UN Climate Change: Modest Progress, Urgent Challenges Ahead

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UN Climate Change: Modest Progress, Urgent Challenges Ahead
Climate change activist Vanessa Nakate

“We’ve taken modest steps forward here in Bonn,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell in his closing speech. “[But] too many items are still on the table . . . We’ve left ourselves with a very steep mountain to climb to achieve ambitious outcomes in Baku.” 

In his address at the closing plenary of the June UN Climate Meetings (SB60) on June 13, 2024, in Bonn, Germany, Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, reflected on the progress made and the formidable challenges that lie ahead on the road to COP29 in Baku.

Stiell’s remarks encapsulated both the achievements and the substantial unfinished business that climate negotiators must tackle urgently.

“We’ve taken modest steps forward here in Bonn,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell in his

closing

speech. “[But] too many items are still on the table . . . We’ve left ourselves with a very steep mountain to climb to achieve ambitious outcomes in Baku.”

Achievements and Progress

Stiell acknowledged that modest steps forward had been achieved during the Bonn meetings. Among the positives, " the streamlining of content for the New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance stands out. The aim is to finalize a clear, substantive draft decision before COP29. This goal is critical for ensuring that financial resources are adequately mobilized to support climate action globally," he emphasized.

Another significant advancement was the progress towards establishing forward-looking, effective, and scientifically sound adaptation indicators.

"These indicators are essential for assessing and enhancing resilience to climate impacts, especially for vulnerable communities," he said.

Stiell also noted strides made towards a better functioning international carbon market. While acknowledging that much work remains, this progress is vital for creating a transparent and efficient system that can drive significant emissions reductions.

In terms of transparency and planning, countries have been working together to support stronger Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

" Enhanced NDCs are crucial for accelerating climate action and achieving the goals set out in the Paris Agreement," he noted.

Challenges and Urgent Actions Needed

Despite these advancements, Stiell emphasized the considerable work that remains. Many critical issues were left unresolved in Bonn, necessitating swift and concerted efforts before COP29.

Stiell warned against the perils of procrastination, highlighting that delaying difficult decisions to the eleventh hour is a recipe for failure, particularly in areas like climate finance.

A key message from Stiell was the imperative to uphold the science and move quickly from general agreements to specific actions. He stressed the importance of bridging divides and addressing this year’s issues promptly to avoid exacerbating the costs of the climate crisis, which are already severe for both people and economies worldwide.

" I call for more progress on climate finance, both within and outside the UN process. I also point to the recent G7 meeting, and urge advanced economies to leverage their influence, particularly as shareholders in development banks, to drive more substantial climate action," Stielli tasked Global players.

However, he emphasized that all nations must contribute, especially within the UN framework, to maximize opportunities for progress.To achieve success in Baku, Stiell underscored the need to separate technical negotiations from political considerations and accelerate efforts across all levels.

Heads of delegations have been urged to intensify their work, presenting ministers and leaders with viable options well before COP29.

A Call to Action

Stiell’s address concluded with a call to all governments to strengthen their national climate plans. He urged for comprehensive NDCs that encompass all sectors and greenhouse gases, national adaptation plans that prioritize the protection of the most vulnerable, and biennial transparency reports to monitor global climate progress.

Central to all these efforts is the principle of social equity, including gender equality, which Stiell emphasized must be at the heart of climate action.

As the climate community prepares for the challenging road to Baku, Stiell’s words serve as both a recognition of the progress made and a stark reminder of the urgent and significant work still required. The fate of our climate future, he emphasized, lies in the collective hands of the global community.The secretariat, Stiell assured, will continue to support these efforts every step of the way. The journey is arduous, but the possibility of achieving ambitious outcomes remains within reach if all parties commit to the necessary actions.

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