Former UN climate chief calls on world leaders to uphold Paris commitments

Globally recognised climate change leader Christiana Figueres made a passionate plea before Cop26

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, January 16, 2013: 
Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks to a reporter on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in part of the World Future Energy Summit at the Abu Dhabi National Convention Center in Abu Dhabi. 
Silvia Razgova / The National
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Christiana Figueres, the UN’s former climate chief responsible for overseeing the Paris Agreement, on Thursday night called on global leaders to deliver on their commitments at the Cop26 summit.

"Precisely at this late hour, we must find the strength to stand up in the firm conviction that the challenge is as daunting as it is conquerable, and that we can sprint towards the light,” Ms Figueres said.

"We must decide to unleash the full potential of our human ingenuity.

"The progress we have made on climate change is impressive compared to where we were only five years ago, but it is still incremental compared to the scale and urgency of the challenge.

"We have to make two things happen this decade: we have to cut our global greenhouse gas emissions in half; and we have to protect all remaining ecosystems from further encroachment, actively repairing and regenerating those we have depleted.

"Because, let’s be really clear here, there is no ceiling of 1.5ºC with only emissions reductions."

She was referring to the Paris Agreement's target of keeping the global temperature rise to less than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, but preferably below 1.5ºC.

Also the co-founder of Global Optimism, Ms Figueres was giving the Worldwide Fund For Nature's State of the Planet address to 400 guests, including celebrities, politicians and youth ambassadors, days before Cop26 in Glasgow.

The WWF is urging the UK government and other world leaders to ensure that nature is at the heart of climate commitments at Cop26.

The charity is concerned that the climate crisis means species from puffins on UK coasts to penguins in the frozen wilderness of Antarctica, to monkeys deep in the Amazon jungle, are all in danger.

The WWF is asking people to get involved in Cop26 and make sure that leaders know they will not forget the promises that have been made.

It is encouraging people to join a march locally or in Glasgow, and to explore its promise tracker, which follows the pledges made by leaders.

The WWF is also asking for donations to its projects tackling climate change, and for people to download its free My Footprint app, which allows users to estimate their impact on the world.

From Friday and all weekend, a light projection by artist Jenny Holzer will illuminate Tate Modern’s chimney between 5.30-10pm with inspiring testimony from activists and leaders addressing the climate crisis.

Updated: October 28, 2021, 8:33 PM