MUCH TALK, BIT OF WALK

World lead­ers at the UN Sum­mit an­nounced bold plans to cut car­bon emis­sions and do­nate to the Green Cli­mate Fund, while de­vel­op­ing coun­tries con­tinue to suf­fer the harsh­est im­pacts cli­mate change

Viet Nam News - - Front Page - Joel Jaeger

World lead­ers spoke at the UN about their bold plans to com­bat cli­mate change, which af­fects de­vel­op­ing coun­tries the most.

— Speak­ing to more than 120 heads of state at the UN Cli­mate Sum­mit, ac­tor and newly ap­pointed UN Mes­sen­ger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio made clear the long-rang­ing im­pact of the at­ten­dees’ de­ci­sions.

“You will make his­tory,” he said, “or you will be vil­i­fied by it. ”

Tues­day’s cli­mate sum­mit was not a part of the UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change ( UNFCCC) ne­go­ti­a­tion frame­work. In­stead, it was a spe­cial event con­vened by Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon to catal­yse pub­lic opin­ion and in­crease po­lit­i­cal will for a bind­ing cli­mate agree­ment to be ne­go­ti­ated in Paris at the end of 2015.

“This mix­ture of gov­ern­men­tal, business, ci­ties, states [and] civil so­ci­ety en­gage­ment is cer­tainly un­prece­dented and it of­fers a chance to open the cli­mate change dis­cus­sion at a heads of state level as never be­fore,” said Jen­nifer Mor­gan, di­rec­tor of the cli­mate and en­ergy pro­gramme at the World Re­sources In­sti­tute (WRI), in a state­ment be­fore the sum­mit.

The sec­re­tary- gen­eral opened the sum­mit by ex­hort­ing lead­ers to make sub­stan­tial com­mit­ments to mit­i­gate cli­mate change.

“Cli­mate change is the defin­ing is­sue of our age,” he said. “ We must work to­gether to mo­bilise mar­kets” and “com­mit to a mean­ing­ful, univer­sal cli­mate agree­ment in Paris in 2015.”

In three si­mul­ta­ne­ous ses- sions, world lead­ers an­nounced na­tional ac­tion and am­bi­tion plans to com­bat cli­mate change. Th­ese an­nounce­ments in­cluded pledges to cut emis­sions, do­nate money to the Green Cli­mate Fund, halt de­for­esta­tion and un­der­take ef­forts to put a price on car­bon.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from small is­land states lamented that their coun­tries would be un­der­wa­ter in only a few decades, while African lead­ers pointed out the grow­ing num­ber of cli­mate refugees.

All eyes were on China and the United States, re­spec­tively the num­ber one and num­ber two car­bon emit­ting coun­tries in the world.

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama an­nounced that all fu­ture US in­vest­ments in in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment would con­sider cli­mate re­siliency as an im­por­tant fac­tor. He also said that the US would meet its tar­get of re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions in the range of 17 per cent be­low 2005 lev­els by the year 2020.

“We recog­nise our role in cre­at­ing this prob­lem. We embrace our re­spon­si­bil­ity to com­bat it,” Obama said. “We will do our part and we will help de­vel­op­ing na­tions to do theirs.”

“But we can only suc­ceed in com­bat­ing cli­mate change if we are joined in this ef­fort by ev­ery na­tion, de­vel­oped and de­velop- ing alike. No­body gets a pass.”

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping did not at­tend the cli­mate sum­mit, but in­stead sent Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

While some were dis­ap­pointed at Xi’s ab­sence, the fact that such a high-rank­ing Chi­nese of­fi­cial would speak of the ne­ces­sity of cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion was cause for op­ti­mism.

In a re­ac­tion state­ment, WRI’s Jen­nifer Mor­gan said that “China’s re­marks at the Cli­mate Sum­mit go fur­ther than ever be­fore. Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli’s an­nounce­ment to strive to peak emis­sions ‘as early as pos­si­ble’ is a wel­come sig­nal for the co­op­er­a­tive ac­tion we need for the Paris Agree­ment.”

China alone ac­counts for one quar­ter of world­wide car­bon emis­sions an­nu­ally.

Naren­dra Modi, newly elected prime min­is­ter of In­dia, also de­clined to at­tend the cli­mate sum­mit. In­dia is the world’s third largest emit­ter of car­bon.

Mid­way through the day, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral was in­sis­tent that real progress was be­ing made.

“ This sum­mit is not about talk,” he said. “The cli­mate sum­mit is pro­duc­ing ac­tions that make a dif­fer­ence.”

One of the most con­crete things that na­tions can do to com­bat cli­mate change is to make pledges to the Green Cli­mate Fund.

The Green Cli­mate Fund is a UNFCCC mech­a­nism de­signed to trans­fer money from de­vel­oped coun­tries to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, to build cli­mate re­silience.

Dur­ing the sum­mit French Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande pledged US$1 bil­lion to the Cli­mate Fund over the next few years. Sev­eral other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Norway and Switzer­land, also promised to con­trib­ute smaller amounts. Ger­many pledged $ 1 bil­lion to the fund sev­eral months ago.

Still, th­ese ef­forts do not nearly close the cli­mate re­silience gap be­tween rich and poor states.

Bo­li­vian Pres­i­dent Evo Mo­rales voiced a common frus­tra­tion in his state­ment on be­half of the G77 and China, a group of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

“De­vel­op­ing coun­tries con­tinue to suf­fer the most from the ad­verse im­pacts of cli­mate change... even though they are his­tor­i­cally the least re­spon­si­ble for cli­mate change,” he said.

Mo­rales crit­i­cised de­vel­oped coun­tries for fail­ing to up­hold their com­mit­ments, and said that de­vel­op­ing coun­tries would only be able to ful­fil their com­mit­ments to re­duc­ing car­bon with­out sub­stan­tial fi­nan­cialas­sis­tance­fromde­vel­ope­d­coun­tries.

It’s easy “to get caught in the zero-sum game” when talk­ing about steps to mit­i­gate cli­mate change, DavidWaskow, head­ofWRI’sIn­ter­na­tional Cli­mate Ini­tia­tive, said. How­ever, “one of the things that was heard fre­quently to­day from the podium was the recog­ni­tion that cli­mate ac­tion and eco­nomic growth and de­vel­op­ment can go hand in hand.”

His­tor­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity is a con­cern, he said, but it should not stop poor coun­tries from recog­nis­ing that “there are paths for­ward on cli­mate ac­tion that can in fact be ben­e­fi­cial for de­vel­op­ment.”

Waskow pointed out that re­new­able en­ergy will soon be just as cheap as fos­sil fu­els in many coun­tries, and could pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment ben­e­fits in ru­ral ar­eas far from the main elec­tric­ity grid.

In ad­di­tion to the cli­mate sum­mit’s main speeches, nu­mer­ous side events took place, in­clud­ing the­matic de­bates on the eco­nomic case for ac­tion and on cli­mate sci­ence. A spe­cial ses­sion en­ti­tled “Voices from the Cli­mate Front Lines” high­lighted the ex­pe­ri­ences of chil­dren, youth, women and in­dige­nous peo­ples in build­ing re­silience to cli­mate change.

Mean­while, popular support for ac­tion against cli­mate change is gain­ing en­ergy.

Around 100 cli­mate-re­lated events are tak­ing place in New York be­tween Septem­ber 22 and 28 as part of the Cli­mate Week NYC cam­paign.

Many cli­mate sup­port­ers fear that the hype sur­round­ing the sum­mit and the 2015 Paris con­fer­ence will amount to noth­ing more than it did in 2009, when hopes of a cli­mate agree­ment in Copen­hagen fiz­zled.

When asked whether enough had changed since 2009 to re­sult in a suc­cess­ful cli­mate treaty, Bran­don Wu, se­nior pol­icy an­a­lyst at Ac­tionAid USA, said “ I think there’s been enough [change] to get some­thing through. I don’t think there’s been enough to get through some­thing as am­bi­tious as we need.”

For the 2015 Paris agree­ment to suc­ceed, ne­go­tia­tors will need a “clear, fo­cused and strong draft agree­ment” by the end of the UN’s cli­mate change con­fer­ence (COP20) in Lima this De­cem­ber, said COP20 pres­i­dent and Peru­vian en­vi­ron­men­tal min­is­ter Manuel Pul­gar­Vi­dal in a press call.

Ma­jor economies will need to come for­ward by March 2015 with their pro­posed con­tri­bu­tions to the Par­is­frame­work.

In­his­re­mark­satthe­cli­mate­sum­mit, Al Gore put for­ward his take on what was nec­es­sary for a suc­cess­ful cli­mate treaty.

“All we need is po­lit­i­cal will, but po­lit­i­cal will is a re­new­able re­source.”—

A cy­clist stops to look at a dis­play, en­ti­tled "Cool Globes," an ex­hi­bi­tion about com­bat­ing global warm­ing and cli­mate change in the Kon­gens Ny­torv area in the cen­ter of Copen­hagen. — AFP/VNA Photo

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