NEW YORK – UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon will ask public and private sector leaders to commit to taking action on climate change at this Tuesday’s UN Climate Summit, and to lay the groundwork for a global climate action agreement.
With more than 120 heads of state and hundreds of executives of companies – including McDonald’s Corporation, Coca-Cola, and Dow Chemical Company – scheduled to attend, Tuesday’s summit will be the largest climate change meeting in history.
Over the course of the day, Ban and his officials will whip up political support for progressive climate negotiations and begin locking down financial commitments from the private sector in advance of next year’s climate meeting in Paris. In December 2015, the UN will call on heads of state to commit to a legally binding agreement to address climate change at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris.
This week’s daylong summit in New York includes three concurrent sessions in which countries will lay out their commitments to climate action, in addition to a luncheon for private sector leaders and afternoon sessions about a variety of topics, including climate science and the economic case for action. All sessions will be broadcast online.
Former US vice president Al Gore, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Chinese actress Li Bingbing are billed to speak at the summit’s opening ceremony.
Leonardo DiCaprio, whom Ban recently designated as a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change, will also speak at the opening ceremony.
An Israeli delegation led by Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz is also in New York for the convention, and the minister will address the General Assembly on Tuesday afternoon, a ministry spokesman said. Ministry officials stressed the importance of following through with greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets discussed in Copenhagen in 2009, as well as revitalizing Israel’s own program for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – which crumbled last year due to budget cuts.
In addition to participating in the convention itself, members of the Israeli delegation have a number of sideline meetings planned during their stay in New York. One such meeting will bring Environment Ministry professionals together with transportation officials from New York City, in order to study the public transportation system and the use of hybrid taxis in particular, the ministry spokesman said.
During a press conference about the summit last week, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning Robert C. Orr explained the importance of involving business in the climate conversation: “Ultimately to solve the climate equation, carbon must have a price.”
He was blunt about the repercussions down the road: “Many industries will die if they don’t change.”
The next 15 years are critical, and the global private sector must commit to doing business in a more sustainable way, he said. “Investments today matter more than the investments tomorrow.”
For that reason, Ban is eager to engage corporations in the conversation in advance of the 2015 Paris talks.
Since becoming the world’s top diplomat in 2007, Ban has made climate change a top priority for the UN. From rising seas to retreating glaciers, the secretary-general has traveled the world to see a few of the most visible examples of climate change firsthand.
The effects of climate change are already being felt on all continents, reports the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and it’s affecting all sectors of industry, including agriculture, water quality, and public health.
“Climate change is not just an issue for the future, it is an urgent issue for today,” Ban wrote in his month-long series for The Huffington Post about what he’s called “the defining issue of our time.”
Time and again he has called for world leaders to take action, and last week, during a press conference, Ban chastised press for not asking more questions about the upcoming summit.
The last time world leaders met en masse to discuss climate change was at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Diplomats were unsuccessful in brokering a legally binding agreement. It’s incumbent upon the biggest contributors of carbon emissions, notably the United States and China, to develop and execute aggressive climate action plans.
It appears that the United States under Barack Obama’s leadership is starting to move in that direction. In Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, he stated unflinchingly that the time for debate is over.
“Climate change is a fact.
And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did,” he said.
This week’s summit will pave the way for the next meeting of world leaders slated to take place in Paris in December 2015. Climate change, Orr said, is “squarely back on the top of the international agenda.”Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.