New York summit a letdown: S.P.R.E.P.

The United Nations Climate Summit was a disappointment, according to the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme Leota Kosi Latu.

Last week’s Climate Summit in New York, intended by U.N Secretary General Antonio Guterres to lift ambition on climate change action, was instead another week of speeches, Leota said.

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, he said the Pacific region’s leaders are committed to the fight, but it is not enough to curb global warming.

“Even if you assume that all the Pacific Island countries meet their renewable energy targets by 2020, 230 or 2040, even if they achieve that, it is still a minuscule contribution,” Leota said.

“The way I am seeing things, we need to find another way to engage with the big emitters to bring them on board.”

But he acknowledged the young climate activists making noise on the world stage as the pathway to real change.

“The one positive I am seeing here and certainly I think that is going to be a strong element going towards C.O.P25, there has to be a space for the young people,” Leota said. 

C.O.P25, the next session on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Chile in December, will be the next big opportunity to make stronger commitments on carbon emissions, among other climate change actions.

“The young people are probably going to be one of the voices that has an impact on this current generation of leaders, particularly ones from bigger countries that are not moving as quickly as they should.”

Leota joins several other voices calling the summit a disappointment. Speaking to reporters, Helen Mountford, vice president for climate and economics at the World Resources Institute said the major economies did not show leadership.

And Greenpeace International's Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said Friday’s immense global climate strike, where millions of people turned out to demand better, proved world leaders are not delivering what is needed.

"We saw millions of people pour on to the streets on Friday, making it clear they will no longer accept apathy, excuses and inaction from weak political leaders incapable of standing up," Ms. Morgan said. 

“[It is] time to stare down the fossil fuel industry and the banks that finance them, challenge their suffocating omnipresence and demand they take responsibility for the human rights impacts of the climate crisis.”

But there is some good news.

Another 70 countries have signed up for tougher nationally determined contributions (towards cutting carbon emissions) in 2020, an extra 23 countries than before the summit.

But the biggest commitments are coming from countries like in the Pacific, whose contributions to climate change are minimal but vulnerabilities are extreme.

The Green Climate Fund, where a lot of adaptation and mitigation funding for vulnerable countries comes from will see more than US$7 billion fill its coffers in the next round of funding.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have announced US$790 million for small-scale farmers to adapt to climate change. 

And by 2050 US$2.3 trillion will be divested from carbon-intensive industries, by pension funds and insurance companies who invest in them, while 30 countries, 22 states and 21 companies have committed to move away from coal.

But with China, the United States and India barely moving on their energy commitments, there is doubt that global efforts can slow global warming beyond 1.5 degrees by 2030, which international scientists have warned will be the breaking point for thousands of species and ecosystems.

American President Donald Trump did not even attend the summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not include a concrete timeline on his country’s renewable energy commitments, while China was vague on its climate action plan.

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