This week marked the commencement of the United Nation’s Climate Summit 2014 hosted by United Nations’ General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon. 126 heads of state including President Barack Obama, David Cameron and Dilma Rousseff are among leaders speaking in New York City. Among those not in attendance are representatives from China and India, two of the top five largest producers of carbon dioxide emissions.
The goal of the summit is to catalyze international negotiations on climate action, marking the first time in five years that world leaders have come together to discuss the issue since Cop 15 in Copenhagen. At these previous talks, leaders failed to reach a binding agreement, though many countries did make voluntary pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Since the Cop 15 discussions, almost 200 countries have pledged to reach agreement in Paris by the end of 2015 on a climate pact for carbon reductions beyond 2020. The United Nations summit this week, however, is not a part of those official climate talks, which are run by the UNFCCC. Regardless, these talks are important as they are providing the opportunity for governments, municipalities and businesses to stand up for climate change action.
Ban has established two explicit goals for the summit. The first goal is to mobilize political will for a universal and meaningful climate agreement next year in Paris. The second goal is to generate ambitious steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen resilience.
People around the world are certainly becoming aware of the issue of climate change and are eager to take a stance. Just two days prior to the summit, over a half million people gathered for marches around the world from New York City to Melbourne. This comes as a result of numerous scientific studies reporting that there remain few safe havens from the storms, floods, and droughts that are sure to intensify over the coming decades. Such climate issues are already prevalent in California and the Southwest with expansive droughts and wildfires, and heat waves on the East Coast and Southeast, which are on the rise. Not even our nation’s capital is safe, as predictions show it will be a flood zone by 2100.
While some regions will certainly fare much better than others, all global citizens are at risk and inaction has been shown to not bode well with America’s and the world’s rate of green house gas emissions.
Fortunately, some successful agreements have already been made at the summit. The multinational companies, 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, launched the Oil & Gas Methane Partnership, pledging to cut the emissions of methane. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund also signed the initiative, as well as governments from major oil and gas producing countries, including Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, The Russian Federation and the United States.
CEO of Statoil, Helge Lund, took these agreements a step further as he announced his endorsement of an international carbon price stating, “A carbon price gives industry clear incentives to find technologies to bring down emissions,” he said. “Business cannot succeed on a planet that fails. We need an international carbon price.” (Full statement here.)
The initiatives that have already resulted from Climate Summit 2014 provide hope that these world leaders will create effective binding agreements that will reduce overall carbon emissions. It is important that we keep ourselves informed and recognize the significance of these agreements and hold our leaders accountable to upholding them.