Speech by Alok Sharma at UNGA climate resilience and adaptation event

The Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP

Thank you Andrew.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, of course, I’m absolutely delighted to introduce the work of our coalition, alongside my excellent co-lead, Her Excellency Minister Fouad.

I’m really grateful for the joint working Andrew, as you’ve set out – obviously on the UK side – but also particularly with our friends in Egypt and Minister, for your personal commitment to this – I think that has really helped to drive this agenda forward.

I would also like to extend my thanks to my esteemed colleagues from Bangladesh, from the Netherlands, from Malawi and of course, St Lucia for their contributions.

When talking about the climate it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the challenge we face:

  • With almost a million plant and animal species at risk of extinction.

  • And with floods, droughts and storms – each one pushing yet more people into poverty.

We must take this threat seriously.

In his remarks, Achim Steiner talked about referencing events in the Bahamas, well Hurricane Dorian is an incredibly sad and yet timely reminder of the urgency that we need in facing this particular threat.

First responders to Dorian described the scenes on the ground as ‘apocalyptic.’
Roofs ripped from buildings. Homes under water. Families left devastated by the loss of their loved ones.

And it’s not as if we haven’t been warned before about this.

30 years ago, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned about the “insidious danger” of man-made climate change.

We cannot afford to wait.

The UK is proudly leading the way:

  • We were the first major economy in the world to enshrine our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 into law, into legislation in the UK.

  • We are deeply honoured to have been nominated, in partnership with our friends in Italy, for the COP 26 presidency next year.

  • And of course we are delighted to be co-leading on adaptation and resilience at the Climate Action Summit.

My friend, Minister Fouad has already outlined the package that we plan to put forward. We are rallying the international community, our Call to Action has, as she’s already said, got over 100 signatories.

The United Kingdom is committing £236 million towards these efforts, and the package will have three priorities:

Firstly, it’s about protecting our natural environment.

Whilst feeding nine billion people, we need a rural transition towards sustainable land use to rise to the challenge, we will need the best experience from around the world to come together.

And while we do this, we need to support those on the front line.
Smallholder farmers across the developing world are among the most vulnerable.

We will support them by providing £61 million to develop crops that are drought, flood and disease resistant.

This will support 100 million farmers and lift 30 million people out of poverty.

Secondly, it’s about protecting the most vulnerable people in our society from natural disasters.

For every $100 invested in a humanitarian response, we only invest $4 in disaster risk reduction.

This has to change.

Tomorrow, we will launch a new Partnership that will make 1 billion people safer from extreme weather and natural disasters by 2025.

By bringing the latest technology together with humanitarian and climate finance, we can prepare for disasters before they strike.

The UK will invest £85 million towards this effort. But we’ll still need to respond to the effects of when disasters occur. So we will also invest £90 million to help people respond to emergencies after they have struck.

And finally, it’s about building the resilience of our economies.

As we have seen in the United Kingdom, economic growth does not need to come at the expense of our natural environment.

Developing countries need infrastructure to grow their way out of poverty. Infrastructure that is resilient in the face of a changing climate.

That is why we are working with key private sector partners to launch a Coalition for Climate Resilient Investments. To make infrastructure fit for the future.

In closing, I would just say that our commitment to vulnerable countries is clear. We will support through initiatives like the Least Developed Countries Vision for a Resilient Future, and the African Adaptation Initiative.

My Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced last month that the United Kingdom will double our contribution to the Green Climate Fund, which again underlines our commitment.

In closing, I would just add, that it is easy to talk about the scale of the threat. It is of course much, much harder to put these words into action.

But together, we can, and will, rise to the challenge.

Thank you.

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