The French president said leaders must “define a new economy for the world” as they head towards a global climate deal in Paris next year
By Ed King in New York
France president Francois Hollande said society had “mobilised” against climate change on a day when over 120 world leaders gathered in New York to back plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Speaking to reporters, Hollande said the world was ready for a “new model of development” which priced carbon, divested backing for fossil fuels and directed funding towards green energy sources.
Earlier in the day he announced France, hosts of the 2015 UN summit where a new climate deal is set to be agreed, would offer $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund.
“We need to define a new economy for the world,” he said, adding: “France now has to act in an exemplary way.”
Hosted by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, the one-day meeting is aimed at mobilising support for decarbonisation among governments and business.
“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,” Ban said.
According to UN officials, over $200 billion from governments, financial institutions and foundations will be directed towards low carbon projects as a result of today’s meeting, although they could not confirm if this money was all new.
In a frenetic morning session heads of state gave a series of short speeches in three separate rooms, outlining their goals, fears and ambitions for a UN climate deal.
France announced US$1 billion towards the Green Climate Fund, matching Germany’s pledge. South Korea, Denmark, Switzerland and Norway offered smaller contributions.
Norway released plans for an extra $300 million towards schemes aimed at slowing deforestation, linked to around 20% of global carbon emissions.
Peru promised to implement new carbon cutting projects, while Egypt’s new prime minister general Sisi pledged his support for the green economy.
In a late change to the schedule interventions from the the US and China, the world’s leading carbon polluters, were delayed until later in the afternoon.
UK prime minister David Cameron, who was quoted earlier in the day saying the Queen had “purred” after the Scottish referendum result, also gave his backing to UN efforts.
On Monday the UK said it was allocating £140m to support 10-15 public-private partnerships aimed at slowing forest destruction.
The World Bank is also expected to release more details on the state of carbon pricing across the world at a private sector lunch that will take place on the sidelines of the meeting.
In a report issued yesterday it said 73 countries and over 1000 companies covering around 54% of global emissions were now costing CO2 emissions.
Today’s meeting started amid tight security and the sound of sirens as hundreds of delegations headed to the UN’s HQ in long and traffic slowing convoys.
A bearded Leonardo Dicaprio, recently appointed UN climate ambassador, made an impassioned plea to world leaders, calling for them to aim for 100% clean energy by 2050.
“My friends, this body – perhaps more than any other gathering in human history – now faces that difficult task. You can make history … or be vilified by it,” he said.
But the star’s performance was overshadowed by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a young mother from the Marshall Islands, who stunned the audience with an emotional poem to her four month old daughter.
“Don’t cry – mommy promises you no one will come and devour you – no greedy whale of a company sharking through political seas – no backwater bullying of businesses with broken morals – no blindfolded bureaucracies gonna push this mother ocean over,” she said.
Ban stood at the end and led the standing ovation in the UN’s General Assembly hall, before warning delegates that the timeframe for avoiding warming of above 2C, a level deemed dangerous, was fast running out.
With talks and presentations set to continue throughout the day, most commentators were reserving judgement on its achievements until Ban’s final address, expected at around 1900 New York time.
Activist and author Naomi Klein told RTCC she wanted to see a more radical set of proposals than those currently on the table, and called on governments to be honest with business about their role – and responsibilities – in a warming world.
“There’s a tendency to try to package action as non-threatening to business and I don’t think that’s helpful because the truth is we are going to have to get in the way of a very large and powerful sectors of the economy and tell them they can’t do what they’re intending to do,” she said.
But in an interview on the sidelines of talks here, former UN climate chief Yvo de Boer told RTCC the impact of Sunday’s climate march, and the fact so many leaders were taking part, meant part of the summit’s goals had already been met.
“I think it’s an important moment, in the sense that I believe many politicians left Copenhagen with a climate change hangover, given how that conference went there,” he said.
“They were then almost fully taken up by the financial crisis, and basically climate change has been off their radar screens since 2009. I think indications from countries that they want to be ambitious on climate change, they want to take domestic action, and most importantly that they want to see an agreement in Paris next year.”