Statement of Urgency

Re: International diplomatic emergency

Secretary-General António Guterres
United Nations
UN Headquarters, S-3800
New York, NY 10017
September 16, 2021

Re: International diplomatic emergency

Mr Secretary General,

We are an international group of current and former politicians, diplomats, judges, lawyers, mediators, policy experts, business people and community leaders that share a global outlook. Our desire to see rapid action to combat the clear and present global threat of climate change has brought us together. Some of us have spent decades of our careers on this issue.

As you are aware, Mr Secretary General, the consequences of carbon emissions, expected by scientists for several decades and spelled out in the IPCC’s shocking latest report, are unfolding before us. They are coming earlier and with greater ferocity than anticipated. We may be near tipping-points, where the climate system may suddenly and irreversibly change. These changes will impair living conditions for many and may bring disaster and conflict to vulnerable nations. This is already a climate emergency. It may become a climate tragedy in our lifetimes. Yet there is another path.

There has been a quarter-century of talking. There is now an overwhelming need for action. More promises for the distant future are not a measure of success. At COP 26 in Glasgow this November, nations must focus on progress in fulfilling commitments already made and on plans for action in the next five years. COP 26 will be an international diplomatic failure if governments don’t come together and make firm commitments to act now.

The immediate actions required of the international community to combat this emergency are stark but clear. From the UN, we need a new focus at COP 26 on creating a robust framework for assessing actual delivery of outcomes, rather than on pledges. From countries, we need the cessation of new fossil fuel projects, a carbon price of around $100 (per tonne of carbon dioxide), building cleantech investment to $5 trillion a year, halving emissions by 2030, and demonstrating that alternatives to the current energy system are beneficial to citizens, states and regions.

The response has so far been woefully inadequate. Pausing only for the pandemic, emissions are expected soon to return to their upward, business-as-usual path. We must urgently change this course. Not to have done so already is a gross failure of international diplomacy. We have a diplomatic emergency alongside the climate emergency.

There is no single authority that can prescribe and enforce the urgent action needed. To avoid a climate tragedy, we need the political will to accept science, to cooperate in new ways and to make tough decisions together. We believe that there are four critical ways in which COP 26 can infuse new urgency into global climate diplomacy. They are: (1) immediate action on fossil fuels and other sources of rising emissions such as methane, (2) more money, (3) better institutions and (4) involving communities.

First, the huge and rapid response to COVID-19 confirms that resolute action can be taken, and the money found, to combat a global emergency. China and the USA, the world’s largest carbon emitters, have a unique opportunity to act together for the good of humanity. We call upon them to lead resolutely by example by agreeing a phased programme to close their existing coal-fired power plants, or to retrofit them with carbon capture technology, and to ban the financing and construction of new coal plants. Likewise, we call upon Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest national oil producer, to lead OPEC to halt investment in additional oil production and on the USA to support such a policy.

Second, there is no excuse for not honouring commitments to poorer countries. Their governments must be able to ensure access to cheap and reliable power for hundreds of millions of people. The $100 billion a year promised by rich countries to poorer countries should be delivered without delay and then greatly increased. It is insignificant compared to the $5 trillion a year that must be spent. Investment funds are primed for cleantech opportunities. Governments should commit to facilitating a global $1 trillion energy transition investment fund both to accelerate progress and to send a strong signal to markets that they are now serious about taking the steps needed. In addition, we call for new international arrangements, coordinated by international financial institutions and the G20, to manage climate-related financial risk, to reduce the debt service burden on countries that invest in greening their economies and to use innovative means for managing disputes in climate critical projects, including the use of dispute boards for conflict avoidance. 

Third, COP 26 should set a radical path by creating a robust framework for holding nations, institutions, companies and communities to account for their promises. In the absence of a binding international agreement to reduce emissions, citizens are of necessity the enforcers of last resort of these promises. Countries should agree to adopt laws that empower citizens to enforce national environmental commitments through domestic courts. Multilateral development banks and institutions should prioritize funding of infrastructure projects that both promote sustainability and are sustainably built. The World Trade Organisation should fully recognize the validity of multilateral climate and environmental instruments. Existing bodies should be adapted, or new ones created, if necessary, to officially call out countries and institutions that are failing to deliver their commitments.

Fourth, we need to adopt an all-hands-on-deck mentality that recognizes that the climate emergency is not an issue that the UNFCCC process can combat by itself. Communities, cities, regions, young people, women, indigenous peoples, not-for-profits, trade unions and businesses are already contributing to the solutions. The UN can help design and implement the means to empower networks of these non-state actors to drive transformative climate action around the world.

If emissions are to halve by 2030, we are already at “T minus 9” and counting. The countdown doesn’t look good so far. If COP 26 cannot deliver rapid, permanent emissions reductions and the ability of citizens to enforce the promises their governments make, we question the purpose of further climate COPs. The time may have come to replace the COPs with the emergency diplomacy that is used in times of crisis to defuse international conflict. This may be the most momentous international crisis humanity will face.

We think it is now or never. Without coordinated, collective, radical and impactful action in the next nine years we will be heading towards a climate tragedy. We offer our collective support to the efforts that you and the UN are making.


The undersigned members of the Scotia Group


HM Queen Noor of Jordan (Patron)     

H.S.H Prince Etienne d’Arenberg – Limited Partner Mirabaud Group, Head of UK Market, Private Wealth Management

Dr Arvid Bell –  Lecturer on Government, Harvard University and Director, Negotiation Task Force, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University

Ms Marie Anne Birken – former General Counsel, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Professor Sir Ian Boyd – Chair, University of St Andrews Environmental Sustainability Board,  Professor, School of Biology; former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government on Food and the Environment; member, UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE)

Professor Melani Cammett – Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs in the Department of Government, Harvard Chan School of Public Health; Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University

Mr Giuseppe Candela – Managing Associate, L&B Partners Avvocati Associati, London (LL.M. in Energy and Natural Resources Law at Queen Mary University of London)

Ms Sara Carnegie – Director, Legal Policy and Research Unit, International Bar Association

Mr Howard Covington (Chair, Scotia Group Inception Commission) – Chair of The Alan Turing Institute, Chair of ClientEarth

Ambassador John B. Craig – Former US Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman; Senior Fellow, Mediterranean Basin, Middle East and Gulf Initiative, Transatlantic Leadership Network

Professor Dr Malik Dahlan – Founder and Principal, Institution Quraysh for Law & Policy; Professor of International Law and Public Policy, Queen Mary University of London

Ms Annie Dunster – Programme Director, Scotia Group

Sir David Edward – Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh; former Judge of the European Court of Justice

Dr Mark S. Ellis – Executive Director, International Bar Association

Professor Niall Ferguson – Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University; senior faculty fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University; Managing Director, Greenmantle LLC

Professor Sakiko Fukuda-Parr – Professor of International Affairs, The New School, New York City

Lord Anthony Giddens – House of Lords; life fellow King’s College Cambridge

Sir Malcom Grant – Chancellor, University of York; former President and Provost University College London

Mr Richard Gray – Ambassador, Sustainable Human Settlements Foundation

The Right Honourable Lord Howell – Chairman, Crystol Energy’s Advisory Board; former Secretary of State for Energy for the UK government; former President, UK Energy Industries Council

Professor John Hudson – Professor of Legal History, University of St Andrews  

Mr Chris Huhne – Consultant on Energy and Climate Change Policy; former UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Professor Caroline Humfress – Director, Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research University of St Andrews

Mr Bilahari Kausikan – Chairman, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore; ; former Permanent Secretary of the Singapore Foreign Ministry 

Dr Andy Kerr – Director, UK and Ireland, EIT Climate-KIC; Honorary Professor of Climate and Low Carbon Innovation, University of Edinburgh

Baroness Denise Kingsmill – House of Lords; member of the Economic Affairs Committee

Professor Rosa Lastra – Sir John Lubbock Chair in Banking Law and Chair of the Institute of Banking and Finance Law the Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CCLS), Queen Mary University of London

Professor Evan Lieberman – Total Professor of Political Science and Contemporary Africa, MIT

Professor David Mednicoff – Chair, Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies; Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Public Policy, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Ms Katherine Meighan – General Counsel, International Fund for Agricultural Development

Mr Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz – Co-Founder and former CEO, International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development

Minister Salaheddine Mezouar – Former President of COP 22; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Former Minister of Economy and Finance; Former Minister of Industry and Trade; Former President of Moroccan Business Organisation; President of Ktrium Invest & Advisory Company and Euros Agency Africa. Senior Advisor of African Development Bank and Africa 50 Infrastructure Fund

Dr Kariuki Muigua – Managing Partner, Kariuki Muigua & Co; School of Law, University of Nairobi, fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb)-Kenya Chapter

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli – Principal, University of Glasgow (in his personal capacity)

Dean Adil Najam – Dean, Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University

Ms Karishma Patel – Assistant Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation

Ms Victoria Preston – Freelance writer, iPlatform Board Member

Dr Jo (Jyotsna) Puri – Associate Vice-President, Strategy and Knowledge Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); Adjunct Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs, School of International Public Affairs, Columbia University,

Ambassador Charles Ries – Former senior U.S. State Department official

Mr Gustavo Rochette – Head of Legal, Movhera

Mr Grant Rogan – Co-Founder, Sustainable Human Settlements Foundation

Mr Keith Ruddock – Visiting Professor in Law, University of Strathclyde

Ms Alice Ruhweza – International Environment and Development Thought Leader and Practitioner, Kampala, Uganda

Dr Urban Rusnák – Secretary-General, International Energy Charter (in his personal capacity)

President Carlos Salinas – Former President of Mexico

Ms Katherine Stewart – Award winning author and journalist

Professor Dustin Tingley – Professor of Government, Harvard University

Mr Yannick Tona – President and Managing Director, Kigali Foreign Affairs Council

Dr Sasha Toperich – Senior Vice-President, Transatlantic Leadership Network

Hon. Minister Upendra Tripathy – Founding Director General, International Solar Alliance

Mr Wolf von Kumberg – Registrar General & CEO, IDR London

Professor Marc Weller – Chair of International Law and International Constitutional Studies, University of Cambridge

Ms Claudia de Windt – Chief Executive, Inter-American Institute on Justice and Sustainability (IIJS)

Mr James Wright – Belgravia Residents Association

Mr Durwood Zaelke – President, Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development