UN climate chief says ‘torrents not trickles’ of finance are needed to meet goals

Simon Stiell says it will take an ‘Olympian effort’ to get the world back on track

Europe has been suffering major droughts as a result of climate change. AP
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The UN's most senior climate official has said “torrents not trickles” of finance are needed if the world is to achieve its Cop goals.

In a keynote speech in Baku, Azerbaijan, which will host the Cop29 UN Climate Conference in November, Simon Stiell said it will take an “Olympian effort” over the next two years to get the world back on track with its climate-change promises.

Mr Stiell, head of the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change, said finance will be crucial and he envisages that more than $2.4 trillion will be needed so the commitments made at Cop28 in Dubai can be met.

The talks in Dubai ended with a compromise agreement that the world should “transition away from fossil fuels”.

Alongside deals on expanding low-carbon energy, the pledges of Cop28 are set to keep hopes alive of curbing global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

To build on the success of Dubai, Mr Stiell said the Olympic motto “faster, higher, stronger” should be Cop's motto.

“I stand before you at 1.1 degrees of warming, coming out of the hottest year on record by a huge margin,” he said.

“It will take an Olympian effort over the next two years to put us on track to where we need to be in 2030 and 2050.

“In fact, the action we take in the next two years will shape how much climate-driven destruction we can avoid over the next two decades, and far beyond. The Olympic motto “faster, higher, stronger” should be our shared climate mantra.

“We must spend the year working collectively to evolve our global financial system so it’s fit for purpose, with a clear plan to meaningfully execute the climate transition.

“Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that to achieve this transition, we need money, and lots of it – $2.4 trillion, if not more.

“Whether on slashing emissions or building climate-resilience, it’s already blazingly obvious that finance is the make-or-break factor in the world’s climate fight – in quantity, quality, and innovation.

“In fact, without far more finance, 2023’s climate wins will quickly fizzle away into more empty promises.

“We need torrents – not trickles – of climate finance.”

He said the New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance must be agreed so nations can be confident that they will be able to rapidly access sufficient concessional support.

“Climate finance must not be quietly pilfered from aid budgets. And it must be designed to be leveraged, driving and protecting development gains, whilst delivering concrete implementation of climate action,” he said.

“2024 is the year multilateral development banks must demonstrate – with concrete actions – their centrality in the world’s climate fight, and their determination to deliver impact at scale.

“They should take bold steps towards financial innovation that will double, if not triple, their collective financial capacity by 2030 – particularly with respect to grants and concessional finance.”

Mr Stiell added: “It is my earnest hope that by 2050, this organisation will be rendered redundant, in a net-zero, climate-resilient global economy, consigned to a place in the history books: a chapter about how humanity saved itself and its only home.

“To citizens around the world, I say directly, we need you. Your voices – demanding bolder climate actions now – need to be heard clearly by your representatives.

“At UN Climate Change, we will not rest in pushing for the highest ambition – in accordance with the science – working side by side with all governments, businesses and community leaders.”

Azerbaijan will take over the Cop presidency from the UAE in November, when thousands of government officials, delegates and ministers will meet for the 12-day summit.

In his speech which traced backwards from a vision of success in 2050 to the actions of the next two years, Mr Stiell said the changes over the coming decades would be "comparable in scope to the industrial revolution" or the growth of the digital economy.

It comes as the world is currently far off track in delivering on its cornerstone climate deal, agreed in Paris in 2015.

Under the Paris Agreement, world leaders pledged to keep the rise in Earth's average temperature to "well below" 2.0 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level and preferably the much safer threshold of 1.5C.

Updated: February 02, 2024, 3:20 PM