15 September — More than 120 heads of state and government have committed to attend the Climate Summit, making it the largest gathering seeking to tackle climate change in history.
In a briefing, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is hosting the meeting, said he was “humbled by the overwhelming response” from Member States.
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All the national leaders, as well as ministerial-level representatives, are guaranteed the right to speak at the one-day event, which the Secretary-General will kick off with a speech at 8 a.m. on 23 September. “I want everybody, every country, to have a voice at the Summit,” said Ban, who has called for world leaders to arrive in New York armed with bold ideas to stem the impact of climate change.
“I expect each country to put forth a clear vision of placing the world on a trajectory to keep temperature rise within 2 degrees Centigrade” and to confirm support for a meeting in Paris next year intended to reach an agreement on how to achieve that vision, he said.
They are also expected to confirm their commitment to deliver a first draft of that agreement in December in Lima, Peru.
“It is up to each government to decide what it will bring to the Summit,” Mr. Ban said. “Be it new levels of emissions, new climate finance, new climate actions on the ground or all of the above.”
The Heads of State and Government will speak in the morning and ministerial-level representatives will do so in the afternoon.
After the morning session, from 12:45 p.m. until 1:15 p.m., the Secretary-General and the three co-chairs – the presidents of France, Peru and the President of the General Assembly — will present a joint recap of the morning with “a clear vision for placing the world on a trajectory to keep temperature rise within 2 degrees Centigrade.”
Mr. Ban, who earlier this month addressed a conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa, said the “Samoa Pathway” that emerged in the capital of Apia defines a way forward for larger nations, too.
“Many partnerships took shape in Samoa, with monitoring and other pledges covering a huge range of economic, social and environmental initiatives,” he said. “I hope you will find value in a multi-stakeholder approach.”
Though the island meeting created political momentum for success in Lima and Paris, it also highlighted the importance of initiating action before then, he said. “The solutions are within reach and make economic sense,” he said.
The logistics of holding such an event are daunting, acknowledged Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, who noted that fewer heads of state and government attended the 2009 Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen.
The speakers will be divided among three rooms inside the world body’s headquarters building on Manhattan’s East Side; remarks will be limited to 4 minutes each. The lunch session will focus on the role of the private sector in limiting the effects of climate change and will be attended by representatives of companies as well as a number of heads of state, he said. There will be a special focus on carbon pricing by the private sector and by governments.
Afternoon sessions will focus on energy, forests, finance, agriculture, cities, transport, adaptation resilience and disaster-risk reduction, and petroleum and industry.
The topic of finance has been allocated extra time due to requests by Member States. “The united firepower of the financial industry “has never come into our building in this way,” Orr said. “We have a chance to actually shift markets.”
Discussions will touch on the capitalization of the Green Climate Fund, a mechanism to transfer money from the developed world to developing countries to help them put in place practices to adapt to climate change.
Businesses and cities are expected to announce commitments to invest in resource-efficient initiatives, said Jennifer Morgan, director of the Climate and Energy Program for the World Resources Institute, in a briefing this week with reporters.
“I think what you’re really seeing is a mainstreaming of the climate change issue, not as an environmental event, but rather a city, economics, finance and energy event,” she said.
At the end of the afternoon session, Mr. Ban will summarize the day’s accomplishments.
The Summit is intended to put climate change at the top of the international agenda, said Selwin Hart, director of the Climate Change Support Team.
“Instead of waiting to see what others do, the Summit provides countries and corporations with the opportunity to show what they are doing, and what they intend to do,” he said.
But he noted that it is a one-day event. “It will not solve the problem of climate change by itself, but it can be an important turning point.”