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Buhari, other leaders gather in New York to boost climate change action

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
23 September 2019   |   2:59 am
Expectations are high within the global community as Heads of State, representatives from the private sector begin talks today in New York to combat the climate change crisis and dramatically reduce emissions over the next decade.

Buhari departed Abuja for New York, USA, ahead of the 74th Session of United Nations General Assembly, on 22nd Sep 2019. Photo: TWITTER/NIGERIAGOV

Expectations are high within the global community as Heads of State, representatives from the private sector begin talks today in New York to combat the climate change crisis and dramatically reduce emissions over the next decade.

This morning over one hundred world leaders including Nigeria’s President Mohammadu Buhari will gather at UN Headquarters in New York to take stock of their commitment on climate change, accelerate progress on sustainable development, and respond to other issues of global concern.

The Paris Agreement faces its first major test in 2020 against the backdrop of a worrying growth in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since the adoption of the landmark agreement in 2015.

Promising signs of ambition are emerging from all corners of the globe, but far more is needed to limit emissions and adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change. Most governments are currently prioritizing one of two complementary approaches for addressing climate change in the lead-up to 2020.

This is according to a joint analysis by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNFCCC, dubbed “The Heat Is On – Taking Stock of Global Climate Ambition” – which takes the world’s pulse on ambition and provides the most comprehensive review to date of intentions for 2020.

Some are revising climate plans previously submitted under the Paris Agreement that stretch until 2025 or 2030, while others are preparing longer-term strategies to decarbonize their economies.

In the five-day summit, Heads of State and Government are expected to make strong commitments and mobilize action that will ignite the transformation needed to secure healthy, peaceful and prosperous lives for all.
Four years after breakthrough international agreements on climate change, sustainable development, and financing for development, the action is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required. This year’s world gathering is intended to kick-start a decade of ambitious action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

There are five key United nations summits taking place this week to spur action on the climate crisis and other global concerns, which will showcase the UN as a “driver for meaningful, positive change”, according to the man at the helm of the Organization.

For UN Secretary-General Anthonio Guterres, there is no time to lose in the face of climate change, rising inequality, increasing hatred and intolerance; and what he described as an “alarming” number of peace and security challenges.

“The biggest challenge that leaders and institutions face is to show people we care – and to mobilize solutions that respond to people’s anxieties with answers. The upcoming high-level week is designed to do precisely that,” he said.

“There will be dozens of summits, meetings and side events. But I can distill the significance of all these discussions into two words: ambition and action. I see the high-level week as an excellent opportunity to showcase the United Nations as a centre for solutions and a driver for meaningful, positive change in people’s lives.”

The high-level week kicks off today with the Climate Action Summit. Mr. Guterres said several plans to dramatically reduce emissions over the next decade and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, should be unveiled there.

Nigerian Amina Mohammed who doubles as the UN Deputy Secretary-General explained that “the Summit will present practical and new measures to, one: speed up the transition from coal to clean energy and to cut the pollution that is harming our health,” she said, and secondly, “protect nature but also unlock the potential of nature to deliver on climate solutions”.

Thirdly, she said it would “create cleaner, greener ways to work and move; speed up transition in key sectors from grey to green economies, safeguard people from the impacts of climate change already being felt right now, and help make sure that we leave no one behind.”

On the new report, Mohammed said, “it would help us to understand whether world leaders address the Climate Summit with concrete plans, not speeches,” as is the Secretary-General’s call.

“When I look back on this Climate Action Summit, I want us to see it as a slingshot – that helped to change our common trajectory towards sustainability”, said Ms. Mohammed, building trust “between this generation of adults and the next – between our children and ourselves – that we are all working together to our fullest potential to tackle the climate emergency”.

She recapped that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stressed the need to ensure that “the global temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius” through “cutting emissions by 45 per cent by 2030”, warning that “we have very little time to take the decisions needed to get there”.

Those decisions should be set out in each country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on climate change, which she called “the cornerstone of the Paris agreement.”

“The report, which was developed in partnership by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Climate Change treaty body (UNFCCC), “will help us to understand whether world leaders address the Climate Summit…with ‘concrete plans, not speeches’, as is the Secretary General’s call”, Ms. Mohammed said.

She expressed her hope that in “ratcheting up the response to the climate crisis” countries will be ambitious, saying “ambitions plans, accelerated action, and mobilized societies” are all crucial.

“As the Secretary-General has said about this Climate Action Summit – the race is on”, she concluded. “It is a race we can win; it is a race we must win”.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner acknowledged that half of the world’s population is engaged in a proactive transformation of their economies to low-carbon, but urged: “We need to talk less, and we need to act more.”

Fortunately, momentum has been building since the adoption of the Paris Agreement and most countries are committed to combating climate change. Since that time, more and more key actors are aligning their plans, policies, and projections with the Agreement.

According to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), with the necessary support, cities, regions, and businesses can help countries surpass pledged emissions cuts and raise ambition.

However, the report cuts to the bottom line, while momentum exists, “much more climate ambition” is needed as climate change is “fast outpacing us and needs an urgent response by all segments of society.”