Climate change 'back at the top of the political agenda', but grueling talks remain ahead
Posted on 24 September 2014
IBON International Updates (2014)
Climate Justice, No. 3
NEW YORK, 23 September 2014—The United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York gathered 122 government heads to unite on the urgency for big, bold and brave actions to tackle climate change.
UNSG Ban Ki Moon opened today’s high-level meeting by stressing that climate change threatens the peace, prosperity and opportunity for billions of people. He reminded everyone that hundreds of thousands who participated globally in the People’s Climate March on September 21 are demanding that leaders take the lead in making history to “set the world to a new course.”
Newly appointed UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio urged the leaders to take action to address “the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet.” He urged the leaders to put a price tag on carbon emissions, and eliminate subsidies for coal, gas and oil companies. He said that the leaders now face this difficult task and choose to either “make history or be vilified by it.”
The highlight of the summit opening was a poem delivered by Marshall Islands writer Kathy Jetni-Kijiner, which received a standing ovation. She challenged the leaders over their collective climate inaction, and said that climate-impacted communities deserved not just to survive, but to thrive.
What gives, Climate Summit?
A large part of the day-long meeting was dedicated to countries announcing their positions, programs and plans to act on climate change.
Country after country, from Samoa and Tuvalu to Costa Rica and Denmark, declared their commitment to speed up the switch from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy. Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Ethiopia and Iceland pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050. Grenada said all small island states would aim for complete shift to renewable energies.
Pledges and some actual commitment for climate financing were put on the table to support climate action in poorer countries. About USD1.32 billion was pledged for the Green Climate Fund, led by France with USD1 billion, with Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, South Korea and Switzerland also making commitments. China expressed its commitment to promote South-South cooperation on climate change by doubling its annual financial support to USD6 million for the establishment of a South-South cooperation fund.
A number of states expressed support for a global climate agreement in Paris next year. The United Kingdom said there is a need to raise the level of ambition to achieve a legally binding climate deal.
China shared this position and added three proposals: (a) to stick to the UNFCCC framework, upholding the principles of equity and “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” (CBDR-RC); (b) to meet respective commitments made by developed countries in intensifying emissions reduction and fulfilling obligations on finance and technology transfer; and (c) to strengthen actions for the future in that all countries need to follow green and low-carbon development that suits national conditions and actual circumstances.
United States President Obama acknowledged the US’ role in climate change, and affirmed that it