UN Climate Summit 2014 – All Hands on Deck

U.N. Climate Summit 2014 LogoIt gives me hope to read about and watch videos from U.N. Climate Summit 2014 held in New York City on September 23. Over 100 world leaders announced what they and their countries have done, are doing, and will do to address climate change between now and 2020.

In his opening remarks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon succinctly summed it up.

“To ride this storm we need all hands on deck.”

In addition to heads of state, other participants included mayors, business and financial CEOs, and people representing civil society and non-governmental organizations. Due to the number of people speaking at the one-day summit, several sessions occurred simultaneously. The whole group got together for opening, mid-day, and closing remarks. The U.N. Climate Summit 2014 website has links to the schedule and list of speakers as well as videos of each session.

UN Climate Summit 2014 – Country Statements

I was interested in President Obama’s statement, but I was equally if not more eager to find out what other world leaders had to say. After reading country statements posted on the U.N. website and individual country websites, I selected the 10 quotes below as a sample of what world leaders said at the summit.

General Assembly Hall during U.N. Climate Summit 2014 - Photo: U.N Stated carbon emission reduction targets varied widely, as did commitments to the Green Climate Fund set up to help developing countries deal with climate change. Many countries pointed out how little they have contributed to global greenhouse gas emissions and called on developed countries to step up their financial assistance.

  • Australia – “Australia remains committed to reducing its emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.”
  • Canada – “We are extremely proud to have committed, and delivered upon, $1.2 BILLION in Fast Start Financing money to help other countries adapt to and mitigate climate change.”
  • Chile – “Today I wish to reaffirm Chile’s voluntary commitment to reduce its projected emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, with the necessary international support.”
  • China – “Recently, we adopted the national plan on climate change to make sure we will meet the target of cutting carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level.”
  • Fiji – “Amongst other things, our target includes increasing the share of renewable energy for electricity generation from the current level of 60% to 100% by 2030.”
  • India – “We are fully committed to achieving our voluntary goal for reducing Emission Intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020 over 2005 level.”
  • Korea – “The Korean government pledges up to 100 million dollars to the GCF, including the 50 million we are currently paying.”
  • Liberia – “Moreover, Liberia has completed a Gender and Climate Change Strategy. The Strategy is intended to build the resilience of Liberian Women to the impacts of climate change.”
  • Maldives – “Is it not ironic that countries like the Maldives, whose contribution to global greenhouse emissions, is just 0.00003 percent, face an existential threat because of these emissions?”
  • Russia – “In 2013, a Presidential decree set forth the national goal of cutting anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 by 25% from 1990 level.”

UN Climate Summit 2014 – President Obama’s Remarks

During his 12-minute U.N. Climate Summit 2014 speech, President Obama gave an overview of U.S. climate change related accomplishments, actions, and confirmed our carbon reduction commitment.

“Five years ago, I pledged America would reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. America will meet that target.”

President Barack Obama Speaks at U.N. Climate Summit 2014 - Photo U.N. / Kim HaughtonTo me, the most surprising part of the speech was when the President admitted the United States’ culpability in creating the problem. He may have mentioned this before, but this is the first time I had heard it. I think this important. We cannot change the past, but we can take responsibility, change direction, and work towards a sustainable society today and every day.

“Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation –- developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.”

If you missed the President’s speech, click to watch the video or read a transcript of his remarks.

What’s Possible

Interestingly, both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President Obama referred to the People’s Climate March that took place in New York City two days before the summit. Ban Ki-moon spoke of his own participation in the march and the President alluded to it.

It is up to us to keep the momentum going, by continually and constantly demanding our elected officials act on climate change, supporting and voting for people who do act, and taking action ourselves.

The summit began with this beautiful, inspiring 4-minute film entitled What’s Possible narrated by the master narrator, Morgan Freeman. It seems a fitting closing to this post.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

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