Countries make pledges to tackle climate change at the UN Summit

On Tuesday leaders from around the world gathered to try and tackle the growing concerns of climate change. World leaders have promised to try harder in tackling climate change.

The UN Summit served as a platform to urge world leaders to try harder on facing the issue, despite the numerous obstacles that are still standing in the way of agreements to reduce pollution.

In his opening remarks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said:

“Today we must set the world on a new course. Climate change is the defining issue of our age. It is defining our present. Our response will define our future.”

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, serving as the UN climate change ambassador, stressed that nations should put a price tag or tax carbon as a means of reducing our carbon footprint.

“As an actor, I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems,” DiCaprio told the summit. “I believe mankind has looked at climate change in that same way – as if it were fiction.”

Climate change is much more than fiction

The one-day meeting at the annual UN General Assembly had more than 100 world leaders participate in the forum. It was created to help lay the groundwork for a global treaty to tackle climate change in December 2015.

Obama was at the forefront of the meeting, commenting:

“The United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. Today I call on all countries to join us, not next year or the year after that, but right now. Because no nation can meet this global threat alone.”

However, the forum also revealed the big differences between the stances countries have on matters such as carbon pollution, and deforestation.

For example:

  • Brazil said that it would not sign a pledge to stop deforestation by 2030.
  • The US did not join 73 other countries that supported a price on carbon.
  • President Obama said that “nobody gets a pass”, however, only minutes after his statement, China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, said that the world should treat developing countries differently than developed countries. Although China did sign a carbon-pricing agreement.

The results of the summit

France promised to provide the Green Climate Fund with US$1 billion, the only country to make such a contribution other than Germany.

The European Union stated that its member nations would reduce greenhouse gases by 2030 to a level 40 percent below the level in 1990. The EU also vowed to use renewable energy for 27 percent of the bloc’s power needs.

The United States on the other hand is not going to be releasing new emissions targets until early 2015.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said that the climate change target it could be achieved without economic consequences.

Over the next several years the EU will provide approximately $3 billion euros (nearly $3.9 billion US) to help developing countries become more sustainable.

Mr. Barroso said:

“The European Union is on track to meet our targets and at same time we have seen our economy grow. We prove climate protection and a strong economy must go hand in hand.”

Norway has vowed to use $350 million to protect forests in Peru and $100 million to protect forests in Liberia.

Japan pledged that issue new goals early next year would be issued and become a model for a low-carbon society. It will also be using a satellite to monitor and verify emissions.

2014 Climate Change Summary – Chair’s Summary

Below is a list of pledges and agreements that countries could agree upon, according to the Chair of the summit.

A comprehensive global vision on climate change emerged from the statements of leaders at the Summit:

  • World leaders agreed that climate change is a defining issue of our time and that bold action is needed today to reduce emissions and build resilience and that they would lead this effort.
  • Leaders acknowledged that climate action should be undertaken within the context of efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and promote sustainable development.
  • Leaders committed to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
  • 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 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (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.
  • Leaders concurred that the new agreement should be effective, durable and comprehensive and that it should balance support for mitigation and adaptation.
  • Many underlined the importance of addressing loss and damage.
  • Many leaders affirmed their commitment to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) for the new agreement in the first quarter of 2015.
  • Many leaders reaffirmed the objectives and principles of the UNFCCC, including the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. In addition, others highlighted that the global effort to meet the climate challenge should reflect evolving realities and circumstances.

Cutting Emissions
Without significant cuts in emissions by all countries, and in key sectors, the window of opportunity to stay within less than 2 degrees will soon close forever:

  • 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.

Moving markets and mobilizing money

Moving markets across a wide range of sectors is essential for transforming economies at scale. Mobilizing sufficient public and private funds for low carbon, climate resilient growth is essential to keep within a less than 2 degree Celsius pathway:

  • 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.
  • 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
Putting a price on carbon will provide markets with the policy signals needed to invest in climate solutions.

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.

  • 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.