New York City will be full of planet-saving pomp this coming week, but short on action to rescue the world.
More than 120 world leaders convene Tuesday for a UN summit aimed at galvanizing political will for a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015.
Environmentalists will take to the streets Sunday in what is being billed as the largest march ever on global warming. Celebrities, CEOs and climatologists will appear at a string of events as part of New York’s annual climate week. “Titanic” star Leonardo DiCaprio will talk about what causes rising seas.
The hope is to recapture the momentum lost after the disappointing 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, when world leaders left without a binding treaty.
The one-day UN summit, while not part of the formal negotiation process, is the pinnacle of the 7-year-old tenure of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has made fighting climate change his rallying cry and traveled the globe to personally invite world leaders to the gathering. Saying he was “humbled by the overwhelming response,” Ban urged leaders to come with bold ideas. […]
Rather than firm commitments from closed-door negotiations, the summit is expected to jumpstart a series of much publicized initiatives and partnerships. Six oil companies will join with governments and environmental advocacy groups to slash methane leaks from the production of natural gas. There will be a massive commitment to combat deforestation. There will be initiatives announced to clean up agriculture and make freight shipments greener.
“Ultimately, we are going to need much more ambitious, concerted government action and government policies,” said Nat Keohane, who worked as a special assistant to President Barack Obama on energy and climate issues before rejoining the Environmental Defense Fund in 2012. “This summit is not going to be one fell swoop where we are going to announce all those policies.”
The U.S. heads into the summit in the strongest position it has been in years. It has cut emissions by 10 percent from 2005 to 2012, more than any other country. Officials say about half of that reduction is due to the economic recession, but it puts the U.S. well on its way toward meeting its goal to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.
White House officials said Obama will not be announcing any new targets at the summit but will leverage the progress the U.S. has made to pressure other major polluters like India and China to take more aggressive action.