UN Climate Summit achieves quite a bit more than expected

The Climate Summit convened by UN Chairman Ban Ki Moon at UN Headquarters in New York City yesterday was intended to be an event ‘to raise political momentum for a meaningful universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015’. In fact, the event encouraged the release of more commitments than are usually seen at the annual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change annual negotiating sessions. Among the many commitments tabled:

  • Many leaders called for all countries to take national actions consistent with a less than 2 degree pathway and a number of countries committed to doing so.
  • Leaders committed to finalise a meaningful, universal new agreement under the UNFCCC at COP-21, in Paris in 2015, and to arrive at the first draft of such an agreement at COP-20 in Lima, in December 2014.
  • 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. [GallonDaily will report on the New York Declaration on Forests tomorrow.]
  • 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.
  • 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 mobilising 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.
  • 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.
  • Seventy-three national Governments, 11 regional governments and more than 1,000 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.
  • More than 30 leading companies announced their alignment with the Caring for Climate Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing.
  • 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.

In today’s Toronto Star, columnist Thomas Walkom observes:

Given his record as a spoiler, maybe it’s just as well that Stephen Harper didn’t attend Tuesday’s climate-change summit in New York. The prime minister has never liked meaningful plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Over the years, he has done his best to sabotage them.

The Chair’s summary of the event can be found at http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/05/climatesummit-chairsummary.pdf.

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