Former Grenada minister to become UN climate chief

By Rumi Samuel Published on August 13, 2022
Former Grenada minister to become UN climate chief

Grenada’s former environment minister Simon Stiell is set to head the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), regional and international media reported on Friday.

Stiell, who had served as the Caribbean island’s minister for climate resilience and the environment until this year, will replace Patricia Espinosa, who finished her second, three-year term as executive secretary of the UNFCCC in July.

Stiell is a veteran advocate for climate ambition from a vulnerable Caribbean island state. On the global stage, his calls for rapid emissions reductions have put him at odds with big emerging economies like China. In contrast, his lobbying for climate finance has met resistance from wealthy countries like the United States and the European Union.

The UNFCCC declined to comment at this time. Still, many media outlets, including Reuters and  Climate Home News, said Stiell, who was appointed to Grenada’s Senate and went on to lead ministries for agriculture and education before becoming Grenada’s minister for climate resilience in March 2018, is a shoe-in for the post.

UN chief Antonio Guterres was responsible for the selection process. The UNFCCC bureau signed off his decision at a specially convened meeting on Thursday, the international media reported.

He studied engineering and business at London Metropolitan and Westminster universities in the UK, staying in the country to work for technology companies in the 90s before returning to Grenada. Back home, he founded a property development company and became chair of the tourism board and vice-president of the chamber of industry.

Stiell has been a visible figure at UN climate negotiations, often calling for the world’s largest polluters to set more ambitious climate goals and to deliver finance promised to vulnerable countries, including small island nations.

That funding is key to preparing for future climate impacts, including extreme temperatures, rising sea levels, frequent storms and drought.

Diplomatic sources are quoted as saying Stiell would take the helm of the UNFCCC a few months before Egypt hosts the next UN climate conference, COP27, which comes after a year of global economic uncertainty. Geopolitical issues have led countries to backslide on their climate pledges.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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