In response to governments’ lack of action on climate change, UN climate chief Simon Stiell delivers his starkest warning yet.

Stiell acknowledges that his warning may seem “overly dramatic. Melodramatic, even”, but he is insistent that “the next two years are essential” if we have any hope to save our planet, and time is running out for governments and businesses to honour their commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement which set a global warming limit of 1.5C.

The Paris Agreement is an agreement to limit global warming to 1.5C. It is anticipated that surpassing this temperature limit will lead to devastating climate impacts.

In particular, Stiell aims his warning at the top 20 economic powerhouses who are collectively responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions. In terms of the poorer nations, Stiell’s attention is focussed on loss and damage and support to allow these countries to transition away from traditional fossil fuels.

What is the warning about?

Stiell argues there has been broad misinterpretation of the 2015 Paris Agreement and uses his speech to address precisely what the agreement is about.

He states that Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) will “barely cut emissions at all by 2030” and a new generation of national climate plans is needed to create genuine change. The reality is that G20 emissions account for 80 per cent of global emissions, meaning stronger G20 climate leadership and policy is integral to abating climate disaster and remaining within the limits outlined by the Paris Agreement.

Focussing on the individuals, Stiell states “bold new national climate plans will be a jobs jackpot and economic springboard” which will improve living standards. Harsher climates with extreme weather conditions impact farmers and communities negatively, and cutting fossil fuels and reducing pollution will have substantial health benefits for households.

In one of his bolder statements, Stiell declares that other global challenges, such as ending poverty, ending hunger, ending pandemics, and improving education, will not be possible unless we “get the climate crisis under control.”

Gearing up for COP

Stiell’s speech at Chatham House in London is an indicator as to what we can expect from the COP negotiations which will be hosted in Azerbaijan later this year, and Brazil in 2025.

Primarily, Stiell cites the need for a “quantum leap in climate finance this year” if some underdeveloped economies are to implement strong new climate plans, including investments into renewable energy technology. Additionally, these developing nations will need financing to deal with the adverse effects of climate change which primarily impact these parts of the world. This refers to the Loss and Damage fund which was agreed upon at last year’s COP negotiations. We can expect a stronger emphasis on the expectations of what developed countries should be contributing later this year.

With such a stark warning ahead of this year’s COP summit, governments can anticipate more ironclad policy and fierce negotiations.

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