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UN Climate Action Summit Falls ‘Woefully Short’ of Expectations

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The UN asked more than 60 heads of state and government to present concrete, new plans to reduce CO2 emissions in short speeches lasting a maximum of three minutes on Sept. 23. Kay Nietfeld / picture alliance via Getty Images

The promises made by major economies at the UN Climate Action Summit fell "woefully short" of what is needed to address the climate crisis, The New York Times reported Monday.


China did not increase its commitments under the Paris agreement, India made no pledge to reduce its use of coal and the U.S. did not speak at all.

"Their lack of ambition stands in sharp contrast with the growing demand for action around the world," World Resources Institute head Andrew Steer told The New York Times of key players.

Greenpeace International concluded that world leaders "did not deliver what was needed" and said that popular pressure would increase until they do.

"Young people will continue to be heard on the streets, in their homes and in their schools. Notice is hereby given: there is no longer anywhere to hide, because we the people will be watching you," Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said in a press release.

However, some important commitments were made during the summit. Here is a rundown of some of the most notable.

  1. Seventy-seven countries pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and 70 pledged to increase their Paris commitments next year, including the UK and all 47 members of the Least Developed Countries group, Climate Home News reported.
  2. German chancellor Angela Merkel presented a climate plan negotiated by her government Friday, which includes a promise to phase out nuclear power by 2022 and coal by 2038.
  3. New Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the country would close all of its lignite coal plants by 2028.
  4. French President Emmanuel Macron urged other countries to join France, Norway, UK, Denmark, Sweden and Germany in doubling their contributions to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change.
  5. Russia announced it had ratified the Paris agreement, though Macron first broke the news during his speech.
  6. Eighty-seven companies including IKEA, Nestlé and Burberry promised to set climate targets, the UN reported.
  7. Pension funds and insurers responsible for more than $2 trillion in investments formed the Asset Owner Alliance to move their portfolios to carbon neutral investments by 2050.

UN General Secretary António Guterres ended the summit on a hopeful note.

"Today in this hall, the world saw clear ambition and initiatives," he said, as Climate Home News reported.

But he also acknowledged that more needed to be done.

"We need more concrete plans from more countries," he said.

In particular, he called for no new coal plants to be built after 2020.

"The large number of coal power plants still projected to be built are a looming threat to us all," he said.

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