What Happened at the UN Climate Summit and Private Sector Forum

UnknownThe UN Climate Summit, which took place in New York City at the end of September, was the largest climate meeting yet, bringing together more than 125 heads of state and government officials. The event saw many countries reaffirming their commitments to secure a global climate agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), by the end of 2015 at the COP 21 in Paris.

Integral to the summit, the Private Sector Forum (PSF) brought the voice of the private sector to the intergovernmental debate, to address in particular how businesses across sectors are taking action on climate change. A large number of interesting commitments and partnerships took shape during this historic event, many of which make for engaging starting points for discussion in the classroom, and provide potential opportunities for business schools to get engaged at the local level.

Mayors from cities around the world came together to create the Compact of Mayors initiative, focused on undertaking a transparent and supportive approach to reducing city-level emissions, in order to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience to climate change, in a consistent and complimentary manner to national level climate protection. The City Climate Finance Leadership Alliance was also launched, which aims to enable stronger private and public investment in climate-smart infrastructure in cities around the world.

Several statements and commitments were also made by governments, civil society and the private sector around forests, and the key role they play in tackling climate change. To be endorsed by countries, companies, indigenous peoples and civil society organisations, the New York Declaration on Forests lays out high-level goals to address deforestation and promote restoration. It includes goals to cut the rate of natural forest loss in half by 2020 and eliminate it altogether by 2030, restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2020 and an additional 200 million hectares by 2030, and strengthen forest governance, transparency, and local and indigenous rights. Four major palm oil companies pledged to work in Indonesia to protect is remaining forests and peat lands, ensure community rights are better respected, and advocate for other companies and legal reforms to support and expand such commitments.

As a key player in climate change, the transportation industry launched several important initiatives including a Low-Carbon Sustainable Rail Transport Challenge to increase rail use for freight transport, meet efficiency targets and reduce emissions by 75% by 2050, and the signing of the International Association of Public Transport Declaration on Climate Leadership, which aims to double market share of public transportation around the world by 2025. The world’s eight largest multilateral development banks reaffirmed their commitment of $175 billion to sustainable transport. For universities, the upcoming Transport Day on December 7th provides an opportunity to explore how transportation can help to tackle climate change, and to take action on their campuses.

In terms of financing for climate action governments made large commitments to the Green Climate Fund, which is expected to become the main vehicle for securing and disbursing climate finance. The target is to reach at least $10 billion in the fund by the end of the year in preparation for the COP 20 in December. The Global Divest-Invest coalition focuses on shifting investments from activities driving climate change, to those that can help solve it, by pledging to take $50 billion of investments out of fossil fuel.

One of the key discussion points for the Private Sector Forum, as discussed in a previous post, was carbon pricing and specific actions that the public and private sectors can take to achieve an equitable and fair valuation of carbon through long-term strategies, investments and policies. Coordinated by the Caring for Climate initiative, the Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing invites businesses to integrate carbon pricing into long-term strategies and investment decisions, responsible policy advocacy, and communicating on their progress. More than 1,000 companies signaled their support to put a price on carbon pollution. Twenty-five of these companies including Nestle, Philips and Unilever, committed to pricing carbon internally in order to accelerate investments that reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Parallel to this event, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) continues to develop the set of goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals set to expire in 2015. The proposal for Goal 13 focuses on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. To ensure that these goals will be implemented and to explore how the private sector can be an active player in this, UNIDO and the UN Global Compact launched an extensive global consultation, resulting in the report entitled, “Engaging with the Private Sector in the Post 2015,” launched at the summit. To see the latest draft of the Sustainable Development Goals, visit the SDG site or read these previous posts on the process of developing the SDGs.

The UN Climate Summit and Private Sector Forum were video recorded, and can be viewed here.

 

PRiMEtime on this date..

In 2013: What happened at the 2013 PRME Summit – 5th Annual Assembly

In 2012: Graduate Certificate in Social Impact – Centre for Social Impact in Australia

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