Speaking engagements

Harvard Model United Nations (India) 12 August 2022

Speaker: UNFCCC Deputy Executive Secretary

Date, location: 12 August Hyderabad Intl Convention Center

Description: Harvard Model United Nations (MUN) in Hyderabad

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Thank you to all those involved in organizing this Harvard Model United Nations India for the invitation to share my perspective on climate change and the role of young people in taking climate action. Today marks also the International Youth Day and I welcome your presence here.

I understand this is the first time when the conference takes place in-person since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, after two years of virtual simulations. I want to sincerely thank all of you for taking part in this Harvard MUN and for believing in the power of global cooperation to solve problems that affect us all. We need your engagement and ideas today more than ever.

Humanity has shown time and again that we are capable of great things when we work together – across geographies and generations. Especially now, in the 21st century, the interconnectedness and the Global Citizenship has been tested through the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical conflicts, hunger or poverty.

But more specifically, the triple planetary crisis – climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss – is threatening lives and livelihoods everywhere and in the long-term. 

Every fraction of a degree of temperature rise is a matter of life and death to millions, especially the most vulnerable people in the developing world. From recent heat scorching India and parts of the Northern hemisphere to sever drought in the Sahel or flooding in South Africa, the climate crisis is here now and getting worse.

The Paris Agreement and climate action

The effects of climate change are experienced differently across and within countries. If left unaddressed, climate change will lead to increased inequality both within and among countries and could leave a substantial part of the world further behind.

This is why we need to take climate action now. Climate action means addressing the impacts of human-made climate change and describes the measures we all, including governments, businesses, organizations and individuals, have to take to 

  • Reduce the severity of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and
  • Strengthen our resilience, reduce our exposure, and adapt to the effects of climate change including climate hazards.

These crucial steps are outlined in one of our core treaties called the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 by 193 countries, with near universal participation. 

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to limit global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

In order to achieve this temperature, it is essential to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to transition towards a low-carbon development. 

Energy transition

As the energy sector produces over 60% of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions, the global energy system must undergo a profound transformation, from one largely based on fossil fuels to one that enhances efficiency and is based on renewable energy. 

Data shows that the share of renewable energy worldwide needs to increase to 50% by 2030. Today, fossil fuels still contribute to 80% of the energy we use. 

However, hope is not lost. Recent analysis suggests that abundant opportunities exist to accelerate energy efficiency worldwide. Even energy-intensive industries can combine innovative low-carbon technologies, circular production routes, and carbon capture to reduce emissions effectively.

This transformation must be achieved over time but also in time. No single country has the capacity to decisively shift the global energy base or land use patterns on its own. Policies need to be set in place now; technologies need to be developed, matured, commercialized, and deployed at scale; and the practices and behaviors consumers need to move faster than ever. 

This systemic transformational change can only happen if everyone is on board, working in a spirit of inclusive multilateralism. 

Youth and climate change

You, young people, play a key role here, especially since youth will feel the impacts of climate change the most. 

You have a right to understand the climate crisis and become climate literate. You have a right to contribute to addressing climate change because you have the right to a clean and healthy environment, as recently adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. 

Many young people worldwide are already contributing by:

o Developing innovative products and services to green our economies.

o Working in their communities to raise awareness and advocate for ambitious and inclusive action to address climate change.

o Creating initiatives that deliver climate action on the ground.

As a means to drive social progress, young people can – and do – take the opportunity to change the narrative and lead by example through embracing sustainability in their day to day life, supporting renewable energy, adopting environmentally friendly lifestyles and implementing environmental projects. 

How can you take more climate action?

Global issues require global efforts by global citizens. How to contribute?

  1. Learn more about climate change and become climate literate. I invite you to play the Climate Game (QR code in the slide) and see where you stand.
  2. Bring your voice to international negotiations: In the UNFCCC process, young people have the opportunity to engage as observers at the COPs (or Conference of the Parties), for example as part of the YOUNGO, the official Youth and Children Constituency. The next COP is COP 27 in Egypt in November this year and I invite you to follow the proceedings also online.

YOUNGO produces a yearly Global Youth Statement. This is developed from inputs from young people throughout the year during a series of events, known as Conference of Youth or COYs. The COY this year takes place in Philippines from 9 to 13 August, check it out online.

  1. Get into the driver seat: help your governments and local authorities to formulate, propose and implement climate policies and strategies.
  1. Raise awareness and lead by example: Inspire political change by speaking out through public forums, propose innovative solutions as part of a business or by starting your own entrepreneurial venture.


Key reflections

  • We are capable of great things when we work together – across geographies and generations.
  • We can limit global warming, there is still hope, but the energy transition needs to happen now. 
  • The future is the sum of the decisions made today and you have the means to influence this through activism, changing your consumer behaviour and raising awareness in your sphere of influence.

Thank you!

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