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World leaders announce significant commitments to climate change at UN Summit

Posted by Guest Author on September 24, 2014

More than 100 heads of state and government were joined by more than 800 business, finance and civil leaders in New York on Tuesday for the UN Climate Summit, a one-day forum dedicated to non-binding pledges for climate action.

The aim of the Summit was to gain political momentum for the UN’s 2015 Climate Change Conference, where – for the first time in over 20 years of negotiations – the UN aims to propose a binding and universal agreement, by all nations of the world, to reduce emissions and build resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change.

"Today we must set the world on a new course," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in opening remarks. "Climate change is the defining issue of our age. It is defining our present. Our response will define our future."

Ki-Moon and other prominent speakers, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Rajendra K. Pachauri, who headed the Nobel Prize-winning panel of scientists that studied the issue, warned that time for action was short:

By 2020, Ban said, the world must reduce greenhouse gases to prevent an escalating level of warming that world leaders five years ago called dangerous. Leaders in 2009 pledged to keep world temperatures from increasing by another 2 degrees Celsius. [SOURCE]

Ki-Moon asked the leaders in attendance for a global vision for low-carbon economic growth and to advance climate action on five fronts: cutting emissions, mobilizing money and markets, pricing carbon, strengthening resilience and mobilizing new coalitions.

According to Ki-Moon’s official Chair’s Summary, below is detailed list of the most significant commitments made at the Climate Summit.

Cutting emissions

  • Many leaders, from all regions and all levels of economic development advocated for a peak in greenhouse gas emissions before 2020, dramatically reduced emissions thereafter and climate neutrality in the second half of the century
  • European Union countries committed to a target of reducing emissions to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030
  • Leaders from more than 40 countries, 30 cities and dozens of corporations launched large-scale commitment to double the rate of global energy efficiency by 2030 through vehicle fuel efficiency, lighting, appliances, buildings and district energy
  • The New York Declaration on Forests, launched and supported by more than 150 partners, including 28 government, 8 subnational governments, 35 companies, 16 indigenous peoples groups and 45 NGO and civil society groups, aims to halve the loss of natural forests globally by 2030
  • Twenty-four leading global producers of palm oil as well as commodities traders committed to contribute to the goal of zero net deforestation by 2020 and to work with governments, private sector partners and indigenous peoples to ensure a sustainable supply chain
  • The transport sector brought substantial emissions reduction commitments linked to trains, public transportation, freight, aviation and electric cars
  • Some of the world’s largest retailers of meat and agricultural products committed to adapt their supply chains to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change.  They will assist 500 million farmers in the process

Mobilizing money and markets

  • A new coalition of governments, business, finance, multilateral development banks and civil society leaders announced their intent to mobilise over $200 billion for financing low-carbon and climate-resilient development
  • Countries strongly reaffirmed their support for mobilizing public and private finance to meet the $100 billion dollar goal per annum by 2020
  • Leaders expressed strong support for the Green Climate Fund and many called for the Fund’s initial capitalization at an amount no less than $10 billion. There was a total of $2.3 billion in pledges to the Fund’s initial capitalization from six countries.  Six others committed to allocate contributions by November 2014
  • The European Union committed $3 billion for mitigation efforts in developing countries between 2014 and 2020
  • The International Development Finance Club (IDFC) announced that it is on track to increase direct green/climate financing to $100 billion a year for new climate finance activities by the end of 2015
  • Significant new announcements were made on support for South-South cooperation on climate change
  • Leaders from private finance called for the creation of an enabling environment to undertake the required investments in low-carbon climate resilient growth. They announced the following commitments:
    • Leading commercial banks announced their plans to issue $30 billion of Green Bonds by 2015, and announced their intention to increase the amount placed in climate-smart development to 10 times the current amount by 2020
    • A coalition of institutional investors, committed to decarbonizing $100 billion by December 2015 and to measure and disclose the carbon footprint of at least $500 billion in investments
    • The insurance industry committed to double its green investments to $84 billion by the end of 2015
    • Three major pension funds from North America and Europe announced plans to accelerate their investments in low-carbon investments across asset classes up to more than $31 billion by 2020

Pricing carbon

  • Seventy-three national governments, 11 regional governments and more than 1000 businesses and investors signalled their support for pricing carbon.  Together these leaders represent 52 per cent of global GDP, 54 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and almost half of the world’s population
  • Some leaders agreed to join a new Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition to drive action aimed at strengthening carbon pricing policies and redirecting investment
  • More than 30 leading companies announced their alignment with the Caring for Climate Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing

Strengthening resilience

  • A variety of innovative resilience initiatives were announced at the Summit, including many that will strengthen countries and communities on the climate front lines. These include an initiative to provide user-friendly “news you can use” climate information for countries around the world
  • Leaders agreed to strengthen and scale up the risk financing mechanisms for Africa and the Caribbean
  • The African Risk Capacity announced an expansion of its services and coverage, including the introduction of Catastrophe Bonds
  • An initiative to integrate climate risk into the financial system by 2020 was launched by a coalition of investors, credit ratings agencies, insurers and financial regulators in response to the growing number of extreme weather events
  • Leaders from the insurance industry, representing $30 trillion in assets and investments committed to creating a Climate Risk Investment Framework by Paris in 2015

Mobilizing new coalitions

  • Leaders welcomed multilateral and multi-stakeholder actions between governments, finance, the private sector, and civil society to address emissions in critical sectors and support adaptation and resilience, especially in Small Island Developing States, Africa and the Least Developed Countries
  • Leaders from 19 countries and 32 partners from government, regional organisations, development institutions and private investors committed to creating an 8,000 kilometre-long African Clean Energy Corridor
  • The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, comprised of 16 countries and 37 organisations, was launched to enable 500 million farmers worldwide to practice climate-smart agriculture by 2030
  • Leaders of the oil and gas industry, along with national governments and civil society organisations, made an historic commitment to identify and reduce methane emissions by 2020.  A second industry-led initiative was launched by leading producers of petroleum who committed to address methane as well as other key climate challenges, followed by regular reporting on ongoing efforts.  Industry leaders and governments also committed to reduce HFCs in refrigeration and food storage
  • A new Global Mayors Compact, representing well over 2,000 cities pledged new commitments on climate action supported by new funding from public and private sources — 228 cities have voluntary targets and strategies for greenhouse gas reductions – that could avoid up to 2.1 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year
  • A new coalition of more than 160 institutions and local governments and more than 500 individuals committed to divesting $50 billion from fossil fuel investments within the next three-five years and reinvest in new energy sources
  • Panels comprised of eminent global leaders, policy experts and citizen activists discussed the need for, and multiple benefits of, accelerated climate action.  Panellists focussed on the need for science-based decision making; strengthening economic performance while cutting emissions, generating jobs and enhancing resilience; pricing and reducing pollution for improved health; mobilizing new coalitions to help move markets; and ensuring that the most affected are at the centre of the global response to climate change

Filed under: Sustainability 101