Remarks by H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly
October 31, 2021
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to be candid, for you are my family:
We are facing an existential crisis
We have the capacities and resources to address this crisis,
But we are simply not doing enough.
We must be honest about this, with ourselves, with each other, and with the rest of the world.
We have had decades to argue the facts about climate change, about the power of renewables, about the fine details of monitoring or cost-sharing.
Yet, we have still failed to act with the conviction and determination required.
That may be a hard truth, but it is the truth.
Another truth: we are entirely capable of turning this around, if we so choose.
Since assuming the role of President of the UN General Assembly, I have heard more about climate change than any other subject.
I heard it from every single world leader and delegate at the High-Level Week.
I heard it on my travels from youth, from civil society, from local leaders, and from women’s groups.
I heard it last Tuesday, at the General Assembly meeting on climate change that I convened ahead of COP26.
While the intensity of their tones varied, their messages were one and the same:
- the urgency of keeping within the 1.5 degrees target;
- the need to support vulnerable populations;
- the irresponsibility of not capitalizing on technological innovations;
- and the importance of empowering women and youth.
I promised the Membership of the General Assembly that I would bring their messages here to Glasgow.
First, renewable technologies are now among the cheapest on the planet and command strong public support.
With the news that climate finance will not reach the promised goal of $100 billion annually until 2023, we must accelerate our efforts to ensure that all countries have access to the latest technological innovations.
Second, nearly $100 trillion dollars have been pledged to net-zero targets by the private sector, yet it is unclear how they will be utilized, prioritized, or measured. It is imperative that their contributions are as efficient and impactful as possible.
Third, we must maintain focus on adaptation, particularly for vulnerable countries. We must ensure there is an even, 50/50 split, in adaptation and mitigation financing.
Fourth, green jobs are the future, promising both economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. We owe to the world’s almost 1.8 billion youth to not only make the transition to blue and green economies – but to also invest in their skills and tap into their energies to make that transition viable.
Six years ago, in Paris, we celebrated an agreement that committed us to keeping global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees; we pledged to protect those most vulnerable; and we acknowledged that this was a planetary problem – that no country could go it alone.
Yet, since Paris:
- It has rained for the first time on Greenland’s summit.
- The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has reached record levels;
- Heatwaves have scorched countries around the world;
- Droughts, storms, forest fires and floods have all become more intense, more recurrent, and more commonplace;
- And sea levels are rising, threatening small island states and coastal communities alike.
We have the science.
We have the resources.
We agree on the urgency.
What then is holding us back?
My dear friends,
Only one variable remains… and it is us.
We have to make the choice to address climate change.
We have to choose the hard but necessary actions.
We have to listen to the science and, increasingly, our global population, who are demanding action.
My dear, dear friends. We have run out of excuses. It is time to do the right thing.
In the words of Frankie the dinosaur, who addressed the General Assembly, let us not choose EXTINCTION.
Let us work together as one global family and use the capacities and capabilities at hand to do what needs to be done.
Let us get this done.
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.