10 best leaders’ pledges at the UN summit

World leaders delivered around 16 hours of speeches yesterday. But who actually delivered meaningful pledges?

Pic: Ured Predsjednika Republike Hrvatske/Flickr

Pic: Ured Predsjednika Republike Hrvatske/Flickr

By Sophie Yeo

At the UN’s climate summit yesterday, we heard around 16 hours of speeches from 162 world leaders. 

Amid the bluster, repetition and recycling of old commitments was a handful of meaningful pledges for new action.

Here we present the 10 most ambitious pledges from leaders and their representatives announced during the summit.

1. France

France pledged US$ 1billion to the Green Climate Fund, matching Germany’s earlier commitment. Smaller contributions brought the total to $2.3 billion – still some way off the US$15 billion target. Luxembourg committed €5 million, and Switzerland said it was considering a $100 million pledge.

2. Uruguay

While most leaders are shying away from revealing their long term goal until next year, Uruguay came out with a specific target, saying it would reduce its emissions 85% by 2030.

3. China

China’s vice premier Zhang Gaoli said that the country aims to peak its emissions “as early as possible”. He is the highest ranking official to say China will move from a carbon intensity target to absolute reductions – a positive sign, although he did not specify a year for when this might be. And China will double its annual support for a South-South cooperation fund to help other developing countries.

4. Denmark and Sweden

Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt said that her country would be “fossil free” by 2050, while Sweden announced it was aiming for zero net emissions by 2050. This reflects support for the growing call of a zero carbon world at the highest political levels. Thorning-Schmidt also announced a Green Climate Fund pledge of $70 million.

5. South Korea and Mexico

South Korea and Mexico both pledged money to the Green Climate Fund. As developing countries, neither is obliged to contribute, so their announcements were significant. South Korea pledged $100 million (including its previous $50 million pledge), while Mexico offered $10 million.

6. Norway

Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg said that Norway would contribute US$500 million every year up to 2020 to combat climate change. She also pledged US$33 million to the GCF, and indicated there would be more forthcoming in November. Norway also won plaudits for forest partnerships launched with Liberia and Peru.

7. India

India took some flak for prime minister Narendra Modi’s decision to skip the summit. His proxy, environment minister Prakash Javadekar, at least came armed with a promise to double the country’s wind and solar energy by 2020.

8. Germany

Germany’s environment minister Barbara Hendricks said that the country would end its development funding for new coal power stations. Chancellor Angela Merkel was not present at the meeting.

9. United States

President Obama’s speech was thin on new policy but strong on rhetoric. His confirmed that the US would strengthen its emissions reductions targets next year – reassuring but not new, since this is demanded by the UN. But his emphasis on the need for US and China to take joint responsibility for climate change as the world’s largest two emitters was well received, and the real success in tackling the problem is likely to come down to whether this vision is eventually realised. Watch this space.

10. European Union

Jose Manuel Barroso, representing the EU, said that the bloc will provide €3 billion in grants to support sustainable energy in developing countries, and €14 billion in public climate finance to partners outside the EU.


Correction: We originally said Russia would reduce its emissions 70-75% on 1990 levels by 2030. Instead, they said their 2030 emissions would be 70-75% of 1990 levels, ie, a 25-30% reduction.

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