On 23 September, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres hosted the Climate Action Summit in New York in the framework of the UN High-Level Week 2019. The Summit aimed to boost ambition, accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement, and spark the transformation urgently needed to combat climate change. Leaders from governments, the private sector, civil society, local authorities and other international organisations were asked to come with concrete, realistic plans to fulfil the tasks ahead.
Below is a summary of the participation of Regions4 at the Summit and the outcomes of one of the most important events for the climate agenda.
Prior to the official Summit, there were many mobilisations and events from activists and civil society worldwide. The biggest climate strike in history took place on Friday, 20 September, bringing more than 4 million people around the world to the streets, and in line with this, the first-ever UN Youth Climate Summit took place on 21 September.
Regions4 members participated in various events on 21 September, including an event organised by the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, and the “Local Leadership for Climate” events, where they shared important messages for regional leadership worldwide:
Other events of the ICLA track included “Partnerships for Ambition: Unlocking the full potential of local climate action” and “Seizing the Urban Opportunity”, which took place on 22 September.
Over 65 Heads of State attended the official Climate Action Summit on Monday, 23 September, together with leaders of local and subnational governments and the private sector. Only the boldest and most ambitious commitments and initiatives were to be presented, with the Secretary-General setting several benchmarks for what this could mean for national governments: Stop building new coal plants by 2020; shift taxes from people to carbon; stop subsidising fossil fuels; and announce plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
The opening ceremony, which featured a speech by the UN Secretary-General and a debate with youth representatives, was followed by thematic sessions on:
Heads of States and other leaders announced numerous initiatives and commitments around the above topics. However, only three mayors and one governor had the chance to speak representing local and regional government’s ambitious climate action at the Summit. Given the absence of several national governments and considering the key role that local and subnational governments play, this number should have been expandable.
Among the most highly regarded announcements of the Summit were the Net Zero 2050 commitment of 77 countries, 10 regions (including Catalonia), and 100 cities, which committed to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and the pledge of 70 countries to boost their NDCs by 2020.
Another commitment that Regions4 members Campeche (Mexico) and Gossas (Senegal) joined was the Clean Air Initiative, which aims to reach air quality that is safe for populations, and to align climate change and air pollution policies, by 2030.
Finally, Québec’s International Climate Cooperation Programme was among the 15 projects announced as winners of the 2019 UN Climate Action Awards. This programme provides climate finance and support to developing countries, and it is one of the first subnational climate financing schemes, and one that is, uniquely, funded by the region’s own carbon market.
The Climate Action Summit 2019 initiatives are tracked at the Global Climate Action portal. A list of official announcements compiled by the UN can be found here, and a (non-exhaustive) list of initiatives, promises and goals compiled by Climate Home News is also available here. If you would like to watch the Climate Action Summit as a whole, please follow these links for part 1 and part 2.