UN Climate Summit Results in Commitments and Renewed Action on Multiple Fronts
On Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014, heads of state from around the globe gathered at UN Headquarters in New York City for the 2014 UN Climate Summit. There was much anticipation leading up to Tuesday’s Summit: on Sunday the 21st, more that 400,000 people took to the streets of New York to march in support of aggressive policies to address climate change. Pictures from the event reveal streets full of people calling for climate action. Celebrities and politicians joined the march expressing solidarity with people protesting prolonged government inaction on climate change and demanding policies to protect against the melting of the polar ice caps, reduce carbon emissions, avoid biodiversity loss, and more.
The summit’s core objective was to create political momentum for a “meaningful universal climate agreement” in Paris in 2015 and it catalyzed action around reduction of emissions and creating resilience in countries in order to address the impacts of climate change. In his opening words at the Summit, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon used strong, direct language to compel world leaders to action: “I am asking you to lead. We must cut emissions. Science says they must peak by 2020 and decline sharply thereafter. By the end of this century we must be carbon neutral.”
100 Heads of State and Government, joined by more than 800 leaders from business, finance and civil society, agreed to a series of substantial commitments centering on five fronts: cutting emissions, mobilizing money and markets, pricing carbon, strengthening resilience, and mobilizing new coalitions. For example, Mexico committed to have 1/3 of its electricity generated from renewable sources by 2018 and India committed to double energy from wind and solar sources by 2020.
Other specific proposals included partnerships to reduce the loss of natural forests, the development of sustainable supply changes in industries as palm oil, and the commitment of the world’s largest retailers of meat and agricultural products to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change. Efforts were proposed as well to decarbonize funds and increase green investment. Seventy-three national governments, 11 regional governments and more than 1,000 businesses and investors also expressed their support for pricing carbon.
In terms of resilience initiatives, participants announced multiple mechanisms to strengthen countries and communities in the climate front lines. Leaders welcomed the multilateral and multistakeholder actions to support adaptation and resilience particularly in Small Island Developing States, Africa, and the Least Developed Countries.
Mashable created an excellent and easy-to-use map of country commitments. Even though many of these initiatives may seem limited in scope or already part of other efforts, they are now part of a broader effort towards the long-term objectives of climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience, and clean and sustainable energy. Governments and representatives of civil society called to maintain this spirit of commitment and action on the way forward to the UNFCCC COP 20 in Lima in 2014 and COP 21 in Paris. As the Chair’s summary concluded, the 2014 Climate Summit “has shown that we can rise to the climate challenge.”
UMass Boston’s Center for Governance and Sustainability participated in this event with a faculty-student delegation led by Prof. Maria Ivanova, Associate Professor at the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies and Co-Director of the Center for Governance and Sustainability.
Natalia Escobar-Pemberthy was an additional author for this post.