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Q&A: What is the U.N. climate change summit?

by Ace Damon
Q&A: What is the U.N. climate change summit?

No more banalities – it's time for world leaders to take concrete action to prevent catastrophic global warming.

That is the message United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres handed over the heads of state meeting in New York to a summit to galvanize actions to slow global warming. Officials from dozens of countries are expected to take the stage and reveal plans to step up their efforts during the one-day meeting on Monday, which will be accompanied by a variety of weather-related events.

Here is an overview of the dome.

Why is this summit happening?

The Climate Action Summit It is an attempt to start the global campaign against climate change.

It comes at a critical juncture after the 2015 Paris climate agreement, an unprecedented international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Participating countries must continually reduce their emissions and their first plans for this should be resolved next year.

But most nations are moving very slowly, and the summit organizers hope they can get them back on track. To inspire, a succession of world leaders will take the stage and announce concrete steps that will be taken to prevent disastrous levels of warming. The extension of these plans will be an important sign of what to expect in the coming years.

What exactly will happen?

About 60 world leaders will have the opportunity to speak, and many will announce more aggressive targets to reduce global warming pollution. Among those expected to appear are French President Emmanuel Macron, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and dozens of other heads of state.

Several small and medium-sized countries are likely to increase their commitments, he said. David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative, at the World Resources Institute think tank. "What is unclear is the extent to which major issuers will make these announcements."

What is the UN asking for?

Guterres told world leaders that they "bring plans, not speeches," and offered stage time only to those with the most ambitious and credible goals.

He also called on participating nations to support the end of fossil fuel subsidies, to stop building new coal plants after 2020 and to commit to zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This list angered countries with plans to open new coal plants, such as Japan, South Korea and South Africa. Their leaders were not among the guests to speak, the Financial Times reported.

Rachel Kyte, a special representative of the UN secretary-general who is executive director of the nonprofit Sustainable Energy for All, said that Guterres's conditions of participation in the summit should send a clear message: “We are no longer on a generic and objective objective. . setting mode. We are implementing the decarbonisation of the economy. "

Why is this happening now?

Because the world is running out of time to put the Paris pact on track and contain the damage of climate change.

The 2015 Paris agreement aims to keep global warming "well below" 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels and within 1.5 degrees if possible to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.

But the national targets agreed in Paris fall significantly short of that goal. Human activity has already warmed the planet by about 1 degree Celsius, and meeting Paris's commitments alone will likely result in a 3-degree temperature rise – far beyond what scientists consider tolerable to humanity.

Meanwhile, the effects of global warming are hitting stronger and sooner than expected. People are increasingly experiencing the consequences at their doorstep, including more intense hurricanes and forest fires, more extreme heat waves, rising sea levels and decreasing air quality.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Warned of devastating consequences without "far-reaching and unprecedented change" to reduce emissions in just over a decade. Avoiding calamity will require drastic and large-scale action to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030.

Is the US participating?

President Trump has denied the Paris deal and plans to withdraw as soon as the US is eligible to do so by 2020. He is not among the heads of state to speak at Monday's summit despite plans to attend the meeting. of the UN General Assembly the next day. But UN officials said they expected a high-level US official and delegation to participate.

Although Trump is absent, his moves to undermine climate science and reduce emissions reductions are casting a shadow over the procedures.

With the adoption of policies favoring fossil fuels, the Trump government has become a mess in international negotiations, in association with oil states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, arguing against climate science and multilateral actions, he said. Michael Wara, director of the Stanford University Climate and Energy Policy Program.

Trump's position is thwarting the process of "moving from big, grandiose ideas about what should happen" to "people who need to explain the details of what they are going to do," Wara said. "The US said, 'This is not a priority for us,' and it makes it very difficult for other leaders – especially leaders whose countries are to some degree in competition with the United States – to take aggressive action. "

Will other Americans participate?

California is expected to have a strong presence at the summit and related events, with appearances by Governor Gavin Newsom and other state leaders who are fighting the Trump government for car emissions standards and a host of other environmental protections that the president is Trying to undo.

California will not be alone. Julie Cerqueira, Executive Director of US Climate Alliance, a coalition of state leaders working to uphold the Paris agreement, said at least six governors would be at the summit to reassure the world "that we in the United States at the state level remain committed to maintaining the Paris agreement."

"What we don't want is for people to use the United States as an excuse to back off," she said. "These states are fighting as hard as they can to advance a very bold climate agenda."

Cities, states and business leaders will also play a key role in mobilizing for tougher climate action.

How will we know if the summit is a success?

If the summit generates sufficient tangible commitments from key international actors, it could give impetus to negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, where the details of nations' plans to reduce more emissions should be detailed next year.

Experts are waiting to see if China, India, the European Union or any other major economy runs counter to the Trump administration's efforts to unravel climate action by announcing significant plans to reduce its own emissions.

Luis Alfonso de Alba, Guterres special envoy to the summit, told reporters He was "very confident" that China would come with a "clear commitment" to improve its climate plans.

What other obstacles appear?

Political winds in climate action have changed dramatically thanks to internal nationalist change in several key countries, such as the United States and Brazil, whose actions will be critical in determining the fate of our warming planet.

Concerns about the global economy, including worrying signals in China and Europe – two of the most important players in global climate negotiations – can also weigh heavily on the process, shifting government priorities from big long-term goals to more urgent short-term concerns. .

What else is going on around the summit?

There are a multitude of weather-related meetings, demonstrations, and other side events in the days before and after, including protests and public speeches by scientists, executives, and nonprofits about the effects of climate change and the actions needed to address them.

On Friday, activists are calling a global climate strike, leaving schools and workplaces to demand government action. They will join Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and other young activists in the Fridays for the future movement that has been skipping school every Friday to demand more aggressive measures from world leaders.

On Saturday, the UN is hosting a Climate Summit for Youthwhere hundreds of young people will discuss how to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Other pre-summit activities include meetings between governments, businesses and non-profit organizations on issues such as carbon pricing, adaptation to natural disasters and other climate-related risks, and cleaning up hard-to-change sectors such as transportation and aviation.

Are there signs of hope?

Smaller countries like Chile, Costa Rica, and New Zealand must outline plans to drastically reduce emissions. Recent opinion pollsShow growing concern about climate change and growing support for government action. Electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies are advancing.

The growing scope of youth activism is another reason to remain optimistic, he said. Rob jackson, a Stanford environmental scientist who chairs Global Carbon Project.

“Our young people are demanding action. They have no patience for caution, ”he said. "And I can't blame them."

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