Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time: a crosscutting, multidimensional threat multiplier. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report confirms that climate change is now rapid, intensifying, and widespread. The United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) first children’s climate risk index estimates that roughly one billion children – nearly half the world’s 2.2 billion children – live in countries extremely vulnerable to climate change’s impacts. Cumulatively, this signals a moment of reckoning for humanity.
We are in the race of our lives, with only days remaining until new climate talks begin under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26). We must secure consensus from all countries to keep the 1.5-degree Celsius (°C) goal within reach and we must also ensure adequate support is in place for all countries to respond to growing climate impacts, ultimately to maintain hope in our shared future on our blue planet.
It is heartening to see in this report that there is a recognition of the climate crisis. The majority of countries are doing their part. Multilateralism is working. The Paris Agreement’s ratchet mechanism is working – even though there is much more that we must do.
The COVID-19 pandemic has however overwhelmed States’ capacities, just when they were needed most to address our climate priorities. Without global solidarity and innovative solutions to tackle COVID-19’s impacts, all countries risk losing hard-won development gains, as well as losing the chance to develop the capacities needed to urgently act for our planet’s climate health.
While the UNFCCC is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change, the United Nations General Assembly has a critical role in creating a space to foster political consensus, raise awareness, give strategic direction to the United Nations system and forge multi-sectoral partnerships among the broader global community for the scale and breadth of ambition needed to secure humanity’s future.
Therefore, we find much that is useful in this report in terms of where we need to direct our energies. The report shows that one area where we can all improve is ensuring that just transition efforts are the centrepiece of climate action. We will not achieve the transformational change required unless we have the buy-in of the private sector and workers.
The report demonstrates that countries have made deliberate and concerted efforts to engage policymakers, the private sector and citizens through whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches. It is also pleasing to note the efforts being made to reach out to youth, who are rapidly becoming disaffected by our climate inaction.
The report makes clear – as we have always known – that finance remains a hurdle for climate ambition. But this barrier can be easily resolved if we recognise and treat climate change as the crisis that it is.
A loss of hope in climate action is at an all-time high globally, especially among youth. A sustained sense of despair, leading to public apathy and inaction, would not augur well for humanity’s future, especially at this turning point that will determine our future for the decades to come.
This report recognizes that there is broad commitment to the notion of planet, prosperity and people, but now we need the political will for a transformational climate action that will create the pathway for a cleaner, greener and bluer planet.
His Excellency Mr. Abdulla Shahid
President of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly