COP27 Opening Remarks by the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary

Honourable guests,

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to welcome you officially to COP27.


I must thank my predecessor Patricia Espinosa. We are all grateful, for the valuable work you did, over the last six years.

Thank you to the outgoing COP President, Alok Sharma, and his able team, for their leadership over the last three years.

And I’d like to officially congratulate the Egyptian Presidency and Minister Shoukry for his election.

Thank you for your tireless efforts as we work to make COP27 a success.

Friends, today a new era begins – and we begin to do things differently.

Paris gave us the agreement.

Katowice and Glasgow gave us the plan.

Sharm El-Sheikh shifts us to implementation.

No one can be a mere passenger on this journey.

This is the signal that times have changed.

As Executive Secretary of the UN climate convention, it is an honour to be standing in a room of people dedicated to tackling humanity’s greatest challenge. 

Every one of you brings a unique perspective.

I come from Grenada – a state of three islands with Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Carriacou is my home, where my family live on a 13 square mile island, with a population of 7,000 people.

Our history is of seafarers, fishers, boat builders, farmers – surviving on their wits and the strength of their communities – working closely together. 

My roots lie in a life full of beauty and adversity.

As a teenager, I became involved in the global issues of the day – the proliferation of nuclear weapons – and the anti-apartheid movement.

I joined demonstrations and protests.

I was often told ‘one person cannot make a difference’.

Well, Nelson Mandela said, ‘It always seems impossible, until it is done.’

I hold that thought close to me.

It always seems impossible, until it is done.

So, this is why I say today, a new era begins and we begin to do things differently.

We will be holding people to account – be they Presidents, Prime Ministers or CEOs, an Accountability-Chief,  if you may.

Because our policies, our businesses, our infrastructure, our actions, be they personal or public,  must be aligned with the Paris Agreement and with the Convention.

The heart of implementation is: Everybody,

Everywhere in the world,

Every single day,

Doing Everything they possibly can to address the climate crisis.

There are those that are going Forward, Further and Faster than everyone else. These are examples to be followed.

There are those who just need to be nudged into taking further action, to go beyond business-as-usual.

There are others who need support so they’re able to do everything they possibly can for their countries and communities. Specifically, highly vulnerable nations.

And then there are those who still refuse to act unless others do.  They will not be allowed to slow down our collective response.

Let’s not let positioning block progress. All of us have to do everything we are capable of doing.

And we have that opportunity over the next two weeks.

Our COP process is unique.

We must create a safe political space, shielded from whatever is going on “out there”, to do our jobs and deliver world change.

The geopolitical situation – the pandemic, the food and energy crises have hit countries, economies and most importantly, individuals hard.

But let me take this moment to humbly remind all those engaged in this process, of a simple fact.

For decades, communities all over the world, very often the most vulnerable people, have been dealing with a continuous stream of crises – facing impact after impact of climate change.

This has stripped generations of their lives and livelihoods.

So here in Sharm El-Sheikh, we have a duty to speed up our international efforts to turn words into actions – to catch up with their lived experience.

This is a party-driven process.

Over the course of my term, I will be mobilizing the process and Secretariat to boost parties’ drive.

This is my promise to you.

I want you to focus on three critical lines of action.

This is what I want you to deliver on:

First, we must demonstrate this transformational shift to implementation. Putting negotiations into concrete actions.

Every corner of human activity must align with our Paris commitment of pursuing efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

Let’s be encouraged by the strides that certain sectors are making on this.

And let’s look closer at how the global financial architecture can be made fit for purpose in line with the Paris commitments.

The second line of action. We must cement progress on these critical workstreams – mitigation, adaptation, finance and crucially – loss and damage.

We need to enable enhanced finance to flow to addressing impacts. What is said in these negotiating rooms has to reflect of the urgency outside. There are areas of commonality which we can lean into and build bridges upon.

At this COP session, some processes will find themselves at a midway point, others will be initiated – and there are some that will have to be revisited.

Finally, our third line of action: we must enhance the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout our process.

The environmental integrity and the reliability of the commitments made, are paramount.

I welcome detailed plans on how we deliver what we have promised across finance, adaptation and mitigation.

I found myself in my Accountability-Chief role, last week, when we launched the NDC synthesis report and I had to report that only 24 countries had come forward with tightened national plans since COP26.

24 is not 194.

So here I am now, looking out at 170 countries that are due to be revisiting and strengthening their national pledges this year.

I want to take a moment now to recognize the Glasgow Climate Pact.

We made this Agreement together only last year.

I am not in the habit of rescinding my word.

I firmly expect all parties to act the same way.

Stick to your commitments. Build on them here in Egypt.

I will not be a custodian of back-sliding.

As the world pivots to implementation, women and girls have to be placed at the center of climate decision-making and action. Their empowerment leads to better governance and better outcomes.

This formal process is led by Parties, by nation-states. But it is permanently inspired, challenged and pressed into action by civil society organizations, who not only advocate, but act on the strength of their convictions. I intend to listen very closely to their voices, particularly those of youth, making sure they can be clearly heard and felt.

Our COP process has delivered a remarkable transition in the consciousness of humanity, in the timeline of human development.

Our minds have moved from researching – to understanding – and then to agreeing on a plan.

To paraphrase the wonderful, Nobel prize-winning, Egyptian writer, Naguib Mah-fooz:

‘You can tell whether a person is clever by their answers. You can tell whether a person is wise by their questions.’

We have demonstrated the very best in human wisdom, by asking the right questions.

Now we know what must be done… by everybody, everywhere, every single day, doing everything we possibly can.

Let’s get to work.

I thank you.


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