Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

What to Expect From Today’s UN Climate Action Summit

Politics
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a news conference at UN headquarters on Sept. 18. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Today is the United Nations Climate Action Summit, a gathering called by UN Secretary General António Guterres to encourage climate action ahead of 2020, the year when countries are due to up their pledges under the Paris agreement.


Guterres has asked countries to announce "concrete, realistic" steps that will reduce global emissions by 45 percent within the next decade and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Those goals are in line with last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which found emissions must fall around 50 percent within the next 11 years in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

"I want to hear about how we are going to stop the increase in emissions by 2020, and dramatically reduce emissions to reach net‑zero emissions by mid‑century," Guterres said when he announced the summit last year. "We need cities and States to shift from coal to solar and wind — from brown to green energy."

Guterres said he expected around 60 countries to announce steps to reduce emissions and support populations most vulnerable to the climate crisis, The New York Times reported. However, some key players are not expected to make significant commitments, including Brazil under Jair Bolsonaro and the U.S. under President Donald Trump. Bolsonaro wants to open the Amazon rainforest, an important carbon sink, to development and has been criticized for his handling of record wildfires there this summer. Trump, meanwhile, has promised to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement and has moved to roll back Obama-era controls on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and vehicles.

"The U.S. is not on track to meet its previous promises, let alone to make bigger ones," NPR science reporter Rebecca Hersher said Sunday on All Things Considered.

Countries that are likely to up their commitments include France, some other European nations, some small island nations and India, Hersher said.

However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also said he would expand coal, according to The New York Times.

China, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, had set itself a less ambitious target that it is likely to meet, and may therefore announce more ambitious targets, Hersher said. However, its state-owned companies are also promoting coal use, The New York Times explained.

Overall, several coal-supporting countries will have a spot on the summit podium today, The New York Times reported in another article. In addition to India and China, speakers will include Indonesia, the world's No. 1 thermal coal exporter, and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kenya, all countries where Chinese companies have built or are building coal plants.

The UN assigned speaking slots based on which countries submitted briefs explaining new, concrete plans to reduce emissions and help the most vulnerable cope with the crisis. No country who did so was denied a slot.

"We are not in a position to say, 'You're bad, you're good,'" Guterres said. "This is not a name-and-shame exercise."

Major oil and gas producing countries Russia and Qatar will also speak. Australia, Japan and the U.S. will not.

The summit comes after a global youth-led climate strike Friday saw around four million take to the streets in support of more ambitious climate action. The question is whether popular pressure can counter a diplomatic climate defined by a rise in authoritarian governments and a hostility to international agreements, The New York Times explained.

If countries stick only to their current Paris commitments, global temperatures will pass three degrees Celsius by 2100.

"The time window is closing and it's dramatically short for what we have to do," UN Development Program head Achim Steiner told The New York Times. "The protests are helpful because they show national leaders in their societies, in their countries, that the politics of climate change is changing and it is adding momentum and pressure to act."

At the first-ever Youth Climate Summit Saturday, Guterres urged the more than 700 young activists in attendance to keep the pressure up on his generation.

"We will hold you accountable and if you do not, remember we will mobilize to vote you out," Fiji activist Komal Karishma Kumar responded, as the Associated Press reported.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less