17 January 2023, Abu Dhabi: Remarks by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell to the opening of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week on January 16, 2023
What a pleasure it is to be with you here in the UAE.
I want to talk to you today about unique opportunities.
Before I get into that, I must begin my remarks by giving a special mention to the UAE COP28 team. Our UNFCCC Team has been on the ground working with the incoming Presidency team. The drive and ambition I have seen thus far has been spectacular.
This will build on the courage of the COP27 Team which brought us to this point. I am personally excited to see how we work together to take strategy to delivery this year.
The UAE sits in the heart of a region dramatically impacted by climate change, one which cannot afford anything less than a total transformation of business as usual.
Repeating Dr Sultan’s words from his first speech as incoming COP President, “COP28 will transform systems and accelerate 2030 trajectories through game-changing partnerships, solutions and outcomes.”
We need everyone at the table to achieve this – Everyone!
Let me be frank – The only way we are going to get every sector, particularly those hard to abate, aligned with the Paris Agreement 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, is by having those with the expertise, engaged and supporting us to drive the change, with the in-depth knowledge and experience they have.
This is what will bring us to a renewable energy-powered resilient future.
The UAE has that expertise –this is a unique opportunity – I know our climate community will be eagerly watching.
Since 2015, we have known that COP28 was going to be a momentous one. The world’s first Global Stocktake is a moment of truth. It must tell us where we are, where we need to go, and how we’ll get there.
This is not just another synthesis report, this is a moment in history.
I want the history books to read: ‘2023 was the year the world stopped dithering and the paradigm shift happened’.
The Global Stock Take (GST) must be a tool which gives us a roadmap. One which can guide us sector by sector, region by region, actor by actor on what surgical interventions must take place to align ourselves with a resilient 1.5 degree Celsius world.
It must speak to where further action is required in a practical, useable way.
We are far enough from the COP that I can ask you to attempt a new challenge this year….
Before you put on negotiating hats, whether that be for a government, company or institution, spend some time being philosophical.
What does the World really need?
How can we present what it needs in a practical and useable form?
The GST won’t deliver simply because it’s a date on the calendar — a technical obligation — but because we choose to rise to the challenge of the great opportunity for accelerated action it offers.
My challenge to everyone in this room is to envision the most ambitious, political outcome we need to see for the GST. How can we use the GST as a global reset to course correct?
I don’t want to hear “what’s the bare minimum we need to do.” This is a unique opportunity.
COP28 will also bring home crucial work on several long-awaited deliverables as well – achieving a global goal on adaptation, hammering out the details of the loss and damage finance facility, driving towards a global goal on finance, accelerating both an energy and a just transition, closing the massive emissions gap and work in many other areas.
This will be no small feat.
As I said at the end of COP27, we in the Secretariat, as custodians of the process, will be looking into how we can do things differently.
Where we can, and where I promised, the UNFCCC Secretariat will be leaning in to support the parties, providing technical expertise and generating suggestions for discussion.
The COPs themselves are just one milestone in our annual calendar.
All actions between COPs must be strategically aligned to lay the groundwork now for what is needed this year and what 2030 necessitates: slashing emissions across the board, transforming all sectors towards a renewable and low-emissions future, and repurposing a global financial system that supports this transition.
Speaking directly to non-state actors and civil society – we need you engaged now more than ever.
We want a process fit for purpose that enables action and holds all actors to account.
The accountability of commitments will be a significant pilar of this. One which I will be setting a bar on – commitments are meaningless without a plan to deliver them.
Further to that, a plan without action is a waste of paper.
We need your engagement to drive the momentum from commitment to plan to action. This is a unique opportunity.
I look forward to working with all parties and stakeholders this year to land these paradigm shifts.
Let us use our unique opportunities well.
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