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Lekan Fadina: New York summit portends hope for Paris 2015 climate deal

Executive Director, Centre for Investment, Sustainable Development, Management and Environment (CISME), Prince Lekan Fadina, attempts a preview of the historic gathering of world leaders this week in New York, USA, saying that, even though there may be some key absentees, the forum will likely record a lot of positives


Prince Lekan Fadina
Prince Lekan Fadina

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon disclosed late last year during COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland that he would convene a meeting of Head of States on September 23, 2014.

There are series of activities outlined for the week-long event, which will include rallies in London, New York and some parts of the world. The climate debates on Monday will feature US Secretary of State John Kerry, Hilary Clinton and Ban Ki-Moon, who are among dignitaries taking part in the themed climate debates. On Tuesday 23rd September, over 130 Heads of States will meet at the UN headquarters in New York for an intensive one-day programme.

Ban Ki-Moon hopes that, by holding this meeting, he can restore faith in the process.

There are just about 15 months to the COP 15 meeting in Paris, France, where countries are expected to agree to a global climate change treaty. It should be borne in mind that, since the Copenhagen UNFCCC Summit in 2009, there has not been a large gathering of top leaders to discuss climate change.

With the attendance of 100 business leaders and about 30 NGOs, the UN Secretary General wants to demonstrate that you can go green and maintain economic growth, which is a major concern for most countries especially after the 2008 financial crash.

This summit is being held even as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says current gas reduction targets fall well short of what is required to stabilise the climate. In a report published in April 2014, it said that countries must have global carbon emission by 2050 to limit warming to 2oc.

The programme for the day seems very detailed, starting with an opening ceremony where a film narrated by Morgan Freeman will be shown to delegates, and over 130 world leaders will get four minutes each to outline their views on climate deal. There will be lunch for heads of states and business leaders where private sector support for climate regulations is likely to become clearer. The World Bank is also expected to release new data on the number of countries and companies pricing carbon.

After lunch, there will be “thematic sessions” covering a diverse set of issues ranging from forests, cities, to finance and science. There will also be contributions of accounts of people on the “frontline” of climate change and be able to tap leading economists for their analysis of the challenges ahead.

Ban Ki-Moon will deliver his summary of the day in a speech that has been worked on for months. He is likely to call for efforts to deliver a global carbon price, back plans for a long term emissions reduction goal and call for a long term emission reduction goal for all countries to back plans to sign off a climate change treaty in Paris in 2015.


What to expect at close of the Summit

There will not be any major agreement between the national states. That will be a job for the negotiators in Lima, Peru in November 2014. This will possibly make a draft text for the proposed 2015 Paris deal.

The importance of this Summit is to get political commitment at the highest level of government. It is expected to create an atmosphere where governments and private sector players start to believe that a climate change deal is possible.

The climate economics report backed by nine countries launched by the UN Secretary General during the week could be the foundation for a firm belief that we are on the way to achieve a climate change deal.


Other signals to look out for

There are indications that there may be some key notable absentees – such as the India Prime Minister, and leaders from Australia and Canada. China may be sending Vice Premier Zhang Geoli. However, this will not remove the shine from the event.

What will happen to such issues as carbon price, Green Climate Fund? So far it is still around $1 billion from the target. France and others may make firm offers.

Zero emissions: there is growing support for a long term zero net carbon deadline.

Forest /HFCS: leading multinationals may recommit to achieving zero net deforestation by 2020. They will also agree to phase out HFCS, a group of refrigerants with potent climate warming properties by 2015.

US President Barrack Obama is expected to touch on target and achievements such as car efficiency standards, power plant pollution curbs and technologies that can be transferred to poorer countries.

The UN gathering of Heads of State may not be the place for negotiations but it is an opportunity for leaders to publicly support climate negotiations. The outcome may be simple, backing a major pledge to make the 2015 deal a key global goal.

The Summit is a positive signal that there is hope in the horizon that the world may be able to reach an agreement by 2015 in Paris. However, a lot needs to be done by both Annex 1 and Annex 2 Parties to ensure that we collectively appreciate that climate change is a reality which we must addressed in our effort to leave behind a sustainable world for generations yet unborn.

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