Build up to the Ban Ki-moon climate summit

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Latest headlines:
– “We  Mean Business” report strengthens case for low carbon corporate action
– Flood Wall Street protesters occupy NY’s financial district
– New coal projects are financial “madness”, says report
– UK to make major funding announcement
– Events on carbon markets, island leadership and forests planned ahead of tomorrow’s climate summit

An estimated 310,000 people took to the streets of New York on Sunday to back climate action (Pic: Avaaz/John Minchillo)

An estimated 310,000 people took to the streets of New York on Sunday to back climate action
(Pic: Avaaz/John Minchillo)

1830 – This is Ed King signing in from New York. Today I’m at the launch of New York Climate Week, at the Morgan library just off Madison Avenue in downtown Manhattan. All participants have evidently been told to radiate positivity – an instruction adopted enthusiastically by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

He says his company’s new building will be the “greenest” in the world, revealing that Apple is currently powered by 94% renewable energy. “Too many people believe you can do this or that. You must do both. You need to be a pebble in pond to create a ripple. You can’t assume that everything is a tradeoff…you can do both.”

So far this morning we’ve heard from US secretary of state John Kerry, France foreign minister Laurent Fabius and – in an unscripted and ad-libbed climate cliche fest, UN secretary general ban Ki-moon.

1807 – That’s it from us in the UK, but it’s far from over in New York, where reports and announcements are arriving in droves. From here on, you’ll be in the capable hands of Ed King, who’s covering the events in New York. I’ll leave with a reminder to keep watching tomorrow, when we’ll be live blogging the main event – the promises and pledges from world leaders on how they’re boosting climate action.

1800 – Business leaders have just launched their new report making the case for low carbon action in the corporate world. We Mean Business is a coalition of groups that work with thousands of businesses and investors across the world, who are working to reduce their emissions.

“Between 2012 and 2013, almost 1,450 companies reported carbon savings of just over 420M metric tonnes per year through internal investment of more than US$170B in low carbon projects,” says the report.

1731 – On Thursday, the UN’s climate body set out its expectations for the Summit in terms of adaptation, including new initiatives around data dissemination, disaster risk and city-based resilience.

It doesn’t seem to have gone down well with Quamrul Chowdhury, the lead negotiator for the Least Developed Countries, however. For him, nothing short of new financial pledges will demonstrate to the world’s poorest that the rich mean business.

1717 – Swedish furniture giant has announced that it will start to sell its residential solar panels beyond the UK. Soon, the people of the Netherlands and Switzerland will be able to buy solar power, Scandinavian-style.

Pic: Hanergy, IKEA's partner in the solar project

Pic: Hanergy, IKEA’s partner in the solar project

1653 –  Jonathan Grant from PwC’s climate team offers his analysis of the week of climate action. Analysis by the consultancy company earlier this month showed that energy-related carbon emissions need to be reduced five times faster if the world is to stay below 2C.

“This is the biggest moment for climate change since Copenhagen in 2009.  With governments, business and civil society so well engaged, the summit will raise the visibility and relevance of the issue for the board and for ministers.  But real success depends on keeping these leaders talking and moving on the policies and action needed.

“We need five times the level of emissions reduction than what we’re currently achieving. We probably won’t know till next year if the Summit was enough to up the ante sufficiently on carbon reduction commitments.

“The optimist in me says we’ll hear positive things in New York from national and business leaders. The realist says the biggest questions will follow the summit: who’ll make the commitments and how; who’s paying for them and how much; do they add up to what’s scientifically sufficient, or are they just what is politically possible?”

1649 – Ed King – who this week sports the glamorous title of our correspondent in New York – has all the news on John Kerry’s talk today.

1641 – Phasing out coal use by 2050 would prevent 0.5C of warming, according to analysis from Climate Action Tracker. Coal is responsible for 70% of CO2 emissions from the electricity sector, while producing only 40% of the power.

“There is a particular urgency for Governments to reverse recent trends in the electricity sector, especially the increasing investment in coal, in order to focus the power industry on rapid greenhouse gas emission reductions,” said climate analytics director Bill Hare.

“A major first step forward would be a strong political signal that the electric power sector needs to be decarbonised by 2050 – and that includes rapidly phasing out coal use.”

The report adds pressure on leaders to quit coal by mid-century – which E3G’s Liz Gallagher says is one concrete commitment that could come out of tomorrow’s summit. It follows financial analysis from the (unrelated) Carbon Tracker Initiative showing the coal sector is in poor shape money-wise. To invest in new mines would be “madness”, it said.

1632 – I’ve just run a quick Twitter analysis to get a sense of the impact of the Summit. Here’s how the #Climate2014 hashtag is being deployed across the world:

hash-tag-world And across the US: US The key refers to the percentage of the total people tweeting about it. I did the analysis using Keyhole.

1621 – The Global Ocean Commission has accused Ban Ki-moon of “a major sin of omission” for missing two thirds of the planet off tomorrow’s programme.

David Miliband, co-chair of the commission and former UK foreign secretary, wrote in the Guardian: “The summit is keeping its feet firmly on dry land and is highlighting the huge gap between scientific knowledge and political action.”

The oceans are acidifying at an “alarming” rate, he said, and urgent steps are needed to reverse the decline.

1610 – How can we use the climate crisis to spur better lives for all? Climate economist Lord Stern addresses this question through the ubiquitous medium of a TED talk. It is based on his recent New Climate Economy report, which he co-chaired alongside former Mexican president Felipe Calderon.


1604 – Oxfam has welcomed the news that countries and corporations are now all for carbon pricing – but are also keen to hand out a word of advice to make sure it’s not an empty promise.

Nicolas Mombrial, Oxfam International in Washington DC, said: “This is an impressive coalition covering a large share of global emissions – but carbon pricing is no silver bullet solution unless the price is set high enough and revenues are used to benefit the poorest. Signatories must keep up the pressure to act in the weeks and months to come to ensure this is more than just a paper promise.”

1554  – Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN’s climate body, has taken the stage at the New York climate week event. She says this is a chance to bring together climate and the economy. “Collectively, we are writing a business plan for the world,” she says. “The feasibility study stage is finished… it is high time to execute. We have 15 months and I am counting on every single one of you.”

1544 – The UK is expected to make a major funding announcement today concerning deforestation, RTCC has heard.

It will be announced by Justine Greening, the UK secretary of state on international development, who will deliver her first ever speech on climate change today at the Ford Foundation in New York.

The event will bring together government, corporate and indigenous leaders for a discussion about forests. Tomorrow there will be a separate session on how to help preserve the world’s forests, which will culminate in a New York Declaration on Forests. This will see governments, indigenous leaders and corporations pledge to save hundreds of millions of hectares of forests.

1526 – US Secretary of State John Kerry is giving the keynote speech at the launch of New York Climate Week. He says climate change is as serious as terrorism, poverty and weapons of mass destruction.

“You can make a powerful argument, in fact, that it may be the most serious challenge we face on the planet,” he says. Yet “despite the scientific consensus, we are collectively allowing the problem to grow… we are not meeting that challenge.”

He refers to the rise in extreme weather expected with climate change. “Mother nature is screaming at us about this,” he says.

1521 – 73 governments and over 1,000 companies and investors have come out in support for a carbon price, the World Bank has just announced.

Countries behind the push include China, Russia, the Philippines and South Africa, reflecting a broad spectrum of both high emitters and the most vulnerable to climate change. Companies behind the scheme include Nokia, Lego and Shell.

Carbon pricing, whether through taxes, emissions trading, or other schemes, is one way to depress carbon emissions. We have the full story here.

1452 – This is Sophie Yeo taking over the live blog now. And I’m here just in time to watch the Flood Wall Street action take off in New York. Protesters wearing blue are staging a mass sit-in at the city’s financial district, hitting out at the capitalist model which they say is behind the crisis.

Among them is Naomi Klein, the author and activist whose recent book “This Changes Everything” is quickly becoming the anti-capitalist’s handbook to climate change.

1258 BST – Ed King caught up with some marchers in New York yesterday. Here he interviews George Ferguson, mayor of Bristol, UK, which has been named European Green Capital 2015.

1252 BST – Yesterday’s record-breaking climate march got a fair amount of coverage in the mainstream media.

Time led with a 9-year-old in a banana costume in a colourful account of the parade. There was coverage in all the major papers.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal took the opportunity to tell readers “climate science is not settled“, contradicting the message of scientists at the march.

The Wall Street Journal's take on yesterday's march (Pic: Ed King)

The Wall Street Journal’s take on yesterday’s march
(Pic: Ed King)

Leading economist Jeffrey Sachs challenged the paper to back up their claims.

Meanwhile, the New Yorker had a satirical take. The march is “unlikely to change the minds of idiots, a survey of America’s idiots reveals”.

1231 BST – Over the weekend, heavy rainfall caused flooding in the Phillipines, Italy and France, the UN’s disaster risk reduction department reported.

In Manila, 200,000 people were evacuated as typhoon Fung-Wong hit the city.

Weather like this is “the new normal” under a changing climate, warned the UN.

China, Pakistan, South Sudan and Uganda have all suffered from flooding this month. Many are still homeless from the Pakistan floods, while in Bentiu, South Sudan it is worsening malnutrition among some 46,000 people in refugee camps.

Margareta Wahlstrom, the UN’s disaster management chief, called on national leaders to commit resources for disaster risk reduction at tomorrow’s summit.

She said: “The UN Climate Summit is an important step on the road towards adopting a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction. The new agreement will be complementary to new agreements on climate action and sustainable development goals.”

A flooded street in Beijing, China, earlier this year (Pic: Flickr/Eric Burniche)

A flooded street in Beijing, China, earlier this year
(Pic: Flickr/Eric Burniche)

1148 BST – There is a packed programme of events for the launch of Climate Week 2014 in New York today (line-up subject to change).

US brigadier general Stephen Cheney is to introduce secretary of state John Kerry for the keynote address.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, climate envoy Mary Robinson and climate chief Christiana Figueres will all be speaking or chairing panels.

Big names from the business world include Sir Richard Branson, Paul Polman of Unilever and Apple’s Tim Cook.

There will be sessions on national security, innovation and climate finance.

Separately, Hillary Clinton is set to announce a new global initiative.

And the UK is expected to announce funding to protect forests at a Ford Foundation session.

1043 BST – It looks likely leaders will commit to phase out coal and financing for coal by mid-century, E3G’s Liz Gallagher writes for RTCC.

And if she were a betting woman, she would have a flutter on some governments announcing contributions to the Green Climate Fund.

The UN is aiming to raise US$10-15 billion of start-up capital from developed countries to help poorer nations mitigate and adapt to climate change.

1023 BST – In the most comprehensive report of its kind, the New Climate Economy last week said economic growth and climate action can go hand in hand. And it is not just another report, wrote advisor Michael Jacobs.

Chaired by former Mexico president Felipe Calderon, the commission behind the report insisted leaders do not have to choose between economic development and climate protection.

It was backed by seven governments with some US$8.9 million of funding and drew on data and research from more than 100 organisations around the world.

Calderon will lead a panel session at tomorrow’s summit on the economic case for action. You can find the day’s full agenda here.

1013 BST – The Rockefeller family, which made its fortune from oil, is to announce it will divest its $860 million foundation from fossil fuels, the New York Times reports.

They join churches, cities and universities in the growing divestment movement. These organisations hope to highlight the threat to the climate from continuing to burn coal, oil and gas.

1006 BST – The coal sector is in financial trouble, the Carbon Tracker Initiative has found in its latest assessment of the fossil fuel industry. It would be “madness” to invest in new mines, such as those proposed in Australia’s Galilee Basin, analysts said.

This think-tank, which has been warning about the risk of a “carbon bubble” for three years, is planning a series of events around tomorrow’s summit.

It aims to engage investors, NGOs and regulators in understanding the risks climate change poses to fossil fuel sectors.

0958 BST – In the run-up to the Ban Ki-moon summit, there has been a glut of reports on why climate change matters and what leaders should do about it. We will round up some of the most significant here.

Yesterday, the annual Global Carbon Budget study showed China’s carbon emissions per person overtaking the EU’s for the first time. Scientists warned there are thirty years left to avert dangerous levels of global warming.

There were only two small climate marches in China yesterday, in Hong Kong and Dalian, which were not widely reported. President Xi Jinping is not set to attend tomorrow’s summit.

As the leaders each take 4 minutes to pledge climate action tomorrow, all eyes will be on vice premier Zhang Gaoli to see what he can deliver.

0945 BST – There was a festive atmosphere yesterday at climate marches around the world.

It started with beach demos in the Pacific islands, which are under threat from sea level rise and culminated in an estimated 310,000 people marching in New York. That was three times what organisers had predicted, making it comfortably the largest climate march in history.

In between, there were more than 2,000 events in 156 countries. We liveblogged the action.

Sophie Yeo found the weird and wonderful out in force at London’s march. Ed King reported from New York on the organisers’ astonishment at the turnout. The climate movement found its mojo in the Big Apple, wrote Ros Donald.


0930 BST – Good morning. This is Megan Darby liveblogging from London.

Tomorrow, more than 120 heads of state gather for a one-day climate summit in New York, hosted by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

Yesterday, around half a million people worldwide showed their support for climate action.

Today, we bring you the events and comments leading up to the big one.

Ed King is in New York, where business and social leaders are mingling with politicians to build momentum towards a global climate deal.

Read more on: Climate finance |