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By Dean Scott
Sept. 17 — More than 120 world leaders are confirmed to attend the upcoming one-day climate change summit to be hosted by the United Nations in New York next week, a UN official said Sept. 17.
While the notion of a summit is often overused in Washington and New York, the Sept. 23 meeting is “unprecedented”—the “largest gathering of global leaders in history on the subject of climate,” according to Bob Orr, the top climate official reporting to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban scheduled the summit to throw the spotlight on the need for world nations to make progress on an ambitious climate deal at high-level talks in Lima in December, which is to be signed in Paris in late 2015.
The success of next week's one-day summit in New York—billed as the largest gathering of world leaders on the climate issue since the 2009 UN climate negotiations nearly collapsed in Copenhagen—will depend on whether those leaders and the private sector bring concrete offers to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions, Orr said.
Orr, who spoke at a briefing held by the Center for American Progress on the summit, downplayed news that both President Xi Jinping of China and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will miss the summit, touting the attendance of top finance and environment ministers from those countries who will be sent in their stead. Orr said China is sending Zhang Gaoli, vice premier who is the nation's top official on finance as well as domestic and international climate policy.
President Barack Obama is to attend, according to the White House .
“Obviously, we would love it” if leaders from the more than 190 nations negotiating the 2015 climate deal were attending, Orr said. But the summit's success hinges on whether those officials who do attend signal they are ready to address rising emissions and steer their economies toward low-carbon growth, he said.
Orr, who serves as the assistant secretary-general for policy coordination and strategic planning, said the Sept. 23 meeting will produce significant announcements from world leaders. But the “most dramatic” offerings may come from the private sector, which will unveil sector-specific efforts on the sidelines of the summit to curb greenhouse gas emissions, he said.
The Paris 2015 talks are to conclude with a global climate deal requiring actions by developed and developing nations alike beginning in 2020. The U.S. and other developed nations are to unveil their post-2020 emissions reduction pledges toward the deal in early 2015, but all countries are to put offers on the table at some point next year.
Nigel Purvis, president and chief executive officer of Climate Advisers, a Washington-based consultancy, sounded a note of optimism for the leader's summit, in contrast to the 2009 summit in Copenhagen that fell short of expectations on the heels of a severe economic downturn around the world.
The collapse of Lehman Brothers, the financial services firm, “was six years ago this week,” Purvis said at the Center for American Progress forum, and economies are generally on much better footing now.
Leaders have an opportunity at the upcoming New York summit to bring climate change “back up to the top tier of the global political agenda,” Purvis said.
The Sept. 23 climate summit will be the first such meeting for many world leaders, Purvis said—most leaders were not in power when the previous summit was held more than six years ago in Copenhagen.
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