After Friday’s global Climate March, this week sees the U.N Climate Summit kick off in New York city. But what is the summit, and how can it help the fight against climate change?
What is the U.N Climate Summit?
The Climate Action Summit is a meeting of the world’s biggest powers and leaders to attempt to kickstart the global campaign against climate change.
In 2015, the Paris climate accord took place, which was a historic agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from each participating country. Laid out in the 2015 agreement was the pledge that countries would have their first plans on how to reduce emissions ironed out by 2020.
This years’ summit organisers want to get countries back on track and provide inspiration and a platform for world leaders to explain their plans to reduce their carbon footprint.
What can it achieve?
This year’s summit is to drum up the motivation for global leaders to reduce their carbon emissions. It will act as a platform to put pressure on countries not doing enough to act on climate change, and will showcase ambitious and successful climate plans in an effort to mobilise leaders. It will also build on the already-rife public pressure that has been put on governments to act on climate change.
Secretary-General of the U.N António Guterres has made four key demands of participating countries ahead of the summit. These are:
- No new coal: No new funding or construction of coal facilities from 2020
- No fossil fuel subsidies: Stop spending $4.7 trillion per year on fossil fuel subsidies
- Net zero on 2050: Commit to carbon neutrality (net zero emissions) by 2050
- Make polluters pay: Tax polluters and cut taxes for ordinary people
This year’s summit discussions are based around nine key areas of climate change:
- Social and political drivers
- Youth and public mobilisation
- Energy transition
- Industry transition
- Infrastructure, cities and local action
- Nature-based solutions
- Resilience and adaptation
- Climate finance and carbon pricing
World leaders from a number of countries will speak on the above topics, and the summit will also give them a chance to lobby and network with each other on how they can further the cause.
Who is gathering at the summit?
Leaders from around 110 countries are expected to attend the summit. However, not all of these leaders will have a chance to speak at the summit.
In a bold move by Secretary-General Guterres, some nations that have been lax in their support for climate action will not be permitted to speak at the summit. Nations like Australia, Japan and South Korea, that have expressed support for the expansion of coal plants, along with the U.S, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are excluded from the speeches.
Some of the world’s most influential climate activists will also take to the stage to address world leaders, including 16-year-old Greta Thunberg.
Why is this year’s summit so important?
This year’s summit is seen as a major milestone after the 2015 Paris agreement. Time is ticking on countries to commit to their plans on climate action, and the U.N want to convey the urgency of the current climate emergency on them.
Public support for climate action has also seen a massive swell this year, with multiple protests, marches, speeches and campaigns, many from students and school-age supporters. Public pressure on governments to act on climate change has never been greater.
Friday saw the biggest worldwide march against climate change ever, with several million supporters (again, mostly children and students) taking part. In Ireland, tens of thousands of supporters marched in cities across the country, taking the day off school as a sign of solidarity.
Read more: Tens of thousands of Irish young people took part in the Climate Strike today
Read more: ‘My school doesn’t want me to attend today’s climate action strikes. Here’s why I’m going anyway’
Read more: Global Climate Strike Ireland: here’s everything you need to know