Ban hails ‘bold’ announcements on tackling climate change as historic UN summit closes

The Congo Basin harbours the world’s second largest tropical forest. It is also a key resource for stabilizing the global climate. Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

23 September 2014 – Bold new actions to immediately tackle climate change were announced today by Government, business, finance and civil society leaders attending a historic Climate Summit convened by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has long urged workable solutions based on “clear vision anchored in domestic and multinational actions.”

“Today was a great day – a historic day. Never before have so many leaders gathered to commit to action on climate change,” Mr. Ban said, summing up the day-long event,which drew a unique mix of international players who announced their vision and commitment for reaching a universal and meaningful climate agreement in 2015, as well made announcements on actions that will reduce emissions, enhance resistance to climate change and mobilize financing for climate action.

“The Summit delivered,” declared the UN chief, noting that leaders had reaffirmed determination to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius by cutting emissions. And many, from all regions and all levels of economic development, advocated for a peak in greenhouse gas emissions before 2020, decisively reduced emissions thereafter, and climate neutrality in the second half of this century.

On finance, the Secretary-General said public and private sources showed the way forward for mobilizing the needed resources. Leaders expressed strong support for the Green Climate Fund. And a total of $2.3 billion was pledged towards the Fund's initial capitalization today, and others committed contributions by November 2014.

“A new coalition of Governments, business, finance, multilateral development banks and civil society leaders announced their commitment to mobilize upwards of $200 billion for financing low-carbon and climate-resilient development,” he said, adding that private banks announced they would issue $20 billion in “Green Bonds” and that they would double the market to $50 billion by 2015, next year.

As for carbon pricing, “one of the most powerful tools available for reducing emissions and generating sustainable development and growth”, Mr. Ban said that many Government and business leaders supported putting a price on carbon through various instruments and called for intensified efforts to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Some 30 companies had announced their alignment with the Caring for Climate Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing.

Among the day’s other highlights, he said the Summit had heard how strengthening resilience – both climate and financial – is a smart and essential investment. Adaptation needs are growing, particularly for the least developed countries and small island developing States, which are most at risk and need most international support.

Finally, he spotlighted that “new coalitions are forming to meet the full scope of the climate challenge,” and citied the first Global Agricultural Alliance which was launched today to enable 500 million farmers worldwide to practice climate-smart agriculture by 2030.

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.

“A new Compact of Mayors, representing 200 cities with a combined population of 400 million people, pledged new commitments to reduce annual emissions by between 12.4 and 16.4 per cent,” added the Secretary-General, telling delegations that those highlights would serve as his Chairman’s Summary, which would be distributed soon to Member States.

Looking ahead, Mr. Ban urged the participants to maintain the spirit of compromise and commitment that characterized the discourse at the Summit. “We must fulfil and expand on all the pledges and initiatives brought forward today.”

As the international community walked together on the road to Lima and Paris (milestone meetings of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in December 2014 and 2015, he said “let us look back on today as the day we decided – as a human family – to put our house in order to make it liveable for future generations. Today’s Summit has shown that we can rise to the climate challenge.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Ban already welcomed specific commitments made by specific countries, including “generous pledges’ of $1 billion each by President François Hollande of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

He noted that The European Union pledged to adopt the 40 per cent emissions reductions target this October, Grenada called for all island states to go 100 per cent renewable, and China announced that it will peak its emissions as soon as possible and double its support for the South-South Cooperation.

“We have heard significant pledges of finance and resources,” he said. “Finance is the enabler of what we want to achieve. This morning, you have acknowledged its crucial importance. Private finance is out there, and public finance can be the lever to access it.”

Addressing the special mid-day wrap up session, United States President Barrack Obama said that of all the immediate challenges world leaders were set to address this week during the General Assembly’s high-level segment – terrorism, inequality disease – there is one issue that would define the contours of the current century more than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.

“Indeed ... deepening scientific evidence says this once distant threat has moved firmly into the present; no nation is immune,” he said, underscoring that “the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot keep pretending we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.”

The mid-day segment was also addressed by Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania and Coordinator of the Committee of the African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change; Baron Waqa, President of Nauru and Chair of Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS); and Zhang Gaoli, Vice-Premier of China.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

At summit, UN agencies pledge action to curb climate change

Related Stories

In-depth Interviews