UN Climate Action Summit 2019
The United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit was held on 23 September 2019 in New York. The summit recognised that: global emissions are reaching record levels and show no sign of peaking; the last four years were the four hottest on record; and sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, and we are starting to see the life-threatening impact of climate change on health. Major announcements by government and private sector leaders demonstrated growing recognition that the pace of climate action must be rapidly accelerated.
Whilst the Paris Agreement (a visionary, viable, forward-looking policy framework) sets out exactly what needs to be done to stop climate disruption and reverse its impact, its success is reliant on nations taking ambitious action. The UN emphasised that there are already affordable, scalable solutions that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies. A key message highlighted was that if we act now, we can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years and hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C.
World leaders took to the stage to explain how they planned to increase action to tackle climate change. Whilst many nations are doing something, the majority are still not doing enough. There were a number of speeches from the world’s most powerful people, with more than 60 countries committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, this can include planting trees or using technology such as carbon capture and storage.
However, the largest polluters (e.g. China, the US and India), which account for around half of global emissions between them, have yet to present any substantive plans on how they are going to drive carbon out of their economies. The lack of stories around drastic new action and commitment from the big polluters led to the event headlines focussing on other stories including Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg’s speech, as well as a brief appearance at the event from US President, Donald Trump.