Climate summit

On September 20, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres is hosting a Climate Ambition Summit seeking to galvanize greater climate action from world leaders. Coming on the heels of the powerful March to End Fossil Fuels last weekend, this summit continues the pressure on governments to meet the urgency of the moment.

Despite this year’s grim series of extreme climate-fueled disasters and record-breaking temperatures – part of a trend of worsening climate impacts – global heat-trapping emissions continue their alarming rise. The big question, though, is whether world leaders will show up and deliver – or will they, once again, fail us?

Back in March of this year, when the sobering IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report was released, the UN Secretary-General made a powerful speech calling the scientific report a “how-to guide to defuse the climate time-bomb.” He also called for a quantum leap in climate action and announced an Acceleration Agenda for governments, the financial sector, and businesses. The upcoming Climate Ambition Summit will serve as an opportunity for those who have taken up the challenge to announce specific actions and commitments to deliver on this agenda. The three tracks for the Acceleration Agenda are Ambition, Credibility, and Implementation, outlined in more detail here.

Governments are being asked to commit to more ambitious emission reduction commitments for 2030 and beyond by 2025, as part of the regular cycle of updates in line with the latest science called for in the Paris agreement, as well as to boost climate finance commitments from rich nations. At the same time, businesses, states, and others making commitments to net zero goals are being asked to ensure that these are robust commitments, with high standards for integrity and without harmful loopholes designed to perpetuate business-as-usual fossil fuel use while misleadingly invoking carbon management technologies as a panacea. A session on Loss and Damage is designed to help deliver on this critical climate justice outcome for COP28.

This is not meant to be a talk-fest, full of hot air and meaningless bloviation. This is a summit that is meant to be action-oriented. Secretary-General Guterres has made clear that countries that want to participate prominently in speaking roles must come to the table with a tangible increase in their climate commitments.

Some major world leaders – including US President Joe Biden, British PM Rishi Sunak, and China’s President Xi Jinping – have already indicated that they will not attend the summit. (Special Envoy John Kerry is expected to represent the United States.) That is a worrying political signal about the seriousness with which countries are taking the goals of the summit.

Secretary-General Guterres is using the full moral and convening power of his position to shine the light on an urgent global crisis and genuine solutions to address it. Of course, the UN cannot compel national governments to do anything, and national governments have sovereignty over their decisions, but they will certainly feel the heat from their own people if they fail to step up. And meanwhile, climate-vulnerable countries are being forced to contend with impacts they have no choice over – impacts that are also undermining sustainable development goals – because of decisions imposed by richer, major polluters.

As the weekend’s climate march showed, all eyes are on world leaders to do better, and young people especially have run out of patience for half measures as they see their future threatened.

Excerpted: ‘All Eyes Are on World Leaders to Do Better at the Climate Ambition Summit’. Courtesy:

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