Co-hosted by the United Nations, United Kingdom and France in partnership with Chile and Italy, the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 held on December 12, 2020, exactly five years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Described as a monumental step on the road to the UK-hosted COP26 in November 2021 in Glasgow, leaders across government, business and civil society gathered virtually to make new commitments to tackle climate change and deliver on the Paris Agreement.
Reactions from representatives of Climate Action Network in the UK, France, Germany, Finland, the EU, China, India, Japan, Canada, Colombia, USA and others have trailed the summit, where countries set out new and ambitious commitments under the three pillars of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation and finance commitments.
Tim Gore, Head of Climate Policy, Oxfam, said: “The Climate Ambition Summit lacked real ambition. World leaders must step up in the next 12 critical months to pull the world back from the brink of catastrophic climate change.
“Commitments to near-term emissions cuts are still insufficient to limit warming to the 1.5C Paris goal, and the summit was all but silent on the question of new funds to lower income countries to help them adapt to climate change and decarbonise their economies.
“We must not stumble from COVID-19 disaster into climate calamity. During 2020, and with around 1C of global heating, climate change has fuelled deadly cyclones and storms in Asia and Central America, damaging floods in the UK and across Europe, huge locust swarms that have devastated crops across Africa and unprecedented heatwaves and wildfires across Australia and the US.
“We are all affected but it is low income and marginalised people who are hardest hit, despite contributing the least to global emissions. We need a fair and green post-COVID recovery to slash emissions while delivering millions of decent jobs, building more sustainable and resilient economies that work for everyone.”
Stephanie Draper, CEO of the UK international development network Bond, said:
“Today’s announcement to stop funding fossil fuels overseas, including ODA, is a welcome step forward from last week’s NDC announcement. This is a critical part of taking responsibility for the UK’s fair share of climate action. It is a step that we hope to see other countries making at today’s #climateambitionsummit2020 and in the build up to COP26. Today’s summit must embrace this massive opportunity to support clean energy for all, to support adaptation and enable a more resilient and healthier future for us all.”
Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International: “While the celebration of the Paris Agreement emphasises the importance of multilateral cooperation, it also makes clear how far away we are from seeing the kind of leadership we need; leadership that listens to the science and dramatically cuts emissions to give everyone everywhere – especially our youth – a fair chance for a green and peaceful world. The meeting today was nowhere close to showing that leadership. Many countries contributing to the Climate Ambition Summit ignored the ‘ambition’ part and apparently still lack the moral courage to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.”
Wendel Trio, Director, Climate Action Network Europe: “The EU’s new climate target is a vital and necessary step to help limit the escalating climate crisis. However, given the profound existential threat we are facing, the EU will need to go beyond the agreed target of at least 55% net emissions reductions by 2030. Science is clear that at least a 65% emission cut is the way forward. In order to lead the way and convince other major emitters to foster their climate ambition ahead of COP26 next year, the EU must align its climate ambition with the 1.5°C objective of the Paris Agreement.”
Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s climate policy lead: “It was good to see so many world leaders announcing revised national climate plans as part of the Paris Agreement. As we mark the 5th anniversary of the accord it’s significant to see that, despite the past four years of Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine it, there remains so many other heads of state that want to step up and take action to address the climate crisis.
“In the same way that the Paris Agreement has proved resilient, this weekend’s summit has shown it is also dynamic. The pledges made in Paris in 2015 were a welcome first step but only put us on track to a world of 3C. What made the Paris Agreement fit for purpose was the requirement for countries to strengthen these pledges at least every five years and it’s good to see so many doing just that.
“However, although we saw more than 70 world leaders making new commitments that still leaves many more that are yet to do so. It’s shameful that countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia have so far failed to come forward with new pledges and risk catastrophe for themselves and vulnerable communities around the world. With countries both rich and poor committing to new climate plans these rich polluters have no excuse to continue to bury their heads in the sand. Their new year’s resolution should be to rectify this as soon as possible in 2021.”
Mattias Söderberg, Climate advisor at DanChurchAid and spokesperson of ACT Alliance: “It is inspiring to listen to presentations about new commitments to mitigate climate change. These actions are most welcome. However, bold commitments of climate finance, and support to both adaptation and loss and damage are also urgently needed. For vulnerable countries and communities increased resilience is a matter of survival.
“Denmark commits to stop issuing new licenses for oil and gas exploration and phase out the production of fossil fuels by 2050. This is an important, and necessary step if we want to tackle climate change. As the Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says, more countries should now follow.”
Li Shuo, Senior Global Policy Officer, Greenpeace East Asia: “Xi Jinping’s statement at the Paris Agreement’s fifth birthday is an incremental step forward. It demonstrates good will, while at the same time invites further international engagement in 2021. Tonight, China salutes the Paris Agreement, but no one should open a whole bottle of champagne.
“Xi’s statement will increase China’s effort to reduce carbon intensity and will ensure rapid growth of wind and solar energy over the next decade. However, Beijing has the potential to do more. Making its emissions peak earlier than 2025 is still something it should strive for.
“Meanwhile, a lot needs to happen at the domestic front. China’s COVID recovery is anything but green. With its growing coal fleet and increasing emissions from steel and cement industries, the country is falling back to its old addiction to fossil energy and infrastructure investment. An urgent rehabilitation is needed to preserve the glimmer of progress ignited at the Paris climate summit.
“Five years from Paris, China’s record is mixed. Our climate urgency can’t afford more small steps. 2021 should see the country galloping into the low carbon future.”
Jamie Williams, Senior Policy Advisor, Islamic Relief Worldwide: “It is gratifying to hear world leaders reflecting the general understanding that to avoid cataclysm, the world must progressively reduce its man-made greenhouse gas emissions to zero. But we are already living with climate breakdown. To avoid disaster, we must also reduce people’s vulnerability to zero. Zero vulnerability is a goal and the world should not let up in its efforts until it is achieved.
“All must work progressively towards this end, reducing the number of people who are vulnerable, and increasing the resistance of others as we proceed. Nobody must be left behind. Eradicating poverty would create the platform needed to eliminate people’s vulnerability to climate breakdown. Ambition means ZERO VULNERABILITY, starting with the world’s most impoverished, hard to reach and excluded people. It can be done. It must be done.”
Lucile Dufour, International Policy Officer, Réseau Action Climat France: “Speaking at the Ambition Climate Summit, President Macron praised the progress of climate action since the adoption of the Paris Accord. But he avoided a much less glorious reality: both in terms of national and international action, France is not honouring the legacy of the COP21. Much more efforts must be done at the national level to align ambition with the new European target, to reduce GHG emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This should start by supporting the full implementation of the Citizens Assembly on Climate recommendations.
“Moreover, President Macron announced that France will maintain its levels of climate finance over the next years. This is clearly not enough to respond to the growing needs of the most vulnerable countries.”
Adrián Martínez Blanco, La Ruta del Clima, Director: “Costa Rica’s climate action ambition remains strong. As President Alvarado mentions, “Climate Change is about Human Rights.” Justice and Resilience are key elements to achieve wider spread wellbeing. Current efforts to lead climate policy towards a 1.5°C pathway and the inclusion of a solid agenda on adaptation are strategic for the development of Costa Rica.
“However, clear and structural actions must follow these compromises that ensure the achievement of both a low emissions economy and social justice. In Costa Rica, climate impacts are the greatest threat to our future. The government’s priorities should reflect the need for climate justice and the call for international accountability for Loss and Damage from climate change.”
Kiko Network, CAN-Japan: “It is not possible to meet the 1.5°C goal just by declaring a 2050 net zero target. We need a clear milestone. Japan must raise the 2030 target to at least a 50% reduction in GHG emissions (compared to 1990) and formulate an energy mix without nuclear and coal-fired power toward COP26.”
Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, CAN-Rac, Canada: “Taking action on the climate crisis is as essential to saving lives as taking action on COVID-19. We welcome Prime Minister Trudeau’s acknowledgement of the need to accelerate climate action as the world continues to respond to the pandemic. It is good to see policies that can, if implemented quickly and with the greatest stringency possible, take Canada’s climate ambitions further than our current insufficient Paris pledge. It is also good to see a significant investment of $15B in climate action.
“However, these numbers pale in comparison to commitments being made by like-minded countries. As we also saw today, subnational action is an essential to increase ambition: provinces and territories have to step up their game to push Canada’s climate action to where they need to be. And all governments need to bring much larger investments to the table to get the transformative changes we need – including a significant boost to Canada’s international climate finance contributions.”
Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia: “India recommitted its nationally determined contributions and urged all countries to review and revise their targets. My country has the potential to embark on a green sustainable energy pathway but the cautious approach to move ahead defeats the opportunity to create more jobs, sustainable energy mix and a resilient society.
“India should challenge itself to do more as the world reaches almost a 1.2-degree Celsius temperature rise. Time to move away from fossil fuels and say no to coal expansion. South Asia as a region should build a renewable energy trade regime and seek to lead on an international non-proliferation treaty on fossil fuels.”
Emilia Runeberg from FINGO (Finnish Development NGOs): “Prime Minister Sanna Marin reaffirmed that increasing international climate finance is part of her government program. However, Finland has set no long-term targets (quantitative or qualitative) for its climate finance, the amounts are determined annually based on overall government budget negotiations, hence there is the great fluctuation and lack of predictability. Also, the majority of Finnish climate finance is given as loans and to private sector actors, and not as grants.
“In the next few years, it is crucial to ensure that climate finance amounts are new and additional to Finland’s development cooperation budget, possible increases in climate finance would not come at the expense of shrinking funds for development cooperation.”
Sven Harmeling, CARE International, Global Policy Lead, Climate Change and Resilience: “In the Climate Ambition Summit, Chancellor Merkel committed to initiate an international process on climate finance for post-2020 ahead of the COP26. This is an important step to fill an important gap in the process and would potentially contribute to have a successful COP26, if it leads to a clear increase of climate funds in next years. Unfortunately, she failed to send an early clear signal for a strong future rise of Germany’s climate finance.”
Mohamed Adow, Director of climate and energy think tank, Power Shift Africa: “New and improved national climate pledges would be a fitting 5th birthday present for the Paris Agreement and a sign to the world’s vulnerable people that leaders are listening and acting to tackle the climate crisis. But it’s striking how many others are still missing when the urgency of addressing climate breakdown has never been clearer. Covid-19 may have occupied the headlines but 2020 has seen floods, hurricanes and droughts continue apace throughout the world.
“It’s clear that the end of the fossil fuel era is coming but the question is will it come soon enough for the most vulnerable people who are suffering from climate change right now. More and more countries are setting net-zero emission dates. But it’s one thing to set a net-zero date for decades into the future and another thing to enact policies right now that will get us there. That is what must be on the agenda for all countries in 2021.”
Santiago Aldana, Climalab, Colombia: “We celebrate Colombia’s new commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas contribution by 51% by 2030. However, it is worrying that President Duque did not outline how it expects to meet these fulfillments through the different sectors. Similarly, it is worrisome that no differential approach is named for the fulfillment of commitments such as gender, human rights and climate justice.
“Finally, it is worrying that an effective climate coherence is not visualised. There is talk of an energy transition, but the government remains committed to implementing fracking. It talks of planting trees, but the rate of deforestation increases. There is talk of electric mobility, but little and nothing is said about sustainable transport measures.”
Rev Michael Malcom, People’s Justice Council: “It is disappointing but not surprising to see that the USA has underwhelming representation at the summit today. We have been absent on leadership in many fronts, including climate. In light of the season of Advent, the 5th Anniversary of the Paris Agreement, and a historical election, we wait with anticipation and resolve to see the United States lead on a just recovery and modelling fair shares. As we turn this ugly page in history, we call on the Biden Administration to be strong in placing planet and people over profit.”
Olga Boiko, CAN EECCA coordinator, Ukraine: “It surely seems like Ukraine has good intentions for its climate action, but the implementation is often weak. The country has shown interest in creating its own Green Deal and is working closely with the EU on climate policy. Unfortunately, since 2015 its emissions grew. The first Ukrainian NDC was formulated in such a way that it allowed the growth of emissions.
“Ukraine is about to launch its second NDC which should lead to actual decrease of emissions. As a long-term goal Ukraine considers carbon neutrality until 2070 which is not enough. To avoid the drastic effects of the climate crisis Ukraine has to become carbon neutral until 2050.”
Dr. Abid Suleri, CAN South Asia Board Co-Chair & Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute: “Pakistan has demonstrated much required high political will, and its decision to stop any future coal expansion is welcomed. Such ambitious commitments create space for energy transition in the country. A responsible democracy always keeps priorities for its future generation ahead by committing to climate neutral and resilient sustainable development.”