In an unprecedented gathering on September 20, 2023, New York City played host to a momentous event: the inaugural Climate ambition summit. This historic meeting, convened in parallel with the UN General Assembly, brought together world leaders from various fields, all echoing a resounding call for immediate and collective climate action to avert looming climate catastrophes.
A sobering warning from the UN chief
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered an impassioned speech underscoring the profound and devastating impact of rising temperatures. He declared that “terrible heat has terrible consequences,” and painted a grim picture of the dire consequences of climate inaction. Guterres warned that humanity had effectively “opened the gates to hell,” citing heartbreaking scenes of farmers witnessing their crops washed away by floods, the emergence of virulent diseases due to rising temperatures, and mass displacement of people fleeing devastating forest fires.
A spotlight on climate solutions
The central theme of the summit was clear: the pursuit of climate solutions. Guterres emphasized the urgency of the situation and stated unequivocally that the scale of the climate challenge overshadowed the response. He warned that climate action is falling dangerously behind, with humanity heading towards a dangerous temperature rise of 2.8°C, marked by escalating dangers and instability. Despite this grim reality, the Secretary General offered a ray of hope and reiterated that the future remained within our control. He reminded attendees that the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C remains achievable, envisioning a world defined by clean air, green jobs and accessible clean energy for everyone.
The call for collective mobilization
Around the world, activists, indigenous peoples and business leaders are mobilizing for climate action. Guterres issued a clear call for action, including proposing a climate solidarity pact aimed at holding major emitters accountable. He called on rich countries to support emerging economies in their fight against the climate crisis. The Acceleration Agenda calls on governments to “move quickly” in their climate efforts.
The call for climate justice
Amid these passionate calls to action, the Secretary-General recognized the urgent need for climate justice. Many of the world’s poorest countries, those least responsible for climate change, are hardest hit by its effects. Promised financial assistance often remains elusive, while financing costs remain prohibitive. Guterres stressed the need to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28 and called on developed countries to meet their $100 billion commitment, replenish the Green Climate Fund and double adaptation financing. Establishing global early warning systems by 2027 became imperative.
Corporate Responsibility and Net Zero Commitments
The Acceleration Agenda also demanded that companies and financial institutions take a true zero-neutrality path. This transition must prioritize transparency and credibility in emissions reduction plans. The Secretary-General emphasized that every forward-thinking company must establish just transition plans that effectively reduce emissions and achieve climate justice.
The call for quick action outside New York
Secretary General Guterres concluded with a call to action beyond the confines of New York’s conference rooms. He stressed the need to accelerate the pace of climate action to tackle the looming climate catastrophe. Responding to this loud call, Kenyan President William Ruto highlighted Africa’s immense potential for green global manufacturing, given its abundant mineral resources and biodiversity.
The focus on financing and environmental justice
During the discussions, financing and environmental justice emerged as recurring themes. Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian People’s Movement for Debt and Development, called for new agreements that allow the shift to renewable energy without loopholes or excuses. She underlined that climate finance is not a matter of aid, but an obligation and reparations for historical and ongoing injustices.
Commitments from developed countries
The developed countries present at the Summit have shown their willingness to make their fair share. For example, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen announced an additional €220 million for climate change initiatives between 2023 and 2026. He emphasized the importance of reducing emissions domestically, with Austria aiming to achieve a net zero by 2040 achieve zero emissions.
The 2023 Climate Ambition Summit is a resounding wake-up call to tackle the urgent climate crisis. It invites humanity to unite in purpose, quickly embrace sustainable solutions and pursue climate justice to protect our shared planet.