Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the appointment Monday of Simon Stiell from the Caribbean island nation of Grenada as the new U.N. climate chief, calling him, “a true champion” of creative approaches to tackling the global climate crisis.
Stiell, who originally trained in the United Kingdom as an engineer and earned an MBA there, was a senior member in Grenada’s government from 2013 until June 2022, serving as minister for climate resilience and the environment for five years.
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Prior to joining the government, he spent 14 years in the technology sector, holding senior executive positions in industry leading companies from Silicon Valley technology start-ups to major corporations, including Nokia and GEC Plessey Telecommunications.
In recent years Stiell has been among a handful of prominent figures from vulnerable nations demanding that rich countries step up their efforts to combat climate change and help those around the world who are most vulnerable.
Reacting recently to a scientific report about the effects of climate change already affecting more than 3 billion people worldwide, Stiell warned that inaction would be “catastrophic.”
“Nothing less than the most extreme measures to cut emissions and adapt to this crisis can be justified,” he said.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced Guterres’ appointment of Stiell’s appointment as executive security of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, succeeding Patricia Espinosa of Mexcio. He said the appointment was made after consulting with the 197 parties to the convention, which is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris agreement aimed at tackling climate change.
The Paris agreement called for global temperatures to rise a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, compared to pre-industrial times, and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The world has already warmed 1 degree Celsius, so the goal is really about preventing another 1 or 0.5 degrees Celsius (1.8 or 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) increase from now.
Although he doesn’t know Stiell personally, former U.S. State Department negotiator Nigel Purvis said Stiell “as a representative of a vulnerable small island country has the right kind of background.”
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His new post is an important job running the primary forum under the United Nations in which countries spur each other to do more and the key is to find someone “who is going to push for action,” said Purvis, chief executive officer of Climate Advisers.
“Having hard-charging diplomatically astute people in this role has made a huge difference in the past,” Purvis said.