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It’s CO2mplicated: Outcomes of the UN Climate Summit

The UN Climate Summit of 2014, hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, took place last September. Source: Flickr CC
The UN Climate Summit of 2014, hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, took place last September. Source: Flickr CC

Last September in New York, right in the midst of fashion week, a perhaps slightly more serious gathering took place at the UN headquarters: the largest UN Climate Summit to date. Leaders from all over the world gathered to demonstrate their ambition to stop global warming. Not only by focusing on economic growth, but also on the reality of environmental issues and the global challenges they present.

The first UN conference on climate change, working within the structure of the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change, was held in 1995 in Berlin. Since then, the United Nations Climate Change Conference is held once a year. These important conference serve as the formal gathering of both world leaders and different experts to assess the progress and issues in dealing with climate change. In addition to this, since the beginning of the 1990’s, a lot of effort has been put towards working on the Kyoto protocol, in an attempt to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse emissions.

The purpose of the latest climate summit was to raise a meaningful political momentum for an universal climate agreement that will be discussed in Paris this autumn. The international climate conference will be held at the Le Bourget site from 30 November to 11 December 2015. This will be the 21st annual session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) since the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 11) since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. This coming agreement will hopefully result in transformative actions all around the world, reducing carbon emissions and increasing structural resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change.

The People's Climate March in September 2014 in NYC. Source Flickr CC.
The People’s Climate March in September 2014 in NYC. Source Flickr CC.

An unprecedented number of world leaders attended the summit in New York, including 100 heads of State and Government, that were accompanied by more than 800 business and finance leaders to converge on a long term global vision to create a feasible legal framework. Hopefully this framework will be successful in allowing low-carbon economic growth and advancing climate actions on five fronts: cutting emissions, mobilizing money and markets, pricing carbon, strengthening resilience for a more viable capitalism, and organizing new coalitions to create a more healthy environment.

Apart from world and business leaders, representatives of civil society from all over the world also attended the summit, such as, poet and civil society representative from the Marshall Islands, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, who spoke on behalf of the civil society during the opening ceremony to raise awareness surrounding the issues and threats faced by the Marshallese people. Even Hollywood celebrities were present at the event, such as the American actor Leonardo DiCaprio who called on world leaders to end what he called ‘the free ride’ that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free market economy.

The outcome of the Summit was positive and an agenda has been established, which will be further discussed during the upcoming summit in Paris. In particular, a series of goals where created that can be summarized into two main themes: controlling global temperature and taking measures to ensure food security for 9 billion people by 2050. It was agreed that climate action should be undertaken within the context of efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and creating sustainable development. Furthermore, approximately 20 countries and 30 organizations announced that they will join the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, which aims to enable 500 million farmers worldwide to practice climate-smart agriculture. Climate-smart agriculture is an integrative approach to address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change, it explicitly aims at three objectives: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity, to support equitable increase in farm incomes, food and development; adapting and building resilience of agricultural and food security systems to climate change; and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Additionally, the summit resulted in an agreement that the global temperature must not be allowed to increase by more than 1.5 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels, and that all countries must take national actions consistent with this goal by reducing emissions and place a fee on pollution.

The summit ended with the re-affirmation of the commitment by many leaders to their Intended National Contributions (INDC). Moreover, during the conclusive moment, it was concurred that the new agreement should be effective, durable, and comprehensive. It should balance support for mitigation and adaptation, including the principles of equity and common, but differentiates, responsibilities. It should also address any loss and damage for the countries who will not respect the agreement. The details of the draft will be revealed in detail next November in Paris.

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