UN gears up for 'bold' moves on climate change

Updated: 2014-09-04 06:11

By Zhang Yuwei(China Daily USA)

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September in New York City is usually a busy month as the Big Apple welcomes heads of state and international policy makers to the United Nations' annual general assembly.

On Sept 23, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will convene a climate change summit where world leaders, private sector as well civil society representatives will gather to present "bold announcements and actions" on the issue.

However, climate change - as one of the pillar issues on the UN agenda - has yet to be given the kind of attention its urgency demands. The political will and commitments to tackle this global issue have been lacking.

If this summit does bring bold action on emission reduction and commitment of political will, it will help to push forward a new deal to cut greenhouse emissions, a new international commitment to replace the Kyoto Protocol, at the UN climate change conference next year in Paris.

"The summit will be a harbinger for the commitment of heads of state to tackle the climate crisis in the lead-up to Paris and beyond," said Jennifer Morgan, climate director for the Washington-based World Resources Institute.

"Strong, clear commitments would elevate climate change on the global agenda and set the stage for national and international progress," Morgan said.

UN gears up for 'bold' moves on climate changeAs part of the summit, the UN Private Sector Forum organized by the UN Global Compact will gather leaders from the private sector to voice their commitment to tackling climate change.

The forum will focus on actions that the public and private sectors can take to achieve an equitable and fair valuation of carbon through long-term strategies, investments and policies.

"Engagement by the private sector that is collaborative, serious and solutions-oriented is vital to building long-term resilience in our communities and to reaching a global legal climate agreement by 2015," said Georg Kell, executive director of UN Global Compact.

"Demonstrations of real-life successes by businesses on critical climate-related issues — such as carbon pricing — will build precedent and public support that are needed to move policymakers to action," Kell added.

Regardless of the results of this summit, a number of events in sync with the climate change theme have been scheduled for the general assembly period.

One day prior to the summit, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), a network of the world's megacities taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, together with Siemens will hold a City Climate Leadership Awards for cities that have been making progress in addressing climate risks and impacts locally and globally.

Southern China's city of Shenzhen is among the 31 finalists currently under consideration for awards that recognize leadership in climate action.

Shenzhen has been listed in two categories for the C40 awards. One is for its new-energy vehicle promotion, which has cut CO2 emissions by 160,000 tons between 2009 and 2013, making it one of the top 10 cities in China for air quality. The other is for the city's carbon trading market, which manages 40 percent of its total carbon emissions. Shenzhen projects a 30 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2015.

"Shenzhen's nomination for projects in the Urban Transportation as well as the Finance and Economic Development category demonstrates the city's concrete actions to reduce emissions from vehicles and put in place a carbon trading market," said Mark Watts, executive director of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

"As one of the world's fastest growing and most innovative metropolises, other cities will now be looking to Shenzhen for inspiration — that is what the City Climate Leadership Awards recognize," he added.

Among the 31 finalists, cities including New York, London, Mexico City and Seoul are also being recognized for various initiatives they have undertaken to address climate change.

"The Awards aim to raise awareness and celebrate outstanding environmentally impactful and innovative city initiatives around the world," said Oliver Santen, a Siemens spokesman.

"This will not only encourage knowledge exchange between cities," said Santen, adding that the winning projects will also inspire other cities to take action against climate change.

WRI's Morgan said it's important to provide a platform for bold, new ideas from the private sector and city leaders to come up with solutions to climate change.

"These new initiatives will supplement country actions by engaging all levels of society in the global effort to tackle this problem," said Morgan.

Contact the writer at yuweizhang@chinadailyusa.com.