After the largest global people’s climate march in history, it would have been hard for most people to have overlooked the UN climate summit that took place in New York on Tuesday this week. What were the outcomes of this summit and will it be enough to set us on a pathway to avoiding dangerous climate change?
The Un Secretary General set out to have this meeting in order to “galvanize and catalyze climate action”. His aim was to re-engage world leaders in the climate debate and stimulate them to come to this summit with bold announcements and actions on climate change. Did our leaders do so?
As the summit drew closer, CAN Europe’s enthusiasm about what it could deliver in terms of new and bold actions was tempered by the awareness that countries will not have to make formal commitments for the new global agreement until March 2015. As expected, the EU mostly repeated existing commitments, as they are still preparing to reach agreement on the European 2030 climate and energy package when Ministers meet this October in Bruxelles. Meanwhile, Member States themselves gave little indication on how they would go beyond the currently weak proposal from the EU Commission.
Seventy-three countries and 11 states and provinces – together responsible for 54 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 52 percent of global GDP – joined 11 cities and over 1,000 businesses and investors in signaling their support for carbon pricing.
The list includes all EU Member States but Poland and the Czech Republic. The last made it clear they are supporting the declaration, which leaves Poland, once again, isolated from the rest of the EU. It is about time Poland adapts to the reality of the EU it wants to be part of.
Given the recent operationalization of the Green Climate Fund, climate finance was an issue that could have paved the way for more bold announcements by leaders. Despite the delivery of a number of financial pledges, the cumulative amount is still far from what is needed in order to both curb climate causes and tackle climate impacts.
France announced $ 1 billion in climate finance over four years, meeting expectations, but gave little indication of the terms of this financial commitment. New announcements also came from Denmark, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, as well as Switzerland and Norway.
Germany and Sweden made pledges prior to the summit, $960m and $40m respectively.
Forests and Deforestation
The summit also recognized the important role of forestry in tackling climate change. A New York Declaration on Forests was issued on Tuesday, proposing a cut in the rate of natural forest loss by 2020, and “striving to” end it by 2030. This declaration has been signed by 27 nations, eight regional governments, 34 multinational corporations, 16 indigenous peoples’ groups and 45 NGOs. The declaration is not legally binding and Brazil, one of the world’s largest rainforest nations, is not a signatory.
Despite the Summit itself not immediately contributing much to further reducing emissions or increasing climate finance, Ban Ki-moon and the support of a massive mobilization of people-led actions all over the world, has created renewed attention amongst world leaders and the media on the climate change debate. One can only hope this will bring a positive dynamic to the international climate change negotiations and will help us overcome the Copenhagen scenario where world leaders came in way too late in the process.
US President Barack Obama was correct in saying that “we will be the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and the last generation that can do anything about it.”
With this stark reality in mind, political leaders must carry the momentum generated in New York this week and translate their announcements into urgent concrete action.
Below a non-exhaustive mapping of commitments made during the UN Climate Summit by regions and countires. Created by Mashable.