UN appoints new climate executive secretary

Former environment minister of Grenada with background in tech sector takes on role ahead of COP27

The former environment minister of Grenada, Simon Stiell (pictured), has been appointed the new executive secretary of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat.

Stiell replaces outgoing executive secretary, Patricia Espinosa.

He takes the helm as states prepare for COP27, the United Nations (UN) Conference of the Parties climate summit in Egypt in November, and against the backdrop of geopolitical tensions and global challenges around energy supplies and prices.    

According to the UN’s website, the role of the secretariat includes supporting the implementation of a number of global climate agreements as well as organising and supporting the annual Conference of the Parties and other negotiating sessions.

The new executive secretary Stiell was a senior minister in the government of Grenada for five years up to June 2022. He was a minister for climate, resilience and the environment and has minister for education and human resource development among his previous roles.

Before his political career in Grenada, Stiell worked in the technology sector where he held senior executive positions at companies such as Nokia G.E.C.

Challenges ahead

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said: “It is very good to have Simon Stiell’s appointment confirmed well ahead of COP27 and the world will hope he can prevent further momentum from ebbing out of the international negotiations.”

He commented on challenges the world is facing on reaching its climate goals: “I hope he will increase the sense of urgency among countries and counter obstacles, such as the growing tensions between the world’s two largest emitters, China and the United States, and the ongoing energy crisis caused by the ruinous cost of fossil fuels.

“His experience as a politician in Grenada will no doubt have given him a deep appreciation of the huge and growing risks that climate change poses to developing countries. He must be tough with those countries, particularly the G20, who are failing to live up to their responsibilities.”