Remarks by H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly

New York,

October 26,  2021


Mr. Secretary-General,


Ladies and gentlemen,


Thank you for joining today’s High-Level Thematic Debate on Delivering Climate Action: For People, Planet and Prosperity.

I thank Ketsia and Emmanuel, and Ms. Masson-Delmotte for providing their candid and sobering assessments of the state of affairs.

I felt it was important – even in my Presidency of Hope – to open the meeting with blunt realities.

My hope, after all, is not rooted in blind optimism, or in diminishing the gravity of the situation. I am from the Maldives, a country whose very existence is threatened by rising sea-levels. Our people, and all islanders, are vividly aware of this threat.

My hope derives from an honest assessment of the challenges before us, and on an understanding that we have the combined capacity to confront those challenges, if we work together.

That is the same spirit that I wish to instill in the General Assembly.

Today, we aim to take stock of progress made since COP25 on the road to COP26, and to reflect on lessons learned in our efforts to scale-up and speed up action in areas and sectors that are lagging. It will spotlight some of the most impactful and innovative solutions that we can all support.



Despite the long way ahead of us, we do indeed have reason to be hopeful.

Renewables are now significantly undercutting fossil fuels as the world’s cheapest source of energy. Their availability and use is expanding at incredible rates. Cheaper renewables give countries a compelling reason to phase out coal while meeting growing energy demands, saving costs, and adding jobs.

Supportive clean energy policies around the world such as:

–        grants and rebates for rooftop solar,

–        regulations requiring increases in renewable energy as part of the energy mix; and

–        tax credits for electric vehicles, wind and solar have steadily helped improve and diffuse technologies while lowering costs.



We have not reached the goal of $100 billion per year in climate financing and as per the “Climate Finance Delivery Plan”, jointly produced by Germany and Canada and published by the UK COP26 Presidency yesterday, the developed nations are set to be three years late in meeting the pledge.

Any hope of meeting the pledge will only be possible beginning 2023.

However, today we will hear about plans to bridge the gap.

Our efforts must be aimed at not only going beyond the pledge, but also guaranteeing at least $1 trillion in support to developing countries by 2030.



Even if gaps and weak spots persist, you will agree with me that the overall scope of climate ambition and targets of Member States are rising dramatically.

Public support has reached a feverish pitch, with broad knock-on effects for climate action. And this support will only continue to rise.

My friends, I am hopeful that we can deliver this.

We have the science.

We have the capacity.

We have the resources.

Let’s work together.

I believe we CAN, and we SHOULD find the will to end the climate crisis.

Today’s event will not solve climate change, only action will.

Today’s event is about reminding people of what we are capable of if we act in concert, trust in science, and intelligently mobilize the many resources we have at our disposal.



As we begin our discussions this morning. Allow me to emphasize four key points:

First, while we cannot ignore the impact of COVID-19, climate change still remains our largest global threat, and should remain our highest priority. There is no denying that the pandemic ate up resources that could have been used for climate action.

But we have before us one of the largest and potentially the most transformational recoveries the world has ever undertaken.

Let us make sure that all recovery funds are climate-friendly funds; that all recovery stimulus, is green and blue.

Second, many of the most vulnerable countries – the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS – are struggling to meet their climate commitments, as they are simultaneously working to overcome the pandemic while being crucially held back by structural challenges.

Issues, such as debt servicing challenges must be rectified if we are to free up the capacities of countries in special situations. 

A further extension of the debt service suspension initiative by one more year would tremendously benefit the cause of the LDCs, LLDCs and the SIDS.

The upcoming G20 Summit will be a critical moment to set us on the right course. 

Third, we need a whole-of-society approach to tackling climate change, one that empowers young people, women, and all other stakeholders.

Colleagues, we have seen young people on TV, we have read the articles, we have heard them at events… and we have spoken to them directly, as I did on my recent trips.

They are not happy with us. They see us talking when we should be taking action on the ground. And they are not wrong.

We must ensure the youth have a seat at the negotiating table. We owe it to them, not just as the future inheritors of our planet, but perhaps as our best hope.

We also owe it to the world’s women and girls, who are both disproportionately impacted by climate change, as well as less represented on the frontlines of climate negotiation.

Women comprise less than 30% of climate and biodiversity researchers; and make up only 38% of national environmental delegations. At the ministerial level, only 12% of heads of environment are women. We must do better.


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

My final message is this: for 76-years the UN has stood as the face of international cooperation.

The kinds of challenges we now face, such as Covid-19, climate change, and biodiversity loss, are borderless and global in scope.

These challenges do not distinguish between the global north and south. They are colour and class blind. 

These are precisely the challenges that this institution was designed to confront.

Just as the world looked to the United Nations to avoid any future world wars, to reconcile differences, to recover from the ashes of that dark period, they look to us now to harmonize our relationship with the natural world.

I believe that working towards this goal will inspire a new generation of multilateralists.

I base this on the optimism and hope that I experienced when I attended the Rio Summit in 1992 as a young delegate.

Witnessing that large gathering of global leaders, pledging to take action to safeguard the planet, inspired my confidence. It strengthened my belief that the United Nations is a place where we can come together and work towards making a positive difference. 

Let us work to inspire that same optimism and hope in today’s youth. Let us restore their confidence that they can indeed look to the United Nations for signs that peace, progress, and prosperity can be achieved, for our blue planet and all life forms on it.   

And I thank you.

Throughout our disarmament efforts, it is my conviction that women and youth can make a meaningful contribution. Let us take special pains to ensure that women and youth, as well as civil society, are more actively engaged in this work going forward.

Abdulla Shahid

President of the UN General Assembly