The UN climate action summit – as it happened


Watch the UN climate action summit live here and follow below all day for updates and analysis

1920 ET – Summary

Despite expectations for this summit being low, it is hard to imagine how it could have been a more effective disappointment for those looking to leaders to deliver a secure future.

There have been dozens of speeches from the world’s most powerful people since this morning, when Greta Thunberg predicted leaders would fail to step up. But it shows how little was actually achieved that it is her speech that will be remembered.

There were useful initiatives and pledges brought to this summit, UN chief António Guterres was keen to highlight at the end. Especially strong new work came from the financial sector and the many smaller countries committed to raising their ambition.

It’s also clear the new benchmark for pledging to the Green Climate Fund is to double your previous contribution, which is welcome news for poor and vulnerable people.

It’s unlikely this day of speeches actually tells us much about next year, when nations are expected to revisit their Paris Agreement contributions. There are some timing issues that mean big economies may find it easier to move in 2020. As always, the door remains open for ambition to come in.

What we certainly did learn was how limited the UN has been in dragging large nations forward. Guterres invited leaders to make new commitments to cut their emissions, stop building coal plants and end fossil fuel subsidies using his very own platform.

Three of the four countries with the biggest coal expansion plans – India, China and Turkey – were invited to speak. Each of them failed to address that consequential part of their economy.

None of the large polluters met the UN secretary general’s call to raise their climate pledges. China’s statement was potentially the most consequential. It remains up to developed countries to lead, the country said.

The EU will eventually step up, but its internal politics meant it was unready to back up Guterres.

The lack of results is all the more concerning when you consider the countries collected were the vanguard of climate action. But their plans are not developing fast enough to to match the evolving climate crisis. My colleague Chloé Farand has been thinking about why and what this means, her piece will follow soon.

That’s all from me, thank you for following this epic blog!


1920 ET – Guterres says “we have a long way to go”

“This was to be a summit of action plans not platitudes. I thank you for delivering,” UN chief António Guterres says, doing his best to end the summit on an encouraging note.

“Today in this hall, the world saw clear ambition and initiatives”, he says, before listing dozens of the pledges that the summit achieved.

Of most consequence might be those that are outside the political space but he does note 77 countries committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and 70 countries announced they would boost their Paris pledges by 2020.

He says he was “deeply moved by the inspiring leadership” of those countries who have not contributed to the climate crisis.

The summit was a “boost”, says Guterres, but “we have a long way to go… We need more concrete plans from more countries.”

He ends with a swipe at those leaders he invited, but are still planning to increase their coal fleets.

“The large number of coal power plants still projected to be built are a looming threat to us all,” he says, calling for no new plants to be built after 2020.

The meeting ends.


1900 ET – UK steps up finance role

Prime minster of the UK Boris Johnson, who (if he wins the upcoming Brexit-charged election) will host the major 2020 UN talks, has a message: “We have to increase our nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement.”

He says he has a “message of hope” from the UK, where falling emissions have been combined with a growing economy.

The UK has a net zero target for 2050. “That’s what we are going to do”, he says, by using “technology”.

He says the UK contribution to tackling climate change through overseas development funding is going to be doubled to £11.6bn over the next five years. He says that is the “most significant” announcement he will make at the UN General Assembly.


1800 ET – The EU leads from behind

“Europe is determined to lead the fight against today’s climate threat,” says EU council president Donald Tusk.

But he turns up with little concrete. The EU will surpass its 2030 climate target, he says, but has only the commission’s new president’s suggestion to raise the target to “50 or even 55%” to offer. That suggestion is subject to approval by all the member states of the union and by no means certain.

He says a net zero target for 2050 “has already been endorsed by a large majority of our member states. And personally I would say that it is just a matter of little time before all EU countries subscribe to it”.

The negotiations for this have been difficult, delayed and have left the EU leader with little to offer at this summit.

Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, has just released this statement: “While countries were expected to come to the Summit to announce that they would enhance their climate ambition, most of the major economies fell woefully short.”


1730 ET – Poorest go furthest

Bhutan president Lotay Tshering, who is leading the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) group, said all 47 LDCs would commit to net zero emissions by 2050. They will also strengthen their Paris climate pledges, national adaptation plans and long-term emissions-reduction strategies by 2020.

Most of their plans are likely to be contingent on receiving climate finance from the wealthiest countries.


1705 ET – New cash to help small-scale farmers

Philanthropist Bill Gates is on stage talking about adaptation to climate change.

He announces $790m to help small scale food producers who are incredibly vulnerable to the changing climate and on whom the food security of many countries depends.

The money will go to the food technology research body CGIAR. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $310 million, with the rest to come from the Netherlands, European Commission, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Germany and the World Bank.

“Most people have never heard of it, but CGIAR has done more to feed the world’s poorest people than any other organization on earth,” said Gates. “Ultimately we need to double funding for CGIAR research to fully equip this unique and valuable institution to confront a wide range of climate challenges. These commitments are a critical down payment toward reaching that goal.”


1640 ET -Korea flags raising its Paris pledge

Korean president Moon Jae-in says the country is making steps to implement the Paris Agreement. He notes several measures the country has taken – a national emissions trading scheme, the closure of several coal plants, the anticipated closure of six more and the release of a “hydrogen economy roadmap”.

He says Korea will include these measures in its nationally determined contribution and long term climate plan, which “will be submitted next year”.

Moon also says Korea will double its contribution to the Green Climate Fund to $200m.


1610 ET – Greece will close all lignite plants by 2028

New Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says ancient Greek philosophers didn’t have scientific evidence, only hypotheses. We don’t have that excuse, he says.

He harks back repeatedly to Greece’s heritage to make the point that the civilisation that Greece claims to be the birth place of has stood for 2500 years. Now we need to protect that.

He says the country will close down all of its lignite (brown coal) fired plants by 2028. Despite being heavily dependent on the fuel and being a large producer. I think this is a fresh announcement.


1550 ET – Donald Trump drops past

US president Donald Trump did make an appearance at the summit today. He listened to Indian prime minster Narendra Modi, who has been visiting the president over the weekend, and Germany chancellor Angela Merkel. He then skipped out to attend a meeting on religious freedom.


1545 ET – Frustration

Our reporter Chloé Farand finds some meaning in getting lost beneath the UN, while the world’s leaders stay lost upstairs:

While the world’s cameras are focused on the announcements on the main stage, confused delegates, advisors and reporters struggle to find their way around the meandering corridors of the UN’s main building.

Frustration here is flying high with every dead end and full lift cranking up tension among attendees. Frustration has become a regular feature of climate action. But as we are reminded today at the UN, gathering the world’s leaders to galvanise political leadership to shift the world’s global economy is a colossal task and frustration is part of it.

1530 ET – Turkey burnishes for free

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, says climate change is a “global problem that knows no bounds”.

Turkey and Kenya chaired a group looking at local solutions, mobility and green cities. He touts his record for switching Istanbul’s switch to natural gas for cooking as mayor of the city.

Erdoğan says Turkey is dialling up its renewable energy share and expanding its forests. Turkish green groups have consistently criticised Erdoğan’s environmental management.

The country’s use of coal is expanding faster than almost anywhere on Earth. But just like India, the leader of a huge future polluter fails to address its biggest contributor to climate change.

He does not, despite rumours, commit to ratifying the Paris Agreement. Which he has said he will not do until Turkey is reclassified as a developing country and therefore eligible to access green finance.

The UN is a big platform, but Erdoğan just made it feel a little smaller.


1516 ET – Russia ratifies the Paris Agreement

Russia’s deputy PM was supposed to turn up but they have sent out an advisor to Vladimir Putin who opens with a swipe at Russia’s “friend” France’s Emmanuel Macron, who already announced Russia’s big card at the summit: that its parliament has passed the ratification of the Paris Agreement.


1510 ET – Ireland’s citizens assembly

After a shortened lunch break, Leo Varadkar the Irish taoiseach says his country’s use of a citizens assembly was central to its implementation of a new climate action plan. This democratic experiment has been a huge success and CHN has covered it extensively.

He says Ireland will set a moratorium on exploring for new oil. However he says his independent advisory panel has recommended continuing to seek new gas fields to use it as a “bridging fuel”.



1445 ET – “2C must be taken off the table”

In a long speech that was interrupted several times by the UN moderator, Mia Amor Mottley, prime minister of Barbados, says 1C has already visited catastrophic damage to small islands.

The target for the world must be “1.5 to stay alive, not to thrive, but to stay alive,” she says. “In other words, 2 degrees has to be taken off the table once and for all.”

Mottley ignores attempts to cut her short, saying she spoke for 20% of the world’s population in small islands. It’s worth noting that France’s Macron ran well overtime and was not interrupted.

The devastation of hurricane Dorian will supersede all existing mechanisms for rebuilding, says Mottley.

“Make no mistake there will be mass migration by climate refugees that will destabilise countries not on the front line.”

“It’s not just the youth around the globe, its’ our own people asking us as caretakers what are we going to do during this climate summit: are we going to continue to quench the fire or light up the fire?” asked Tommy Remengesau, the president of the archipelago of 500 islands in Micronesia Palau.

President of the Caribbean island of St-Lucia, Allen Chastanet, starts off by paying tribute to the “one-man crusade” led by UN secretary António Guterres to press states to up their pledges.

Chastanet focused on the need to beef up international disaster relief before the next hurricane made landfall.

“The clock is ticking for us. We are in the middle of our hurricane season and 9 months away from the next hurricane season yet our voice is not heard.”

While governments have increasingly turned towards insurance to cushion climate-vulnerable countries against disasters, Chastanet stressed that these were anything but a silver bullet.

“We are soon going to be uninsurable,” he said. Some businesses on the island now had to devote 20% of their budget to insurance.

The international community also had to put a more solid system into place for the next climate refugees.

“In the case of Bahamas, fifty thousand are going to be evacuated before those countries are going to be rebuilt.
Who is going to sustain those people?”

Chastanet called for governments of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to create a dedicated fund for small island developing states and reconsider how the organisation classified debt.


1400 ET – Youth file rights convention complaint against Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey 

CNN reports that Greta Thunberg and 15 other children filed a complaint against five large economies with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey have failed to uphold their obligations to the rights treaty, the filing says, by failing to act to address the climate crisis.


1333 ET – Climate risk disclosure must be mandatory, says Carney

Demand for tools to assess and disclose the risk climate change poses to assets is now “enormous” says Bank of England governor Mark Carney. Supporters control $120 trillion, he adds.

“Now these disclosures need to become mandatory. Because the world wont get to net zero if the financial sector doesn’t know how our companies are responding. To watch you have to see.”

He calls for a more nuanced “taxonomy that captures fifty shades of green” to distinguish how much companies’ are doing to address climate change. Only with such an approach citizens can make decisions about what their money is funding, he says.

John Haley, CEO of insurance company WillisTowers Watson says infrastructure built in future must be climate resilient. He launches the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment (CCRI), which will price climate risk and cause capital to flow to more resilient projects. By end of 2020, there will be methodology produced. They will also create “innovative investments”, such as “resilience bonds”.


1320 ET – Climate groups call summit “failure” before it is halfway through

Environmental group Climate Nexus has already released its verdict on the summit, saying: “World leaders failed to deliver” the call for action from climate protests around the world on Friday. “The summit offered a clear dividing line between those who take climate science seriously and those lagging behind,” the statement said.

Greenpeace chief Jennifer Morgan agrees that the summit “did not deliver” and says that will only serve to grow the protests on streets around the world.


1310 ET – Zero emissions shipping

The UN summit is being accompanied by a host of announcements by companies, cities and multilateral banks. One of the more eye-catching is shipping giant Maersk and partners committing to “commercially-viable” zero emissions vessels on deep sea trade routes by 2030.

Shipping isn’t covered by the Paris Agreement and has long been a foot dragger in sorting out its emissions goals.

The new partnership are billing their intention to put clean vessels on the ocean in a decade as shipping’s “moonshot”. That’s not far off.

Natalie Sauer has the story.


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1255 ET – Greta’s full speech

Greta Thunberg’s speech this morning was a bombshell.


1225 ET – China holds back

No big announcement from China’s Wang Yi, a state councillor and special representative of president Xi Jinping.

“Climate change is a common challenge to all countries,” he says. He calls for the Paris Agreement to be implemented.

“As a responsible member of the international community, China is taking action,” Wang says. China CO2 emissions per unit of GDP has dropped, overshooting the target.

Wang says China will meet its Paris pledge. This kills faint hopes China would make clear its plans to upgrade that pledge by the end of next year. It’s also a poke in the eye for the UN, which had flagged its confidence that China would front up with new ambition.

But he says developed countries must “take the lead” in reducing emissions and honour their commitment to give $100bn in climate finance to poor countries by 2020. Before the summit China released a statement making clear that it felt it should also receive access to those funds.

“The withdrawal of certain parties will not shake the will of the international community,” he says, addressing the US’ promise to do so.

China led the nature-based solutions track at these talks. Wang says its initiatives can cut global emissions by “10-12 billion tonnes annually”.

Greenpeace East Asia’s Li Shuo says China is “weighing its options” in light of tough economic and geopolitical conditions.

“China’s statement today keeps Beijing’s intentions ambiguous, leaving plenty of wiggle room for a decision to double down on climate targets in 2020.

“The climate clock is ticking, putting countries under pressure to do more. True leaders rise to the challenges of their time. To be a true climate leader, Beijing needs to peak emissions sooner and at a lower level.

“If geopolitical challenges have left Chinese leaders unsure, the country’s over-achievements of its climate targets and improving air quality should offer confidence.”

1220 ET – Indonesia: we are in climate emergency

Indonesia’s vice president M. Jusuf Kalla says: “We hear you Greta Thunberg… We are in a climate emergency.”

He raises concerns over deforestation and “exploitation” that have denuded the archipelago and the forest fires that are worsened by climate change.

Kalla says Indonesia will cut fossil fuel subsidies and develop a green finance facility, calling for international partners to help finance their green development.


1207 ET – If looks could kill…

Both Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump are at the UN today.


1150 ET – Slovakia will phase out coal mines

Slovakian president Zuzana Čaputová says her country has made a “politically unthinkable decision to close our coal mines. It will need a serious transformation of our country”.

Subsidies to coal mines will end in 2023. She says finding new jobs will be a challenge. Slovakia is committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. Slovakia joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance on Sunday.

We profiled Čaputová, who has an intersting story, here.


1150 ET – The global financing system must be reformed, says Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness.

He outlines the need for climate risk to be mainstreamed into every part of the financial sector. He notes the announcement from around 50 banks to assess their assets against their contribution to climate change.

He says climate finance is being prevented from getting to where it is most needed. But he says initiatives that are removing barriers to finance are encouraging.


1140 ET – Macron calls for doubling of finance commitments

France’s president Emmanuel Macron says he was struck by the emotion of some of the young people who spoke earlier. “I also want to play my role in listening to them… We need young people to tell us to work faster.” His government has been one of the most repressive in using force to quell climate protests this year.

He steals Russia’s thunder by saying he is pleased they will ratify before the representative from Moscow peaks later today.

He says that cuts to carbon need to be faster and says he backs increased EU targets.

He also wants to have a liberalised trade agenda that respects climate goals. “I don’t want to see new trade negotiations open with countries that are running counter to the Paris Agreement.”

We need to have zero imported deforestation, Macron says. Any imports with negative consequences should be compensated for by offsets.

On finance, he says carbon heavy infrastructure should not receive finance.

Macron calls for countries to step up and match France, Norway, UK, Denmark, Sweden and Germany in doubling their contributions to the Green Climate Fund. Macron will host a pledging summit in October.

“Action, action action, We cannot leave our young people to spend all of their Fridays protesting.”


1124 ET – Don’t expect much from Europe

Director general for DG Clima at the European Commission Raffaele Mauro Petriccione told Climate Home News’ Chloé Farand the EU won’t bring anything unexpected today.

“Can we make a new announcement today…. not for the sake of being new”, he said.

“Today we have objectives, we have translated into law, unlike others, we are still having a debate on long term objectives and we are ready to re-open the debate on the medium term targets [2030]. We can explain all this and we will. [EU Council] President [Donald] Tusk will explain that this afternoon.”


1120 ET – Finland sets bar

Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö says it will become carbon neutral by 2033 and “carbon negative” soon afterwards.

“We in Finland are fully committed to decisive climate action,” he says.

Megan Darby reported this earlier this year and noted the key role forestry will play in Finland’s efforts.


1115 ET – Chile to host forest and ocean Cop

President Sebastián Piñera says Chile is one of the few countries in the world where the forests are growing, not shrinking. The country will host the UN climate talks in December, after Brazil refused to host it.

“At Cop25 in Chile we will have the most ambitious demands,” he says. And flags a focus on forests and oceans.

At home Chile will achieve full decarbonisation of its energy mix, switch public transport to electric, set demanding energy efficiency standards and implement a reforestation plan, he says.


1108 ET -Merkel says Germany wants net zero by 2050

German chancellor Angela Merkel starts by noting that young people must be listened to. Germany saw by far the largest strikes on Friday. “Merkel will have to respond,” European Climate Foundation chief Laurence Tubiana told CHN this weekend.

Her response is to note the measures her government announced as part of their hard negotiated climate package on Friday.

  • 55% cut to emissions by 2030 and a 2050 carbon neutral target
  • 2022 phase out of nuclear power
  • 2038 phase out coal power
  • Carbon pricing for sectors not already covered by the EU emissions trading scheme (this has been criticised for a very low starting price)

She also notes Germany will double its contribution to the Green Climate Fund for developing countries.


1100 ET – Modi doesn’t mention coal

Modi kicks off his speech by noting that what countries are doing collectively is not enough.

He calls for a global movement to bring about “behavioural change”.

He wants to present a “practical roadmap” for clean development. He says India is planning to massively increase India’s renewable energy to 450GW. He also flags a big increase in biofuel mixing for transport fuels.

At the international level, he says nearly 80 countries have joined the International Solar Alliance that he convenes.

He is also launching a coalition for disaster resilient infrastructure. The subcontinent has been massively hit by heatwaves and floods in recent years.

He targets single use plastic. He also notes India has put solar panels on the UN building.

He doesn’t once mention coal. By far India’s largest contribution to climate change now and in future is its coal sector.



1050 ET – Prime minster Jacinda Arden kicks off the conference with a promise to green New Zealand’s agricultural sector.

President Hilda Heine says the Marshall Islands have led by example. They have increased their Paris pledge and built a 2050 net zero plan. They have also convened a group of 15 countries, including some mid-sized developed countries who have promised to do the same. She calls for others to join.

Those countries are: Marshall Islands, Belize, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Grenada, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Saint Lucia, Sweden, the Swiss Confederation and Vanuatu.


1035 ET – “How dare you,” Greta Thunberg and youth leaders speak

Thunberg’s celebrity has become all consuming, so it is nice to see her sharing the stage with two other youth activists and entrepreneurs. The UN has helpfully not shared their names anywhere, if anyone has them please pass them on.

When Thunberg speaks it lands like a hammer. With tears in her eyes, she repeats, over and over, the refrain “how dare you”. She is furious that it is down to her and her generation to continually plead with leaders to act.

“My message is that we will be watching you. This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school… You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

People are suffering, she says, “but all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of endless economic growth. How dare you.”

She says it would be evil for leaders to know the consequences and not to act. But she refuses to believe they are actually evil.

There will be no plans in line with a safe climate presented today, she says. Because leaders are not ready to do what is necessary.

But young people are becoming aware of their betrayal. “If you choose to fails us, I say we will never forgive you.”

Even by Thunberg’s standards, this is an awesome piece of rhetoric.

Guterres says we must listen to these young people and “do what they ask us to do”.

Her full speech has been published by the Guardian.



1025 ET António Guterres opens the summit

“Around the world nature is striking back with fury,” he says.

He notes the devastating effects being seen around the world, painting a picture of a planet in turmoil and his own journey around the world. “A few days ago I was in the Bahamas… The destruction was not simply appalling it was apocalyptic.”

This is “the future if we don’t act now”.

This isn’t a climate negotiating summit, he says. “You don’t negotiate with nature… This is a climate action summit.” This draws a clap. He notes his call to turn up with a plan. “Governments are here to show they are serious.”

“There is a cost to everything, but the biggest cost is doing nothing. The biggest cost is subsidising a dying fossil fuel industry,” he says, calling for an end to taxpayer support for coal, oil and gas.

He says the science dictates a 45% cut in emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

He calls for finance to assist developing countries with their transition and adaptation.

This summit cannot resolve all of our problems overnight, he says, but it should provide “necessary stimulus” and momentum for upcoming meetings including COP26 next year.

“If we move together, nobody will be left behind,” says Guterres.

He focuses attention on the grandchildren of the leaders in the room, he will not stand by while their future is compromised. “It is our obligation to stop the climate crisis before it stops us.”



1007 ET – Protesters block roads across Washington DC

Donald Trump is at the UN today, but won’t be attending the climate summit. He’ll be leading an event on “religious freedom” – ie his government’s attempts to roll back abortion rights around the world.

But in DC protesters have been blockading roads all morning.


952 ET – Before things kick off, the list of speakers is notable for who is not there. Climate truants Saudi Arabia, the US, Australia and Brazil have all had their non-participation noted. But the scandal-hit Canadian government is also not represented, this we understand is because of rules around participation global affairs during election campaigns.

65 governments will be represented. CHN learned this week that more than 100 made an application to attend but their climate efforts were found wanting. It’s not clear exactly how the UN chose who would be granted its platform. In the words of Guterres: “No country was turned down… some countries just did not turn up”.


929 ET – Good morning from New York, where world leaders are about to begin presenting their best efforts to rein in the climate crisis to the United Nations.

The summit is the initiative of UN chief António Guterres, who has spent the past 12 months lobbying world leaders to come to the summit with “plans, not speeches”.

But with political headwinds blowing against even supposed climate leaders, expectations are low.

The agenda is here. We will be live blogging the speeches here, so keep checking back in and on our Twitter for updates. Also follow Chloé Farand who is in the UN halls all day.

For a full briefing on the summit, read Chloé’s explainer here.

Some things to look out for:

  • What will China say? The world’s biggest polluter has sent mixed messages. The UN believes they are ready to signal willingness to increase their promise to the Paris Agreement. But most observers think the trade war with the US has cooled China’s verve for cutting emissions. They are sending a relatively low-ranking official to the summit.
  • What will India say? Prime minister Narendra Modi spent the weekend signing new LNG deals with the US and meeting with president Donald Trump. India’s development will be huge factor in the future fight against climate change. Expect him to demand more finance from the rich world to green it.
  • Turkey and Russia to ratify? Rumours have been persistent that Russia is planning to officially sign off on the Paris deal. A great piece yesterday in Bloomberg looks at why. Turkey is also said to be considering making that announcement today.
  • What will the next climate leaders say? Brexit-mired UK prime minister Boris Johnson will be speaking last as he kicks off the UK’s 2020 climate presidency in public. Next year is a crucial year and UK stewardship will be heavily scrutinised.
  • Will any countries step forward and lead? It’s a year ahead of when countries are expected to make new commitments to the Paris deal. Guterres has asked that countries bring those announcements forward. Will any answer the call?
  • Will any leaders respond to Guterres’ three specific demands: Carbon taxation, ending fossil fuel subsidies and a halt to building new coal power stations by 2020?
  • Expect a serious dressing down for leaders from activist Greta Thunberg, who will speak just after the UN chief this morning to open the conference. Four million protesters took to the streets on Friday and they have already got protests planned this Friday in response to a meeting they clearly expect to fail to deliver on their demands.


Main picture: Depositphotos