UN Summit Pledges, Commitments Advance Progress Toward 2015 Agreement, Ban Says

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By John Herzfeld

Sept. 23 — Financial pledges and commitments made by governments, businesses, investors and lenders at the United Nations Climate Summit are helping to advance progress toward agreement on a new global climate treaty in Paris in December 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sept. 23.

The pledges add up to more than $200 billion in financial assets to be shifted by the end of 2015 to finance “low-carbon and climate-resilient pathways” around the world, including efforts in the least developed countries and the small island developing states most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Ban said.

The announced steps call for a mixture of public and private financing, including pledges by donor and developing countries to an initial capitalization of a Green Climate Fund to back environmentally sound development and technologies, U.N. officials said.

“I am very impressed by the financing mobilized at the summit by both the public and private sector,” Ban said in a statement. “This will serve as a catalyst in finalizing a universal and meaningful agreement at Paris on climate change in 2015.”

He continued that the summit “has created a platform for new coalitions and has brought leaders from both public and private sectors across the globe to not only recognize climate risks, but to agree to work together.”

‘Significant Boost’ Seen in Finance 

The new commitments, U.N. officials said, will give a “significant boost” to efforts to reach a climate financing level of $100 billion per year set in 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen.

The amount of high-level participation in the summit by private-sector leaders was unprecedented, Ban said, with 90 chief executive officers among the 181 representatives from the business and investment community.

Noting that he had set climate change as a priority since he took office in January 2007, Ban said he had called the summit because “we need all hands on deck to ride this storm.”

He said that organizers of a public march and rally that drew “hundreds of thousands” of people to New York Sept. 21 had presented him with 2 million signatures seeking action on climate, and that he had met their request to “bring their voices into the halls of the United Nations.”

On financing, Ban said that the Green Climate Fund and other projects will have a “multiplier effect” by leading to larger private investments, but they are “only a start.”

The summit announcements for climate financing, UN officials said, include a commitment by a coalition of institutional investors to shift $100 billion in investments to low-carbon projects by the Paris meeting, while working to measure and disclose the carbon footprint of some $500 billion in assets under management. Another commitment involves a $31 billion acceleration in low-carbon investments by 2020 by three major pension funds from North America and Europe. A third pledge envisions $30 billion by the end of 2015 in “green bonds” and other new financing techniques by commercial banks to back climate projects.

In addition, national, bilateral and regional development banks of the International Development Finance Club announced that they are on track to increase direct financing to $100 billion a year for new climate finance activities by the end of 2015, U.N. officials said.

Also, they said, the insurance industry has committed to double its green investments to $82 billion by the end of 2015.

Billions Pledged for Fund

Green Climate Fund pledges by developed and developing countries have reached more than $2 billion, they said, and the European Union has announced a commitment of $2.5 billion to be channeled to developing countries in 2014 and 2015, with a focus on adaptation and mitigation as part of an overall commitment of $18 billion by 2020.

Appearing with Ban at a midday news conference devoted to the summit, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the meeting had been instrumental in stimulating a Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition at the bank that will continue to work through 2015 to prepare for the Paris meeting.

“Without this summit, we would not have had the pressure and the focus to bring the governments and private sector together,” he said, adding that sponsors hope the project will be “far along the path to establishing a price for carbon” in time for a December intergovernmental negotiating session in Lima, Peru.

The coalition comprises 73 national and regional governments responsible for 54 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, plus more than 1,000 companies and investors, Kim said.

They include China, Russia, the European Union, Indonesia, Mexico and the Philippines, as well as the companies Nokia, LG Electronics, Lego and Shell, according to the bank.

Summit Seen as Success in Raising Profile

The summit has already achieved one of its primary goals, a UN official told Bloomberg BNA at the start of the daylong session Sept. 23.

“Our goal was to put climate back on the front page, squarely on the international agenda, as we work to build momentum” for intergovernmental talks toward a global climate agreement in Paris, said Dan Shepard, a UN climate and sustainability spokesman and an adviser to the secretary-general. “And we've already done that.”

With more than a year before negotiators must reach agreement, he said, the financial and policy commitments made by governments and the private sector at the summit will improve the chances of finding common ground on how to meet the secretary-general's goal of curbing greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels.

“The more everyone works together to solve the problem, the better the chances they will come together on an agreement in Paris,” he said.

GEF Plans More Funding

In the first announcement of the day, the Global Environment Facility, a public-private financing institution, said it will support developing countries with more than $3 billion over four years for investments in mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects, plus another $30 million leveraged from other sources.

Included in the funding are three new GEF financing programs, a $100 million fund for development of sustainable, resilient cities; $110 million to improve food security, strengthen resilience and enhance carbon sequestration in sub-Saharan Africa; and $45 million to take deforestation out of supply chains for such commodities as palm oil, soy and beef, GEF Chief Executive Officer Naoko Ishii told reporters at a news briefing.

“There is no better entry point to address the world's major drivers of environmental degradation than cities and urbanization,” she said. The cities program will help mayors and city managers reduce carbon emissions and build resiliency, while helping to “facilitate learning and sharing of effective solutions among cities around the world,” she said.

Summarizing the day's events in a statement, Ban said: “Change is in the air.”

The summit “has shown an entirely new, cooperative global approach to climate change,” he said. “The actions announced today by governments, businesses, finance and civil society show that many partners are eager to confront the challenges of climate change together.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John Herzfeld in New York at jherzfeld@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

More information, including country statements, is at http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/.