UNITED NATIONS (AP) — For the United Nations’ new climate chief, the fight is personal.
As a former engineer who says he knows “how to make things work and get things done,” it wasn’t just what Simon Stiell did before he became a top U.N. official, it was where.
Stiell was the environment and climate resilience minister on the small island nation of Grenada until he started his job as the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change a few weeks ago. It’s now his job to make sure the world cuts about half emissions of heat-trapping gases — which are helping trigger unprecedented frequent weather disasters — in just eight years, or as he puts it, two World Cups or two Olympics away.
“Living half my life in a climate-vulnerable nation gives me a deep appreciation,” Stiell, 53, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve lived through two hurricanes ( Ivan in 2004 and Emily in 2005). I’ve seen my country flattened through hurricanes. I’ve seen sea level rise around my ankles. … And I’ve also been in government finding solutions and responsible as the lead policymaker in how we build a more resilient nation with the limited resources that we have.”
And Grenada, which had losses that doubled its annual gross domestic product, is far from alone. In Pakistan, for example, a third of the country is under water.
Read More: Interview: New UN climate chief takes the fight personally