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At UN Climate Action Summit, Global Leaders Aim to Quicken Action on Paris Agreement Initiatives

September 20, 2019, 12:52 PM UTC

World leaders are meeting in New York this month for the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, and while nuclear weapons and global health are sure to be discussed, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made certain one issue gets a spotlight.

Climate change will take center stage this weekend in a three-day Climate Action Summit meant to reinvigorate action behind the 2015 Paris Agreement. The event will bring together public, private, and civil stakeholders to form concrete plans aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, with the goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

These emission reductions are in line with one of the central goals of the Paris Agreement: limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. A special report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year warned that “unprecedented” changes would be required to reach this goal and avoid the worst effects of climate change.

With this in mind, the UN Climate Action Summit—themed “A Race We Can Win”—will be centered around six areas of action that together tackle climate change as a holistic issue. Each coalition is led by one or more country plus a supporting institution.

  • Energy Transition: Denmark and Ethiopia are leading the coalition to accelerate the transition to renewable energies and promote investment in clean energy along with the organization Sustainable Energy for All (SeforAll).
  • Climate Finance and Carbon Pricing: France, Jamaica, and Qatar are working with the World Bank to lead the coalition on finance, aiming to deliver on commitments to provide $100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation and align private and public finance with the Paris Agreement goals.
  • Industry Transition: India, Sweden, and the World Economic Forum will lead the effort to get commitments and plans from members of the most polluting industries (cement, steel, shipping, etc.) to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 with support from government leadership.
  • Nature-based Solutions: China and New Zealand, with support from the UN Environment Programme, are leading the coalition focused on protecting ecosystems, integrating nature’s role into economic planning, and creating smart food systems.
  • Infrastructure, Cities and Local Action: Turkey, Kenya and UN-Habitat are taking the lead on establishing commitments to low-emission infrastructure—including transportation, buildings, and waste systems—and the financial structure that supports it.
  • Resilience and Adaptation: Egypt and the United Kingdom are working with the UN Development Programme to address the need for all communities to consider climate risks in decision-making and plan for both efficient disaster relief and the sustainability of food, water and jobs.

In addition, coalitions on “mitigation strategy” (long-term strategies and movement towards national goals set by the Paris Agreement), “social and political drivers” (commitments to address intersecting issues like public health and jobs), and “youth engagement and public mobilization” will meet over the weekend.

The entire summit will kick off Saturday morning with the launch of a parallel Youth Summit, a day-long collection of events dedicated to empowering young activists and entrepreneurs to lead the world towards climate change solutions. Greta Thunberg, the teenage activist from Sweden credited with starting a global “school strike for climate” earlier this year, is one of the opening speakers.

On Saturday and Sunday, the youths’ adult counterparts will work in their coalitions to address their designated action area. The weekend’s dense schedule includes speakers, panels, and round-table discussions comprised of local and national government leaders, international organizations, and private-sector companies like Salesforce and Microsoft.

The weekend’s top initiatives—judged on factors like ambition, inclusivity, and scalability—will be presented on Monday, September 23.

A summary of the commitments made by each nation throughout the summit will then be compiled, with arrangements to track progress and accountability put into place. World leaders will again come together to address climate change in Chile this December at the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25).

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