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22 February 2024

We didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era, but this outcome is the beginning of the end": UN Climate Change Executive Secretary at COP28 Closing

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By E247

The following is a transcript of a speech delivered by UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell at the closing of COP28 in Dubai on 13 December 2023.

Excellencies,

Delegates,

Colleagues,

Friends,

I want to start by thanking the United Arab Emirates for hosting us and for all they have sought to achieve.

We needed this COP to send crystal clear signals on several fronts.

We needed a global green light signalling it is all systems go on renewables, climate justice, and resilience.

On this front, COP28 delivered some genuine strides forward.

Tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency. A framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation.

Operationalizing the loss and damage fund and making an initial down payment.

At every stage, climate action must stride forward side-by-side with human development, dignity and opportunity.

There will be reams of analysis of all the initiatives announced here in Dubai. They are a climate-action lifeline, not a finish line.

Now all governments and businesses need to turn these pledges into real-economy outcomes, without delay.

COP28 also needed to signal a hard stop to humanity’s core climate problem – fossil fuels and their planet-burning pollution.

Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end.

These climate conferences are of course a consensus-based process, meaning all Parties must agree on every word, every comma, every full stop.

This is not easy. It’s not easy at all. Indeed, it underscores just how much these UN conferences have achieved in recent decades.

Without them we would be headed for close to 5 degrees of warming. An open-and-shut death sentence for our species.

We are currently headed for just under 3 degrees. It still equates to mass human suffering, which is why COP28 needed to move the needle further.

The global stocktake showed us clearly that progress is not fast enough, but undeniably it is gathering pace.

I firmly believe that this is because the political and economic logic is increasingly insurmountable: Human lives in huge numbers are being lost in every country, while fossil fuels hit household budgets and national budgets alike.

Whilst there are vast benefits of bolder climate action.

More security, stability and protection for eight billion people.

More jobs, greater economic growth, less pollution and better health.

More empowerment of women as powerful agents of change.

More harnessing of nature and its best custodians.

Which brings me to what comes next. This is very clear.

We must get on with the job of putting the Paris Agreement to full work.

In early 2025, countries must deliver new Nationally Determined Contributions.

Every single commitment – on finance, adaptation, and mitigation – must bring us in line with a 1.5-degree world.

Countries must prepare and submit their first-ever biennial transparency reports by the end of next year.

At UN Climate Change, we will keep working to improve the process and help Parties go further, faster and fairer.

I want to pay tribute to all my colleagues at UN Climate Change for their unfailing professionalism and commitment.

Colleagues, I thank you for doing everything possible to keep us on the straight-and-narrow, and always with one eye on our planet, quite literally around the clock.

Delegates,

You deserve all the support you need to have all information, facts and facilities, in good working order.

So allow me to also flag that UN Climate Change is now creaking under the weight of mandated processes and workstreams.

Through the first global stocktake, many Parties called for various works programmes, bodies, processes and stakeholders to immediately step up their support, in response to the GST outcome, helping enable more ambition and implementation of NDCs.

Our budget is currently less than half funded, and so I ask you to address this, otherwise it will be impossible to fulfil Parties’ core requirements and expanded demands going forward.

My final message is to ordinary people everywhere raising their voices for change.

Every one of you is making a real difference. In the crucial coming years, your voices and determination will be more important than ever – so I urge you never to relent.

Delegates, friends,

We are still in this race.

We will be with you every single step of the way.

I thank you.

Shukran.