United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Madrid on the morning of Wednesday, 11 December 2019.
He first spoke at the twenty-fifth Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP25) High-Level Meeting on Caring for Climate, which was organized by the UN Global Compact. The Secretary-General called on businesses to “unite behind the science by taking rapid and ambitious action across their operations and value chains” to tackle the climate crisis. He also urged private sector leaders to challenge their Governments to enable businesses and the financial sector to invest decisively in a net-zero future. [See Press Release SG/SM/19906.]
Later that morning, the Secretary-General had one-on-one interviews with the Financial Times, Reuters and EFE Verde.
He had separate meetings with Yasmine Fouad, Minister for Environment of Egypt; Lord Ian Duncan, Minister of the United Kingdom for Climate Change at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Zhao Yingman, Vice‑Minister for Environment of China; Barbara Creecy, Minister for Environment, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa; Teodoro Ribera, Foreign Minister of Chile; and James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change of New Zealand.
He then spoke at the high-level event on Global Climate Action, where he called on the world’s biggest emitters to do much more on climate warning, and said that “if we do not reach carbon neutrality by 2050, all our current efforts to promote sustainable development will be undermined”.
The Secretary-General stressed that in 2020 “we must deliver what the scientific community has defined as a must, or we and every generation that follows will pay an unbearable price”.
He also laid out his 10 priorities to tackle the climate crisis, which include: securing commitments from the main emitters of more ambitious national commitments by 2020; ensuring that all Governments follow the example of the 75 countries that committed to coming forward in 2020 with net‑zero emissions strategies for 2050; and ensuring that national commitments include a just transition for people whose jobs and livelihoods are affected as we move from the grey to the green economy.
“I urge you all – in the days, weeks and months ahead – to stand firm, work together and refuse to relent in this fight for our lives,” he told participants at COP25. [See Press Release SG/SM/19907.]
The event included a video call with the International Space Station and a conversation among the Secretary-General; Pedro Duque, Minister for Science of Spain; and Italian Astronaut Luca Parmitano, from the European Space Agency.
In the evening, the Secretary-General met with Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al Saud, Minister for Energy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
On Thursday morning, the Secretary-General participated in a Facebook Live session with a young climate activist from Madagascar, Marie Christina Koto. He then had a bilateral meeting with Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director‑General of the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).
The Secretary-General spoke that morning at an event on “Climate Action for Jobs” hosted by Government of Spain. He stressed that “the path of climate action is about people’s jobs, health, education, opportunities and their future”, and added that Governments need to take that into account as they move from the grey economy to the green, the jobs and livelihoods of many people will be affected.
He emphasized that we must not repeat the mistakes of the past, when great transitions have left people, communities and entire nations falling by the wayside. “We must ensure the transition to a low-carbon future is fair and inclusive,” he said. [See Press Release SG/SM/19911.]
Later that morning he met with Ravi Prasad, Head of Delegation of India. He also met that day with Claire O’Neill of the United Kingdom, President-Designate for COP26 and Peter Hill, CEO of COP26. Following this meeting he met with Shinjiro Koizumi, Minister for Environment of Japan.
The Secretary-General also met with Frans Timmermans, First Vice‑President of the European Commission, followed by a meeting with Svenja Schulze, Minister for the Environment of Germany.
In the afternoon, he met with Dan Joergensen, Minister for Climate, Energy, and Utilities of Denmark. This was followed by a meeting with the Alliance of Small Island States, including Barbados, Belize, Cabo Verde, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Seychelles, Saint Lucia, Tonga and Vanuatu.
In the evening, the Secretary-General met with Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister for Climate Change and Environment of Canada. He also had a brief meet and greet with eight-year-old climate activist Licypriya Kangujam from India.
On Friday, the Secretary-General met with Yannick Glemarec, Executive Director of Green Climate Fund. This was followed by a meeting with James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change of New Zealand, and a phone call with Heiko Maas, Foreign Minister of Germany. He also met informally with various ministers throughout the day.
On Saturday, the Secretary-General gave an interview to RTP for a documentary about his life. He also attended a dinner in his honour hosted by Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary‑General of the World Tourism Organization.
On Sunday, 15 December 2019, the Secretary-General released a statement on the conclusion of COP25 saying he was disappointed by the results but reiterating his commitment to tackling climate change in every way before countries are set to revise their nationally determined contributions at the 2020 COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. [See Press Release SG/SM/19914.]
The Secretary-General departed for Geneva that afternoon.