Thursday, July 9, 2020
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Open Letter by the Executive Secretary on COVID-19

The world faces an unprecedented threat from COVID-19. It is a global crisis unlike any in recent history — one that is spreading human suffering, destabilizing the global economy and upending the lives of billions of people around the globe.

UN Climate Change staff stand in solidarity with all those affected by COVID-19.

The world will get through this crisis, but only if we act together in a spirit of solidarity, hope and resolve.

Climate Action Continues 

In unison with the UN family, while addressing the COVID-19 crisis, UN Climate Change continues its important work. Climate change and COVID-19 are not the same, but what is, is the concept of humanity working towards a common goal for the benefit of all people.

Our work in 2020 is not, in any form, on hold. The climate emergency has not taken time off for the coronavirus. Nor will it prevent extreme weather events and other climate related impacts, which are already causing casualties. We all are working remotely, groups are meeting virtually, and we are maximizing our efforts to ensure that we continue to support global efforts to address climate change and reduce emissions.

2020 remains critical for making progress on climate change. We are reminded that planet Earth registered its second-hottest year on record in 2019. This capped off a five-year period that ranks as the warmest span in recorded history. In 2019, hurricanes, wildfires and floods cost the world $150 billion. Losses for business and the economy—before Covid-19 hit—were already expected to increase because of a decade-long rise in natural catastrophes with direct links to climate change.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres says, now is not the time for retreat.

Instead, never has the need for climate ambition been more crucial, specifically raising ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance, including building on the work of the 2019 Climate Action Summit. While Covid-19 may have postponed COP26, it has not postponed the need for Parties to accelerate work towards fulfilling commitments they have already made. Nor does it postpone the requirement for nations to submit or revise their national climate action plans—known as NDCs—in 2020. The world’s window of opportunity to address climate change is closing soon: time is a luxury we simply do not have.

From Despair to Hope

In the midst of the pandemic, a window of hope and opportunity opens: an opportunity for nations to shape the economy of the 21st century in ways that are greener, cleaner, healthier and more resilient. In other words, a chance to recover better.

We urge governments, as they roll out their economic financial support, to make those plans as green and sustainable as possible.

Covid-19 has revealed the world’s vulnerabilities, many of which intersect with the climate crisis. At the same time, it has highlighted the importance of expertise and science, cooperation, information and transparency. And it has, in many cases, demonstrated that societies can, when necessary, pull together to address a global challenge with bold responses.

UN Climate Change will draw upon these lessons as we adjust to the new reality. And we stand ready to support countries in their climate change efforts, now and beyond COVID-19.

Read original letter here.

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