UN's Stiell sets up two-year climate race to save the planet

Simon Stiell urges rich countries to view bold plans as being in their interests before 2025 deadline

Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), speaks during a Chatham House in London.
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A deadline in late 2025 for countries to reveal how they will slash their carbon footprint gives politicians and campaigners “two years to save the world”, the UN's climate change chief said on Wednesday.

Simon Stiell urged ordinary people to “raise their voices” to pile pressure on governments to come up with ambitious plans.

Almost 200 countries who signed up to a series of green pledges at the Cop28 climate summit in the UAE last year have until Cop30 in Brazil to turn them into concrete plans.

The Brazil summit will take place in November 2025 and the new five-year plans are seen as a key chance to rein in emissions before it is too late.

Mr Stiell, the head of the UN's climate arm (UNFCCC), urged countries to see the plans as a “jobs jackpot and economic springboard”.

In a speech in London, he urged rich countries who account for most of the world's emissions to take the lead – or put their economic might at risk.

“We still have a chance to make greenhouse gas emissions tumble, with a new generation of national climate plans. But we need these stronger plans, now,” he told the Chatham House think tank.

He said the Dubai deal “showed us a pathway forward” after countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels and massively expand renewables.

The pledges from Cop28 set up a “three-year horizon” culminating in 2025, and the UAE is working with the incoming Azerbaijani Cop29 and Brazilian Cop30 presidencies.

Under the Paris Agreement, which sets the goal of capping global warming at 1.5°C, countries are expected to use the Cop28 deal as the guiding light for their next national plans.

Rich countries should act as they did during the 2000s economic crisis to find the “financial firepower” needed to make the transition happen, said Mr Stiell, a former climate minister in Grenada.

He also urged countries not to “sideline climate” despite other global crises which he said “cannot be an excuse for timidity”.

Many countries' budgets are strained because of economic strife and some rich countries have seen a voter backlash against the costs of green policies.

“It’s entirely in the interests of every G7 country to take much bolder climate action at home and abroad, including on climate finance,” said Mr Stiell.

“Serious progress on climate finance is a prerequisite for bold new national climate plans from developing countries, without which all economies, the G7’s included, will soon be in serious and permanent strife.

“We have just seen what supply chain disruptions flowing from Covid did to inflation, and to households and businesses. Well, you can bet your bottom dollar these disruptions and inflationary impacts will only get dramatically worse, without bolder climate action.”

Mr Stiell called for leadership from major lenders including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, soon to hold their spring meetings, as well as the G7 and G20 countries.

This year's Cop29 summit in Azerbaijan should bring about a “new deal” between richer and poorer countries to find the trillions of dollars involved, he said.

This should involve reform of development banks, debt relief for poorer countries and finding new sources of finance, he added.

The task of taking the necessary action in the next two years falls to “every person on this planet”, Mr Stiell said.

“The only surefire way to get climate up the cabinet agenda is if enough people raise their voices,” he said.

“My final message today is for ordinary people everywhere. Every voice matters. Yours have never been more important.

“If you want bolder climate action, now is the time to make your voices heard.”

Updated: April 10, 2024, 3:39 PM