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New York climate change summit puts leaders on the spot

26 September 2014

Christina Manning reports on the New York climate-change summit


United: the poet Kathy Jetnil-Kiiner, who represented the Marshall Islands at the summit, recited "Dear Matafele Peinem", a poem in the form of a letter to her son, who is held here by her husband

United: the poet Kathy Jetnil-Kiiner, who represented the Marshall Islands at the summit, recited "Dear Matafele Peinem", a poem in the form of a le...

THE UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, spoke of a "bold new course of action on climate change" when he convened the first climate summit of world leaders for five years, in New York on Tuesday.

Mr Ban called on world leaders to make new proposals that would lead to a meaningful climate agreement at their meeting in Paris next year, and asked them to work together for a fossil-fuel-free future.

"Today's climate summit has shown an entirely new, cooperative, global approach to climate change," he said. "The actions announced today by governments, businesses, finance, and civil society show that many partners are eager to confront the challenges of climate change together."

Four hundred thousand people marched through New York in the People's Climate March on Sunday. More than 2000 satellite events were held around the world.

The Anglican Alliance Facilitator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Paulo Ueti, who was at the New York march, said: "The march expressed our commitment to the fact that we are a part of the earth and only in working together can we survive. The struggle to face climate change is driven by our shared faith that injust acts have put us in this situation, and we must fight this injustice. We only can do that together. Our voices and our march will be listened to and must continue. A luta continua sempre - the struggle always goes on."


In recognition of the voices of global citizens calling for action in the build-up to the summit, President Obama said: "The alarm-bells keep ringing; our citizens keeping marching. We cannot pretend we don't hear them: we must answer their call."

President Obama recognised the responsibility of the top carbon-emitting countries to take the lead. He called for an ambitious, inclusive, and flexible agreement: "No nation can meet this global threat alone. We can only succeed if we are joined in this effort by every nation. Nobody gets a pass. Nobody can stand on the sidelines on this issue. We have to raise our collective ambition."

Some 120 heads of government attended the summit, each outlining in a short speech their commitments to tackling climate change and their proposals towards the Paris agreement next year.

Samoa, Tuvalu, Costa Rica, and Denmark, and other countries joined Mr Ban and the actor Leonardo DiCaprio in emphasising a need to speed up the switch from using fossil fuels to 100-per-cent renewable energy. Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Ethiopia, and Iceland and others pledged to go carbon-neutral by 2050.

Some of the strongest commitments came from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), whose representatives spoke of the ways in which extreme weather and the economic costs of climate change were making an impact on them now. The Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Malielegaoli, said: "Even if the impacts of our contributions are negligible, we are committed to action."

The Anglican Alliance is supporting the voices of Pacific Islanders, and asking the worldwide Church to sign a petition calling on the Australian government to put climate change on the agenda when the G20 meet in Brisbane later this year (the petition can be seen at http://anglicanalliance.org/Advocacy/oceans-of-justice).

David Cameron reiterated the UK's commitments to renewable energy. He said: "We are on track to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050." He continued: "We must provide support to those who need it, particularly the poor and most vulnerable."

Leaders called for urgent and significant actions on climate change, including mobilising finance for campaigning, increasing the use of renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency, reducing deforestation, promoting climate-smart agriculture, building resilience, reducing pollutants, and promoting climate action in the world's cities.

Commitments from significant stakeholders in finance, forestry, industry, agriculture, transport, energy, and cities formed the afternoon sessions. The afternoon ended with more than $1 billion in new pledges to the Green Climate Fund.

The summit acknowledged that world leaders could no longer silence voices from around the world calling for justice and equality, and for support for those hardest hit by climate change.

As commitments were made in New York, there was a momentum of action to address climate change elsewhere. The Church of Sweden became the latest national Church to eliminate fossil fuels from its investment portfolio. One of the first institutions to take up disinvestment, the Church of Sweden now believes that investments in fossil fuel companies are a financial risk, and that investing in renewable energies is economically beneficial.

The Church of England joined the world's leading institutional investors on 18 September in calling for carbon pricing and an ambitious global-climate deal. The Church asked governments to provide meaningful carbon pricing to help them to invest to meet the climate-change challenge, and asked them to develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.

The leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church in the US, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada also released a pastoral message on climate change. It said: "We are united as Christian leaders in our concern for the well-being of our neighbors and of God's good creation that provides life and livelihood for all God's creatures.

"We also have the resources and responsibility to act together for the common good, especially for those most vulnerable to the effect of climate change. We encourage you to take the initiative to engage decision-makers in this godly work in all arenas of public life - in government and business, in schools and civic organizations, in social media and also in our church life. We are not powerless to act and we are not alone."

On Wednesday, a global webinar run by the Anglican Alliance will bring these high-level commitments to local communities, and facilitate a discussion on climate change and climate justice with church groups and young people around the world. More news will be available at anglicanalliance.org.

The People's Climate March drew crowds in cities worldwide with the message "To Change Everything, We Need Everyone". As heads of governments meet in New York to make their pledges towards a strong climate agreement in Paris 2015, global citizens are working together to take the lead, showing through action that a sustainable future is possible.

Christina Manning is the communications manager of the Anglican Alliance.

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