Ban Ki-moon’s call raises unprecedent goodwill at NY Climate Summit

The climate summit hold by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN Headquarters in New York ended on Tuesday, in late afternoon, after one day packed with meetings and announcements.

The aim of the initiative was “to raise political momentum for a meaningful universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015 and to galvanize transformative action in all countries to reduce emissions and build resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change”.

The answer to Ban Ki-moon’s call was positive. According to UN release, an unprecedented number of world leaders, including a hundred Heads of State and Government, and more than 800 leaders from business, finance and civil society, attended the Summit. During the day that was dubbed “the Super Bowl of climate policy”, governments, corporations, business representatives, intergovernmental agencies, NGOs, and civil society organizations discussed several issues related to climate change (the summit feature also four thematic sessions on: climate science; co-benefits of climate action focusing on health and jobs; the economic case for climate action; perspectives from vulnerable populations and groups, such as indigenous communities, women, youth) and pledged to scale up existing and new actions.

Unlike in formal UNFCCC negotiations, the agreements made at Tuesday’s meeting are voluntary and nonbinding. Thus, the upcoming COP in Lima in December will give better insight on if governments and stakeholders will “maintain the spirit of commitment and action that characterized the Summit”, and if their commitments are proportionate to the challenge. In a closing speech the widow of Nelson Mandela Graça Machel highlighted “a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the challenge and the response we heard here today”, affirming that scientific evidences requires braver responses.

Here a brief of the main commitments made at the summit, by themes.

Paris 2015

In his final speech, UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon announced government leaders committed to reach a “meaningful, universal new agreement” to reduce GHG emissions at COP-21, in Paris in 2015, and to provide a first draft of the agreement at COP-20 that will take place in Lima in a little over two months. “Many leaders” also committed to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs, that is what each country will propose in order to reduce its emissions) for the new agreement within April 2015.

Countries’ pledges

An impressive set of pledges was made or reaffirmed by governments’ representatives, committing their countries to reduce GHG emissions and/or supporting adaptation and mitigation measures domestically and abroad. Mashable provided a quick snapshot of each country’s promises in this brilliant map:

Climate finance and decarbonizing investments

A group of leading institutional investors, including two of the largest asset managers, and pension funds in Europe, announced they have teamed up with UNEP and its Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) to substantially reduce the carbon footprint of $100 billion of institutional investment worldwide, to measure and disclose the carbon footprint of at least $ 500 billion.
$30 billion in green bonds and other financing instruments by the end of 2015 were pledged by commercial banks attending the summit.
A group of developed countries pledge to channel $18 billion to the developing countries during 2014-2020.
Development banks parts to the International Development Finance Club said they are on track to reach $100 billion-a-year in direct climate and green financing by the end of 2015.

Ban Ki-moon announced that many leaders from governments and businness supported putting a price on carbon, and called for eliminate fossil fuels subsidies.

Energy and Industry

Multinational oil and gas companies launched the Oil & Gas Methane Partnership, including ENI of Italy, Petróleos Mexicanos or Pemex, the U.S. gas company Southwestern Energy, Norway’s Statoil Group, BG Group, the former British Gas, and Thailand’s oil and gas company, PTT. The initiative is aimed at cutting the emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 34-fold more potent than carbon dioxide, produced by the oil and gas industry.

Sustainable Cities and Transport

Four global transport initiatives announced aim to innovate the transport sector worldwide:
– the Urban Electric Mobility Initiative plans to increase the number of electric vehicles in cities to least 30 percent of all new vehicles sold on annual basis by 2030 and make cities friendly to their use.
– the Low-Carbon Sustainable Rail Transport Challenge, launched by the International Union of Railways (UIC), promotes the use of rails for freight and transport.
– the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) Declaration on Climate Leadership aim at providing access to climate-savvy public transportation for city residents.
– the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) promised to increase efforts in reaching the aviation industry’s existing global goal to halve net CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 2005 levels, through the development of sustainable alternative fuels and of a global CO2 standard for new aircraft.

An initiative known as known as the Compact of Mayors, including over two thousands cities, announced aim to scale up climate resilience efforts, energy efficiency programs and resilient financing mechanisms. The Cities Climate Registry, the designated central repository of the Compact of Mayors, will serve as a platform for city climate data.

About 20 public and private sector partners also united to launch the City Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, aimed at speed-up investments in low-carbon and climate-resistant infrastructure in cities in low- and middle-income countries.