Climate Action Summit 2019: Mobilizing for Stronger Climate

Leaders meeting in New York for the Climate Action Summit 2019 are coming together at an important moment. Next year, countries are expected to strengthen their targets, take more ambitious domestic action, “protect nature”, and mobilize more financial support to combat climate change. They can take bold steps but only if they seize the moment and implement stronger action right now.

As heads of government, young activists, businesses, investors, mayors, governors, and other leaders meet here are four key things for world leaders to deliver this year and next.

Listen to the Public Demand for Climate Action

During the push to secure the Paris Agreement, world leaders were constantly reminded that the “world was watching”. An important public showing of that reality was the 400,000 people that took to the streets in New York before world leaders met for a summit convened by the UN Secretary General.

This year’s public push is being led by young people who called for a Global Strike on September 20th and 27th. Young people will lead this strike as they have a powerful message to adults, as Greta Thunberg recently said: “I know you’re trying, but just not hard enough.” Millions of people around the world are expected to participate in the strike.

Take Stronger National Climate Action Now

All countries committed through the Paris climate agreement to the goal of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and “pursuing efforts” to hold the increase to 1.5°C. The architects of the Paris Agreement recognized that the initial contributions put forward by countries would not be ambitious enough to meet these targets. Therefore, the Paris Agreement provides a dynamic mechanism to revisit and continuously strengthen countries’ commitments every five years. Next year is an important milestone as countries are expected announce stronger emissions reduction targets by the December climate summit hosted in Scotland. Working with NewClimate Institute, NRDC analyzed 24 practical and realistic actions to chart a course to a safer climate future. This roadmap includes specific actions that key countries can take to help put the world on a safer climate trajectory (see figure).

A number of countries are expected to announce stronger climate actions at the Climate Action Summit and others (such as China and the European Union) have outlined plans to announce new targets next year. Next year, the world needs these countries and others to announce ambitious new targets to help protect children around the world.   

Deliver Natural Carbon Solution by getting ready for 30x30

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports highlighted that the world’s lands and oceans were under grave threat from climate change. But these reports also highlighted how the “nature-based solutions” could contribute significantly to helping reduce emissions and put the world on a safer climate trajectory. World leaders have several chances through the end of 2020 to help deliver tangible action on these nature-based solutions. Countries will meet under the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China to adopt an ambitious plan to tackle the biodiversity challenge and leaders will meet under the Paris Agreement later in 2020. At these meetings, leaders have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect 30% of lands and 30% of oceans by 2030. Enacting such a level of protection can help meet the twin biodiversity and climate challenges.

Do everything you can as fast as you can

Since the Paris Agreement was adopted, we have more companies, financial institutions, and countries aligning their finance to be compatible with a net zero emissions future. That is important progress, but it is well short of what we need. We have too many companies (such as Procter & Gamble and companies backing Amazon destruction) that are destroying our forests – one of the best natural climate solutions there is. We still have too many financiers of coal propping up new coal-power plant projects around the world – from big banks to big countries subsidizing overseas coal projects to major companies like GE pushing for more coal plants. And we do not have enough resources being dedicated to support developing countries in adapting to the impacts of climate change and moving towards zero-carbon economies (aided by countries significantly increasing their contributions to the Green Climate Fund). We need to make sure that every investment, government decision, consumer choice, and everything in-between is moving in the zero-carbon direction immediately. So, let’s see whether these players show-up in New York and other places with investments that match their rhetoric.

Leaders have a chance at the Climate Action Summit to show they are taking action right now and preparing for even bolder action next year.

About the Authors

Jake Schmidt

Managing Director, International program
Blog Post

The world has a narrow window of opportunity to realize the goals of the Paris climate agreement. NRDC’s new roadmap outlines how leaders can act decisively to deliver 24 realistic climate actions and put the world on track for a safer climate future.

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