UN climate chief calls on UK to ‘seriously re-engineer’ emissions plans

Simon Stiell has set out the key actions needed ahead of the COP29 this winter, including climate strategy updates from the world’s wealthiest and fastest-growing economies that avoid “PR spin, rebranding or tinkering around the edges”.

UN climate chief calls on UK to ‘seriously re-engineer’ emissions plans


Stiell made the call to action in a major speech in Baju, Azerbaijan, this afternoon (2 February). The city will host the UN’s annual global climate summit, COP29, this November.

He said that “the time has passed for business-as-usual, in all aspects of the world’s climate fight”, before setting out a series of actions needed in the next two years to lay the foundations for the long-term transition to a net-zero, nature-positive global economy.

“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,” he stated.

Stiell described the effort needed ahead of COP29 and, indeed, COP20 in Brazil in 2025, as “Olympian”. He said that no nation could afford “victory laps” with so much delivery still ahead.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has notably argued in recent months that his Government could afford slower emissions cuts in some sectors in the near-term due to keeping well within previous carbon budget limits. This rhetoric has been rebuffed by the UN and by the UK Climate Change Committee already.

Finance focus

A top priority for national governments in 2024, Stiell said, is working collaboratively to transform global financial systems so an unprecedented amount of finance can be unlocked for emissions reductions, climate adaptation and broader sustainable development efforts.

“Without far more finance, 2023’s climate wins will quickly fizzle away into more empty promises,” Stiell said.

Work is already underway to reform the architecture of Multilateral Development Banks to this purpose. This must continue, and Governments should be prevented from “quietly pilfering” money from existing aid budgets – and from failing to disclose their climate finance provisions.

At the previous COP, COP28, which concluded in Dubai last December, nations failed to agree on a new Collective Qualified Goal beyond the $100bn initially pledged in 2009 and not delivered in full until 2023. This task now rolls over into COP29.

Stiell also emphasised the importance of unlocking private funding. With a funding gap of $2.4 trn each year on the delivery of globally agreed climate and nature goals, these sources of finance will be critical.

Painting a vision of the world in 2030 described as “neither utopian nor dystopian” but “pragmatic and achievable”, Stiell noted that the investment cycle in fossil fuels had been “broken”. Instead, nations will be making record investments in grid infrastructure, energy efficiency and low-carbon energy.

Governments subsidized the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $7trn – 7% of global GDP – in 2022 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Stiell spoke of a world in which the just transition to clean energy has “moved from concept to lived reality, for real people everywhere” this decade, ideally by the end of 2025.

Paris pledges

Another key focus for Stiell and his team will be encouraging governments to update their plans to deliver their fair share of emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement.

Updated versions of these Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) should be laid before the UN ahead of COP30 in Belem, Brazil, in late 2025.

Stiell said that every nation has a responsibility to ensure that these are “markedly different” than previous versions and are meaningfully aligned with 1.5C, covering every economic sector and every greenhouse gas.

Existing NDCs are believed to be aligned with a warming trajectory of 2.7C, far breaching the Paris Agreement.

Developed nations with a historic climate responsibility, plus emerging economies with expanding emissions footprints, have a particularly strong need to update their NDCs, said Stiell. He called on the likes of China, Russia, India, the UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the EU to “seriously re-engineer” their NDCs.

“These national climate plans aren’t just pieces of paper, they must be backed by robust policy instruments, costed out and translatable into shovel-ready investment opportunities,” he stated.

He also cautioned these nations against “PR spin, rebranding or tinkering around the edges”. This, he said, would not only leave a yawing emissions and adaptation gap, but would also dent these nations’ economies by “leaving them badly behind the innovation curve”.

COP29 will be a two-week summit. It is tabled to take place in Baku from 11 November 2024.

Comments (1)

  1. Yusef Abedi says:


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