Home / Lead Story /  UN General Assembly President champions Small Island Developing States, announces ‘Sustainability Week’ at COP28 (Read full text)
President, UN General Assembly, H.E Dennis Francis

 UN General Assembly President champions Small Island Developing States, announces ‘Sustainability Week’ at COP28 (Read full text)

Dubai, 1 December 2023 

The President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA), Mr. Dennis Francis, has voiced strong support for Small Island Developing States and those most vulnerable to climate impacts, and announced a high-level ‘Sustainability Week’ at the UN General Assembly in April 2024.

President Francis said these in his address to world leaders and delegations at the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) taking place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  

Recognizing the immense challenges facing the global community, President Francis called on the international community to deliver “a win” at COP28, aligning behind the principles of unity and solidarity to drive climate action.

“I am not just optimistic – I am convinced that we can emerge from Dubai with a triumvirate of undertakings: a threefold surge in renewable energy, a financial influx to propel sustainability, and a fortified support system for those confronting climate-induced vulnerabilities. Our collective resolve must echo louder than the challenges we face. Together, we can make COP28 a decisive win for our people, for our communities and for our planet.”

Weeks after returning from the Pacific Island Forum Leader’s Meeting, in the Cook Islands, President Francis used the occasion to highlight the existential threats of sea-level rise on remote and vulnerable Small Island Developing States.

The President of the General Assembly congratulated the COP28 Presidency and all delegations for delivering progress on Loss and Damage, including, most critically, the capitalization of the Fund. President Francis also voiced support for the COP28 Presidency’s focus on renewable energy, hailing it as a path to reducing emissions and empowering the lives of billions of people. He called for urgent action to prioritize adaptation and significantly boost investments for those most vulnerable, including Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States.

Recognizing the need to maintain momentum on urgent areas of climate action, and to ensure efficiency in planning and resource allocation, President Francis announced a high-level ‘Sustainability Week’ at the UN General Assembly in April 2024.

He noted, “Sustainability Week will consolidate several high-level already mandated events promoting sustainability in transport, tourism, and infrastructure sectors. Perhaps most importantly, it will incorporate the Global Stocktake on Energy – which aims to complement the Stocktake here at COP28. The results of Sustainability Week, will, I hope, add further momentum to the path laid out at COP28 and ahead of the 2024 Summit of the Future next September.”

Full text:

Remarks by the President of the General Assembly H.E. Dennis Francis at the High-level opening of COP28

Dubai, UAE

1 December 2023

Your Highness, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan,

Your Excellency, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India,

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President,

Esteemed Heads of State and Government,

Your Excellency Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General,

Mr. Simon Stiell, UNFCCC Executive-Secretary,

Excellencies, Distinguished Participants,

Let me begin by expressing my sincere congratulations to the COP28 Presidency and the Government of the United Arab Emirates for the arrangements put in place for the hosting of the UN Climate Conference this year.

I am truly grateful for your kind invitation and for the quality of the reception extended to me and my team in the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly since our arrival in Dubai.

While our world is fraught with global challenges, perhaps none loom as large – or as consequential – as the climate crisis.

The Paris Agreement remains the single best answer to the myriad effects of the climate crisis.

Living up to the letter and spirit of the Paris promise is the ultimate goal of our deliberations; a goal close to my heart – quite literally so, as I wear, and have worn, even predating my assumption of the Presidency, a lapel pin advocating for the goal of “1.5 degrees”.

A few weeks ago, it was my privilege to pay a visit to the Cook Islands.

There – at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, leader after leader spoke, agonizingly, of the real existential threats posed by sea-level rise – itself a direct impact of climate change, but also an indisputable result of our actions or, perhaps more aptly, our inaction.

As a citizen of a Small Island Developing State, I am acutely aware that, on our current trajectory, those islands – and the wealth of culture and history they represent – are at peril of imminent disappearance through inundation by the seas.

The scenario presented by the UNEP Emissions Gap Report of a 3-degree world, is not science fiction – it is the path we are on. We must change this trajectory.

For far too long, leaders across the spectrum have stood at podiums such as this and made grand commitments that capture public opinion, only to be found, upon subsequent examination, to be either short or totally lacking in implementation.

We are long past the time for climate diplomacy through public relations.

Action, progressive, transformative action, is needed now to stabilize atmospheric temperatures and to ensure sustainability of the planet and of human civilization.

It is time for a once-in-a-generation change.

Pervasive evidence indicates that we have, at least academically, rethought the way we live, the way we produce, and the way we consume on this planet.

Curiously, what we have not done is to actually reshape and re-engineer our production systems, our lifestyles and habits to match the dictates of climate and planetary sustainability.

Borrowing from the Secretary General’s descriptor about “global boiling”, the extant situation demands a new, more sustainable, more resilient, more equitable industrial revolution.

We need a just transition to sustainable energy systems.

We need to retrofit for resilience and sustainability.

I am convinced that we have both the capacity and the tools at our fingertips to do this – while leaving no one behind.

Excellencies,

The energy transition coupled with robust mitigation action is understandably front and center in this effort if we are to halt climate change in its tracks.

While the world is moving to renewable sources somewhat faster than anyone might have imagined, significantly more than our feeble efforts are required, at scale, to produce the desired critical reduction in the levels of emissions.

Let us therefore triple renewable energy capacity – as the COP28 Presidency has challenged us to do – and then let us triple it AGAIN!

Of course, our high levels of energy dependency impact everything we do – from transport to infrastructure to tourism – and for this reason, I intend to do my part in carrying forward these important, sector-specific conversations at the General Assembly of the UN.

Mindful of this imperative, I am pleased to announce that I will convene the first-ever General Assembly “Sustainability Week” at UN Headquarters in New York in April 2024, as a flagship initiative of my Presidency.

This Week will consolidate several high-level already mandated events promoting sustainability in transport, tourism, and infrastructure sectors. Perhaps most importantly, it will incorporate the Global Stocktake on Energy – which aims to complement the Stocktake here at COP28.

The results of Sustainability Week, will, I hope, add further momentum to the path laid out at COP28 and ahead of the 2024 Summit of the Future next September.

I look forward to welcoming delegations – at the highest level possible – to New York in April, in pursuance of SUSTAINABILITY.

Excellencies,

While we work towards a fast-tracked energy transition, we must reconcile the reality that climate impacts are here already and will only intensify as we continue the march towards 1.5 degrees.

It is absolutely essential, therefore, that we deliver meaningful progress in specific relation to adaptation.

Clearly, we need to shore up financing for adaptation.

More accessible, more available, and more affordable financing from the international financial institutions must be unlocked.

On this point, there is hope. And I welcome the capitalization of the Fund for Loss and Damage. Developing countries deserve no less. I make the plea, let us continue to build on this success, let this be just the beginning.

From building sea walls to designing drought-resistant crops, developing countries must receive the necessary financial and technical support for climate adaptation.

And I applaud the efforts of partners to make community grants and financing more available and quickly accessible – as such funding is particularly important for small island developing States and marginalized communities on the frontlines of climate change, as well as for vulnerable groups, especially women and girls.

Such resources can help facilitate global and local early warning systems, as well as data and information services to better address extreme climate events.

We need to not only be risk-informed but also resilient, at every level and across all stakeholders – thus leaving no one behind.

Esteemed Heads of State and Government,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am not just optimistic – I am convinced that we can emerge from Dubai with a triumvirate of undertakings: a threefold surge in renewable energy, a financial influx to propel sustainability, and a fortified support system for those confronting climate-induced vulnerabilities.

Our collective resolve must echo louder than the challenges we face. Together, we can make COP28 a decisive win for our people, for our communities and for our planet.

The actions we take here will resonate for generations – proving that when nations and peoples unite in a common quest for peace, progress, prosperity, and sustainability for all, we can surmount any obstacle and create the ‘future we want’.

Let’s get it done.

I thank you.

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