has committed to align the entirety of its Official Development Assistance (ODA) with these objectives.
Efforts must be redoubled to align development co-operation with climate action
Despite these efforts, however, challenges persist and the climate crisis is still not being properly addressed in developing countries’ strategies, nor in providers’ mandates, plans or actions. Development co-operation is still too often at risk of supporting unsustainable activities, undermining effective action on climate change.
Looking at recent trends in development finance, we can see that providers are still investing in fossil fuel-related activities. A conservative estimate places average commitments of official development finance for upstream and downstream fossil fuels at 3.9 billion US dollars annually for 2016 and 2017 alone. We are undoing with one hand what we build with the other.
In fact, climate-related finance is concentrated in a few sectors. Only 15% of the official development finance committed to banking and financial services from 2016 to 2017, was climate-related. This number was 5% for health, despite the effects that rising temperatures have on increasing rates of infectious diseases in many developing countries. Developing countries need to go beyond transforming energy systems and agriculture, and must encourage low-emission and climate-resilient private sector activities.
It’s black and white: aid must catalyse the transition to low-emissions, climate-resilient pathways in developing countries. This is the only way we will meet our environmental and social objectives and preserve our hard-fought development gains.
The OECD’s work on alignment with the Paris objectives
The OECD has been focusing its efforts on aligning development co-operation with the climate agenda. We will release a Report on this subject ahead of COP 25, which will build on the findings of other key OECD publications – including Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth and Financing Climate Futures.
The report specifically identifies priority actions for development co-operation providers to better align their strategies, programmes and operations with the Paris Agreement’s objectives.
For example, the report focuses on what “Paris Alignment” means for development co-operation, stressing that providers must stop activities that tie countries to outdated and risky high-emission growth strategies. Instead, they should focus on contributing positively to the transition.
This means taking action at multiple levels: First, at home (through donor countries’ domestic and international activities); Second, within developing countries; and Third, by collaborating with each other to improve the system of development co-operation.
I commend the governments and organisations that are already working to align their co-operation activities with the Paris Agreement’s goals and I urge you all to consider our key messages and recommendations to build on such mandates to support a truly sustainable development.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Countries cannot combat climate change in isolation. We must move beyond climate talk to climate action; and we must do so together, within the frameworks provided by international accords such as the Paris Agreement. Meeting the Paris objectives can only be the result of effective multilateralism and effective development co-operation.
I will now hand over to Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate, who will tell you more not just about what, but about how to align development co-operation with the Paris Agreement.
Jorge, the floor is yours.