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Champa opening speech

Under2 Coalition spotlight session ‘Uniting Leaders, Driving Change’: Opening speech

2 December 2023, 22:28 UTC 7 min read

Champa Patel

Our Executive Director of Governments and Policy, Champa Patel, opened the Under2 Coalition General Assembly with a speech on how we can find effective and lasting climate solutions by working together across sectors  – Uniting Leaders, Driving Change.

Good morning everyone. On behalf of the Under2 Coalition Secretariat, Climate Group, I’d like to welcome you all to the annual Under2 Coalition General Assembly.  

Before we kick things off, I would like to thank the supporters of the Under2 Coalition General Assembly, including VELUX, Lloyds Register Foundation, BCI, India Climate Collaborative, and the Global Methane Hub. Without their support, this event would simply not be possible. 

I’m Champa Patel, Executive Director of Governments and Policy at Climate Group, and my warm welcome to everyone as we come together in the spirit of Uniting Leaders, Driving Change here at COP28. 

In that spirit, I am so pleased to introduce 10 new governments that have joined us this year: Bahia, Federal District, Goia and Piaui from Brazil which takes us to 80% of all states and regions in the country! Meghalaya and Tripura from India; Taraba State from Nigeria; Gossas from Senegal, Jeju from South Korea and Maryland from the United States. Please join me in welcoming them to the Under2 family.

Growing our numbers – and being here together - could not come at a more important time. The UN has warned that we are on track for a hellish three degree rise in temperature without urgent and immediate action. The Global Stocktake, which will conclude at the end of COP28, will no doubt reflect that global mitigation plans fall far short of what is needed.

But where is the urgency? Where is the move to accelerate implementation? We are still debating whether we phase out or phase down fossil fuels. We are past that point. There is no question that the climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis. And there is no pathway to net zero that can include the continued use of fossil fuels. The consequences are clear. We cannot limit global warming to 1.5 degrees without immediate action.

You don’t need me to tell you any of this. Many of our colleagues in this room have been at the frontlines of dealing with extreme weather events. I remember meeting our colleagues from Emilia Romagna at the Under2 European Ministerial. I was incredibly moved to hear the impact of the floods on their communities. Similarly with our Hawaii colleagues who had to deal with the horrendous wildfires this year. I was inspired that despite the challenges they faced, their resolve to meet net zero remained strong.

This is why your leadership is important. Your creativity, innovation and solutions matter. Let's be clear. Commitments alone do not fundamentally change anything without action. And action does not happen in conference rooms and meeting halls. It happens in your states and regions, and in your communities and your neighbourhoods every single day. And Under2 states and regions are at the forefront of action, sometimes in challenging contexts, where national trends may be going in the opposite direction, leading the way on what needs to be done.

Our job as a secretariat is to increase your ambition, help you be accountable, support your implementation and raise your voice and visibility. And we have had some good successes this year.

New joiners

Ambition and accountability:

In Asia, our governments showcased subnational climate diplomacy with flagship events bringing governments and businesses together in both Chungnam and Jeju. Moving westwards, our European colleagues continued to shape and inform EU climate legislation, working closely with our partners the European Committee of the Regions and Regions4.

At Climate Week NYC, states and regions from across the world made the headlines for their strong leadership on fossil fuels and driving methane reductions. And just a few days ago, Gauteng Climate Change Indaba focused on the importance of subnational leadership in Africa. 

Not only that, our governments also stepped up their accountability. Following the UN Secretary General’s call for strong climate transition plans against the Integrity Matters standards, almost a fifth of the Coalition responded with their plans and nine Governors, First Ministers and Premiers were invited to the Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit alongside world leaders. We learnt a lot through that process and today we are releasing a new policy summary that sets out how the standards can be made more fit for purpose for states and regions.

Global Implementation:  

We provided practical support to our governments to help them achieve a just, resilient and equitable net zero. Through the Future Fund, Just Transition Taskforce, Net Zero Futures Policy Forum and the Climate Fellows Project, we fostered technical support, peer exchange and supported greater action. 

Champa opening speech

Voice and visibility 

And we saw considerable success in ensuring states’ and regions’ voices were meaningfully part of international climate processes. I have mentioned the Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit already, but we also worked closely with the Local Government and Municipal Authority (LGMA), our focal point into the UNFCCC process, to agree key messages from states and regions. We were a partner in US State Department’s Subnational Climate Action Leaders Exchange (SCALE). And we represented the Coalition in the pre-COP Global Stocktake meetings and at Africa Climate Week. 

You will have seen greater emphasis on the role of states and regions through these processes. And I am immensely proud that we have helped generate that political momentum this year.

But our work is far from over. We need seismic change, not just for our own generation but for those that are still to come, and particularly those countries that are hardest hit by the climate crisis. 

First and foremost, we have to phase out fossil fuels. It is simple. We need to triple up on renewables, double down on energy efficiency and finance the transition. The news that 118 countries have signed up to the pledge to triple global energy yesterday is welcome. But we need to see this in the final negotiated text. It is not inconceivable. For many it was a surprise that the G20 communique earlier this year committed to tripling renewables. Moving quickly from commitment to implementation will be key. 

Additionally, we must mitigate and reduce methane. The Subnational Methane Action Coalition, launched yesterday, provides an important roadmap for states and regions on how to tackle this harmful pollutant.

Second, states and regions need access to climate financing. There are no dedicated international financial instruments solely focused on states and regions. And where international public climate financing exists, there is little if no scope for states and regions to apply. Just recently, France and Kenya announced an international taxation workforce to push for new levies for climate action. This is incredible. But how many of these funds are available to states and regions, often the level of government with powers to make the changes necessary and closest to communities? We have to ensure that financial flows reach our states and regions. 

Third, we need a meaningful focus on resilience and adaptation. 2023 is set to be the hottest year on record. This has devastating consequences. Mitigation alone will not protect communities from the impacts of climate change. Already countries that did the least to contribute to emissions, are facing irrecoverable harm. The breakthrough agreement on loss and damages made on the first day of COP28 is a step in the right direction but so much more needs to be done. States and regions can lead the pack in showing how net zero plans can integrate mitigation, resilience and adaptation. 

Likewise, the first ever COP declaration on food, agriculture and climate action announced in the last few days is an important step forward. Food systems cause at least a third of global emissions. Addressing these carbon and methane emissions is a no brainer. But this is also about climate justice. We know that the impacts of the pandemic, then the Ukraine crisis and extreme weather events has highlighted the fragility of the food system and exposed the inequities of food insecurity. We have to adapt. We have to ensure resilience. That is the only way to protect people and planet.

Opening speech audience

And – finally – we need to maintain the political momentum we generated this year. We need to keep speaking up, we need to grow the space for our contributions and – most importantly – we need to define that space. Over the past two days, states, regions and cities came together at the first ever Local Climate Action Summit organised by Bloomberg Philanthropies and COP28 Presidency. This landmark event was the first time that states and regions were part of the official COP programme and I know many of you here attended. As part of this event, the CHAMP initiative was launched, where 62 countries agreed they would consult with their subnational governments on setting nationally determined contributions. This is an important first step. 

But it is not the only step. States and regions are more than just non-state actors or stakeholders to consult. The language of local, subnational stakeholders diminishes the power of what you all do. States and regions are not junior partners or a side show. Certainly that is not how we see it. As your Secretariat, we will continue to work with you to shape international climate processes and, as a coalition, we will work with you to collectively define what we want to see in terms of our role in the net zero transition. 

I know I speak on behalf of the Secretariat when I say it is an enormous privilege to work with you all. You inspire and enthuse us with all that you do. We achieved a lot this year but we are ready to roll up our sleeves and drive forward even bigger impact in 2024. This is our commitment to you all. 

Thank you.