After the reunion of governments from all over the world during the Climate Action Summit, on the 23rd of September, more than 75 leaders finally adopted some new measures. [1] They pledged to eliminate their carbon emissions by 2050, though mostly from smaller economies, and European countries made their commitment to spend billions to fund climate programs in developing countries.[2]

How the Summit was hold and what happened?

The main aim of the Summit was to reunite representors of the government from all over the world. The United Nations Climate Action Summit on 23d of September was meant to enforce promises made by presidents, prime ministers and corporate executives to make some changes and to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

A significant role was played by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. She showed the world the urgency of changes and that some actions need to be done in the future. As addressing her speech in the United Nations HQ she said to all the politicians: “The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” and she continued “If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”[3]

Countries participation: what decisions were made?

In fact, more than 75 leaders pledged to eliminate their carbon emissions by 2050. However, the world’s biggest economies were largely absent.[4] The United States of America and Brazil brought nothing to the table while China promised to follow through on its previous commitments.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries are supposed to strengthen their promises to reduce emissions made to deal by the end of next year. In fact, countries, which ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement included new trade restrictions.

The idea of trade restrictions, a border carbon adjustment would impose a carbon fee on products imported at the border from countries out of compliance with the Paris agreement.[5] It has been around for a long time, but in the past countries have preferred engagement to penalties.

Prior to the 2019 summit, national pledges would have left the world on track for more than 3C degrees of warming, and countries were not even following through to meet them. [6]Top U.N. officials acknowledged a deficit in commitments from national governments.

In addition, some of the most significant commitments came from the private sector. Nearly 90 companies with a total value of $2.3 trillion said they would eliminate their carbon-footprint by 2050 and investors with $35 trillion in assets called for the phasing out of coal-fired power. [7]

During the summit, CEOs of oil and gas companies met to announce commitments to cut methane emissions, though many activists dismissed these efforts.

Paris Agreement: position of USA, China, Russia and France

In fact, some concrete measures were made by the end of the day, 65 countries had announced efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. As well as some businesses said they would aim to abide by the Paris Agreement goals.[8]

The United States did not request a speaking slot during the summit, however President Trump came into the General Assembly hall with Vice President Mike Pence in the late morning.  In fact, the main reason of his presence was to announce that the United States withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord. [9]

As for other countries for example, China, will keep the promises it made under the 2015 Paris Agreement.[10] “China will faithfully fulfil its obligations,” Mr. Wang said.[11] Nowadays, China’s decision to not signal higher ambition reflects, because, it concerns about its own slowing economy against the backdrop of conflicts with the United States on trade. [12]

French President, Emmanuel Macron had a message on trade for the United States, telling the assembly, “I don’t want to see new trade negotiations with countries who are running counter to the Paris Agreement.”[13]

In fact, Russia announced that it would ratify the Paris Agreement, but did not mention anything about cutting emissions from its sprawling state-owned petroleum industry.[14]

Examples of real actions concluded during the Summit

Several countries are to launch the Global Campaign for Nature, which aims to conserve 30 percent of the Earth’s lands and oceans by 2030. [15]

The Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) will increase the climate ambition and maintain the forest cover of Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea, allowing the Central African rainforest to continue to provide livelihoods of 60 million people and maintain regional rainfall patterns. [16]

The “Action Towards Climate Friendly Transport” initiative includes actions to plan city development to avoid the need to travel, shift from fossil-fuelled vehicles to non-motorized and public transport, and improve existing modes of transport through zero-emission technologies.[17]

As a people concerned actions, for example the Safe Air Initiative will call on governments to commit to achieving air quality that is safe for populations and to align their climate change and air pollution policies by 2030, supported by financial institutions and funds. [18]

Friday for Future[19]: climate activist strikes all over the world

During the Summit, in over 150 countries of the world, people were stepping up to support young climate strikers and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels. [20]

In fact, it started on the 20th of September , millions of young people around the world took to streets demanding bold action on climate change. Almost tens of thousands of youth who marched in the streets of New York and the millions who marched around the world delivered a clear signal that they would not tolerate continued inaction.

“People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. [21] We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,” teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg told a gathering of world leaders. “How dare you.”[22]

Oleksandra Miroshnychenko
Master 1 Droit international – Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3

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Footnotes :

[1] UN Climate Summit, Main press release, “In the face of worsening climate crisis, UN Summit to deliver new pathways and practical actions to shift global response into higher gear”

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/23/greta-thunberg-speech-un-2019-address

[4] UN Climate Summit, Main press release, “In the face of worsening climate crisis, UN Summit to deliver new pathways and practical actions to shift global response into higher gear”

[5] UN Climate Summit, Closing press release, “Summit delivers major step up in national ambition and private sector action on pathway to key 2020 climate deadline »

[6] Ibid.

[7] Chandler Green, “5 Leaders Boosted Momentum at the UN Climate Action Summit”, 30th of September 2019

[8] Paris Agreement, 4 November 2016 ; Sven Teske, “Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals: Global and Regional 100% Renewable Energy Scenarios with Non-energy GHG Pathways for +1.5°C and +2°C”, Springer, 2019

[9] New York Times, Somini Sengupta and At U.N. Climate Summit, Few Commitments and U.S. Silence

[10] Paris Agreement, 4 November 2016 ; Sven Teske, “Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals: Global and Regional 100% Renewable Energy Scenarios with Non-energy GHG Pathways for +1.5°C and +2°C”, Springer, 2019

[11] Eleven Media Group, “At UN climate summit, a call for action yields few commitments

[12] Ibid.

[13] New York Times, Somini Sengupta and At U.N. Climate Summit, Few Commitments and U.S. Silence

[14] Ibid.

[15] UN Climate Summit, Main press release, “In the face of worsening climate crisis, UN Summit to deliver new pathways and practical actions to shift global response into higher gear”

[16] UN Climate Summit, Main press release, “In the face of worsening climate crisis, UN Summit to deliver new pathways and practical actions to shift global response into higher gear”

[17] Ibid.

[18] https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/07/clean-air-initiative-calls-climate-action/

[19] https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/

[20] https://globalclimatestrike.net/

[21] New York Times, Somini Sengupta and At U.N. Climate Summit, Few Commitments and U.S. Silence

[22] Ibid.