U.N. climate summit falls short for marchers, world's poorest

Megan Rowling PlanetArk 25 Sep 14;

U.N. climate summit falls short for marchers, world's poorest Photo: Adrees Latif
Activists hold a banner as they lead a march of tens of thousands down 6th Avenue during the People's Climate March through Midtown, New York September 21, 2014.
Photo: Adrees Latif

Leaders at the U.N. climate summit in New York made too few commitments on curbing climate change to meet the demands of the hundreds of thousands of people who flooded streets worldwide on Sunday calling for bold action, civil society groups said.

But they took some heart from the limited pledges made by governments on Tuesday, together with signals that countries are serious about agreeing a new global climate deal next year in Paris, aiming to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

For example, several states - including Mexico and South Korea - promised to put money into the fledgling U.N. Green Climate Fund, which is intended to help vulnerable countries adapt to extreme weather and rising seas, and develop cleanly.

According to a tally by aid agency Oxfam, fresh pledges in New York totaled $1.325 billion, with France making the largest contribution of $1 billion over the next four years.

"The cash is starting to land in the Green Climate Fund, albeit at little more than a trickle," said Tim Gore, Oxfam's head of climate policy. "All eyes are now on those yet to stump up, including the United States, UK, Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand, and on the devil in the detail of those pledges made (on Tuesday)."

Developing countries have called for an initial capitalization of the fund of $15 billion, and the U.N.'s top climate official, Christiana Figueres, said it should be at least $10 billion.

The total promised so far to the fund - which will hold its first pledging conference in November ahead of annual U.N. climate talks in Peru - is just over $2.3 billion.

Separately, Norway said it would spend up to $300 million to support a program in Peru to reduce emissions from the destruction of the world's fourth largest tropical forest, and up to $150 million to tackle deforestation caused by logging, agriculture and charcoal production in Liberia.

Meanwhile, the European Union said it aims to allocate more than 3 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in grants to support sustainable energy in developing states over the next seven years.


Robert Glasser, CARE International's secretary general, said his organization was "disappointed that climate change adaptation has been given short shrift at this summit".

"Though various initiatives have been announced here and there, with such vague information from governments, it's not clear whether they will be of any benefit to the world's poorest at all," he emphasized.

A number of collaborative efforts were launched to help at-risk people become more resilient to climate change. The Red Cross said it would work with governments and others to strengthen the use of climate information in at least 40 countries by the end of 2015, and quadruple the number of cities where it implements urban risk reduction programs.

African states announced the African Risk Capacity Extreme Climate Facility, a multi-year funding mechanism that will issue climate change catastrophe bonds to help countries boost adaptation investments if extreme weather shocks increase.

Leaders from 19 countries, plus 32 investors and other partners, backed the creation of an 8,000 km-long clean energy corridor across east and southern Africa.

U.S. President Barack Obama said federal agencies would be required to factor climate resilience into the design of their international development programs and investments. The U.S. government will release new data and tools enabling developing countries to better understand extreme weather risks and prepare for climate impacts.


But some aid agencies were critical of another major initiative, to help 500 million farmers adapt to more stressful growing conditions through "climate smart" agriculture, and of a declaration setting a goal to cut the loss of tropical forests in half by 2020 and end it in 2030.

ActionAid said there was no definition of what types of agriculture could be called "climate smart", warning it could be used as an unfair way of getting poor countries to take on a large portion of emissions cuts and open the way for agri-business firms at the expense of small-scale farmers.

FERN, a European forest policy NGO, said the forest declaration did not take a strong enough stance on ensuring forest people's rights, and on the need to curb consumption in the developed world. Others were critical because the statement was not endorsed by forest-rich Brazil, which was reported to have said it had been left out of negotiations.

While both Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told leaders at the climate summit they must hear the voices of the hundreds of thousands of people who joined climate demonstrations at the weekend, some questioned how far the message was getting through.

"We marched for the banning of new fossil fuel projects, and for the promotion and funding for community, decentralized, renewable energy systems," said Lidy Nacpil of the Philippines, director of Jubilee South, the Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development. "Neither of these were advanced by the summit - it seems they were listening to the corporate sponsors rather than the people."

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

Leaders under fire for failure to attend post-UN climate summit meetings
Fiona Harvey theguardian.com 24 Sep 14;

British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during the climate summit at the UN headquarters on September 23, 2014 in New York City. British prime minister David Cameron speaks during the climate summit at the UN headquarters in New York City on Tuesday. Photograph: UPI /Landov / Barcroft Media/UPI /Landov / Barcroft Media

David Cameron’s former top climate change aide has lambasted world leaders for failing to show up to the crucial informal dialogue session following Tuesday’s climate summit at the UN in New York.

After a day of set-piece speeches by leaders including Barack Obama that yielded little in the way of new commitments, world leaders were supposed to meet over dinner to discuss climate change, and engage in “soft diplomacy” to iron out differences ahead of crunch negotiations on a new global climate agreement.

But many prominent heads of state and government stayed away from the summit altogether, or failed to show at the dinner.

Greg Barker, former climate minister and the adviser who played a key role in Cameron interest in green issues, including orchestrating his famous trip to the Arctic, told an audience in New York: “President Obama is a few blocks away [from the dinner] at a party in the Waldorf-Astoria. China’s [premier Xi Jinping] is thousands of miles away. The prime minister of India [Narendra Modi] could not make time for it. The chancellor of Germany [Angela Merkel], the biggest economy in Europe, is in Berlin. We will never get a deal on climate change if leaders don’t turn up.”

Russia’s Vladimir Putin also stayed put in Moscow, and the count of world leaders reached just above 120 out of a possible of more than 190.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, called the summit in an effort to make much-needed progress before crunch talks next December in Paris, at which world governments are supposed to forge a new global agreement on the climate, including national commitments on emissions curbs beyond 2020, when current targets run out. The last time that leaders met in such fashion was at Copenhagen in 2009.

The decision by the Chinese, Indian and Russian premiers to snub Tuesday’s UN summit, held the day before the annual general assembly, was viewed with dismay by many.

“This was supposed to be pivotal: Obama and Jinping in a room, eyeball to eyeball,” said a senior participant in the talks. “Everyone knows that the US and China [the world’s biggest emitters and economies] are the pivot. But it didn’t happen.”

China’s vice premier Zhang Gaoli told the summit: “We will announce post-2020 actions on climate change as soon as we can, which will bring about marked progress in reducing carbon intensity, increasing the share of non-fossil fuels and raising the forest stock, as well as the peaking of total CO2 emissions as early as possible.

“China will advance a revolution in energy production and consumption, cap total energy consumption, raise energy efficiency and vigorously develop non-fossil fuels. We will step up efforts against air pollution, promote ecological progress, establish a carbon trading market at a faster pace, intensify technological innovation and raise public awareness of green and low-carbon development.

“By so doing, China will blaze a path of sustainable development that leads to both economic growth and effective tackling of climate change.”

Foreign ministeri Xie Zhinhua made it clear in a press conference that engagement would be on China’s terms. “China is a developing country,” he said. “We have 18m people living in poverty. China has paid equal attention to growth, mitigation [of carbon dioxide emissions] and adaptation [to climate change]. We are similar to developing countries and the least developed countries, we are on the same page as these countries.”

He emphasised China’s insistence on the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, intended under the Kyoto protocol of 1997, when China’s economy was much smaller, to ensure that developing countries could continue to increase their emissions while developed countries had to reduce theirs.

However, one new factor in the negotiations leading up to Paris is that China has just surpassed the European Union in annual greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Previously, along with other developing countries, China has argued that as its emissions per person were much lower than in the developed world, it should take on less responsibility for emissions cuts.

Cameron attended Tuesday night’s dinner at UN headquarters in Manhattan, seated between South Africa’s Jacob Zuma and Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil. He was also one of many world leaders present, including François Hollande of France and Hassan Rouhani of Iran, who had one-to-one meetings with Ban during the day, though the edited versions released publicly afterwards revealed little of note.

Cameron did not attend the climate march on Sunday, when hundreds of thousands of people in New York, London and cities around the world urged leaders to take stronger action on global warming, but Barker took to the streets of New York with model Lily Cole.