UN chief asks G20 to steer global economic recovery

In this file photo dated Sept 9, 2022, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (not pictured) at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad. (GHULAM RASOOL / AFP)

UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called on the Group of 20 (G20) to change course and steer a global economic recovery.

Guterres made this appeal in a letter to G20 finance ministers and central bank governors.

"Today, the G20 is at a crossroads: it can proceed with the status quo, or it can take a new course to steer a global economic recovery for all. I believe a new course is the right choice," the UN chief wrote.

Guterres said climate disasters are hurting countries and economies like never before. Ever-rising greenhouse gas emissions are supercharging extreme weather events across the planet

To this end, the UN system and partners have proposed a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Stimulus to address deteriorating market conditions and accelerate progress toward the SDGs. 

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The SDG Stimulus calls for a massive increase in public-sector commitments toward development, humanitarian and climate mitigation and adaptation by just 2 percent of global gross domestic product, he writes in the letter. "I call on the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors to reinforce an SDG stimulus to ensure that countries at all levels of development can respond to both immediate and long-term challenges."

Guterres noted that the SDG Stimulus consists of five recommendations: immediately enhance debt relief for vulnerable countries, leverage better the lending from multilateral development banks and public development banks to support the SDGs, involve private bondholders and sovereign debtors in debt relief efforts, structurally bolster liquidity support for vulnerable countries through an enhanced use of Special Drawing Rights, align financial flows with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.

"Now more than ever, the leadership of the G20 is needed to steer the world out of its deepest crises. I look forward to working with the G20 to develop a common strategy to advance the recommendations of the SDG Stimulus," Guterres wrote. The letter, dated Oct 12, was released on Thursday.

Climate disasters

Also on Thursday, Guterres said he will soon launch a plan for universal early-warning coverage for climate disasters.

In a video message for the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, Guterres said climate disasters are hurting countries and economies like never before. Ever-rising greenhouse gas emissions are supercharging extreme weather events across the planet.

Yet, the world is failing to invest in protecting the lives and livelihoods of those on the front line. Those who have done the least to cause the climate crisis are paying the highest price. Entire populations are being blindsided by cascading climate disasters without any means of prior alert, he said.

"People need adequate warning to prepare for extreme weather events. That is why I am calling for universal early-warning coverage in the next five years," he said.

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Guterres said early-warning systems and the ability to act on them are proven life-savers, noting that he will launch an action plan to provide early-warning systems for all within five years at the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt next month.

He urged governments, international financial institutions and civil society to support such systems.

"On this International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, I call on all countries to invest in early-warning systems and support those who lack capacity. Extreme weather events will happen. But they do not need to become deadly disasters," said Guterres.

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