Former UNFCCC Chief Tells COP26 President “You’ve Won The Lottery”

**Full recording of the event is available on the Climate Week NYC media portal**

Monday, September 21 2020, New York City – During a discussion at Climate Week NYC today, Christiana Figueres, Former Executive-Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) told Alok Sharma, COP26 President and UK Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), that he’d “won the lottery” as he will preside over the Paris Agreement’s first global stocktake.

The two leading climate figures, who were part of the session Conquering the Climate Decade: Have the events of 2020 shifted what governments and businesses can get done?, joined other global leaders gathering for Climate Week NYC this week. Run by international non-profit the Climate Group, it is the only major international climate summit taking place this year.

While lauding the opportunity of being COP President at such a historic moment, Figueres also commented on the significant difficulty Sharma faces as a result of the global pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. Responding to questions on how he is navigating the challenges and his plans for making the UN climate change conference, COP26, due to be held in Glasgow next year, a success, he said:

“There’s real desire to make COP26 a success, for us collectively to work to tackle climate change…. We are at that tipping point where business, civil society, individuals, but also governments are realising we do need to build back better. And from a UK perspective, we have set out some green measures in terms of that green recovery. I feel confident that we are at the point where we’re going to go forward collectively and achieve what I think some months ago wouldn’t have been thought of as possible, and that is this momentum for a green recovery.”

He added that during conversations with ministers in over 35 countries, he emphasized:

“If ever there was a time to come forward with green recovery packages, this is it.”

Increasing investment in green infrastructure The event also included a panel focused on investing in a clean future. Panelists Dr Richard Mattison, CEO of Trucost, Catherine McKenna, Canadian Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Pedro J Pizarro, President CEO of Edison International, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, CEO and Chairperson of Global Environment Facility and Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas OBE, CEO of Green Finance Institute, discussed big questions, including who should ultimately foot the bill for a just transition?

Catherine McKenna, Canadian Minister of Infrastructure and Communities said:

“One day we will get out of COVID, but we’re not getting out of the climate crisis any time soon. And we’re not going to get out of it without concerted action, including investing the billions that we need to transition to a cleaner, future.”

Talking about managing transition risks, she highlighted that people need to be at the heart of a green recovery, ensuring that everyone is included in the move to net zero:

“In Canada, that means that our most marginalized, like our Inuit, who live in the Arctic, who have caused the least to cause climate change need to be part of it. But that also means oil and gas workers need to be part of this transition.”

Racial justice, gender justice and climate justice The final panel discussed the interplaying relationships between racial justice, gender justice and climate justice. Speakers Mandela Barnes, Lieutenant Governor in Wisconsin, Damià Calvet, Minister of Territory and Sustainability in Catalonia, Alexandra Liftman, Global Environmental Executive at Bank of America, and Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability at The Estée Lauder Companies, explored what their responsibilities – as businesses and governments – are to the next generation, and the work needed in changing institutions and systems to create a fairer future.

Lieutenant Governor Barnes, said:

“We need an inclusive approach to climate action because the status quo of leaving certain communities behind has led us to the brink of multiple crises. Centering the voices of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color is the only way forward to a just, sustainable world.”

Alexandra Liftman, Global Environmental Executive at Bank of America added:

“We have to address inequities, and people have spoken to the inequitable impact of environmental issues, in particular on Black and Latinx and low-income communities across the globe… Those communities are not benefiting from the billions of dollars that are being invested today in the transition. I love all my white male colleagues, but clean energy sectors and clean technology sectors are predominately male and predominantly white today, and if we’re going to take that from billions to trillions, all communities have to benefit from that investment.”

For the first year, Climate Week NYC is taking place virtually. Featuring over 450 events hosted in more than 20 different countries, the week is ensuring that climate remains on the agenda in spite of the pandemic.

For more information follow the Climate Group on Twitter and the hashtag #ClimateWeeKNYC. Make sure to download the new Climate Week NYC mobile app to keep up to date with everything going in during the week. All events will be available to watch on the Climate Group’s Facebook Watch page. Visit our website for more information.


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