3 Key Takeaways From This Week's UN Climate Summit

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon convened the summit, which drew more than a hundred heads of state, to encourage countries to adopt more ambitious policies to combat climate change. He urged greater efforts in the 15 months before world leaders gather in Paris at a meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is slated to produce a new global strategy on the issue. This week's summit did yield important news going into next year's negotiations. Three key takeaways:

1. A movement to fight climate change has real people power. The most surprising development of the summit didn't unfold in the halls of the UN. It happened two days before the summit, when an upstart environmental group, 350.org, organized a march through Manhattan that attracted thousands of people (official crowd estimates for such marches are notoriously unreliable). Hundreds of smaller demonstrations were staged around the globe. The turnout, especially for the New York march, was far greater than anyone, even organizers, expected.

2. More companies are recognizing that halting deforestation is good PR. The biggest tangible result of the summit was a commitment by nearly 40 companies, including many big multinational corporations, to do their part to slow and eventually stop the loss of forests. The companies include Asia Pulp and Paper, Kellogg's, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, and Procter & Gamble. Forests store carbon dioxide, and deforestation is a major contributor to the concentration of heat-trapping gases in Earth's atmosphere. The companies, together with 32 countries, pledged to do their part to stop deforestation by 2030.

3. There's growing pressure to help the world's most vulnerable countries. One reason Ban convened the summit was to try to generate a competition among world leaders. He wants them to offer increasingly ambitious commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to helping poor countries adopt clean energy. French President Francois Hollande was one of the first to throw down. On Tuesday, he announced that his country will pour $1 billion (U.S.) into the so-called Green Climate Fund. He called on other nations to follow his example.

Five years ago, rich countries promised to assemble a big pot of money to help poor countries invest in clean energy and mitigate their risks from climate change. The idea was that rich countries created the problem of global warming by burning fossil fuels, and so are responsible for the resulting risks to poor countries. The Green Climate Fund is just starting to get organized. Germany has offered $1 billion, and in addition to France's pledge at this week's summit, South Korea promised to increase its contribution to $100 million. Denmark, Norway, Mexico, Luxembourg, and Indonesia also made pledges.


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Source: National Geographic

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