UN schedules additional global climate summit for September 2023

The UN has confirmed that it will convene a new ‘Climate Action Summit’ next September, recognising that commitments from nations do not yet align with the Paris Agreement and that a more joined-up approach to climate mitigation, adaptation and nature is needed.  

UN schedules additional global climate summit for September 2023

Pictured: The UN's headquarters in New York

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres confirmed the event on Monday (19 December) during an end-of-year speech delivered to those at the organisation’s headquarters in New York. The speech saw Guterres reflecting on the recent 15th biodiversity COP in Canada, which wrapped up in the early hours of Monday, as well as proceedings at climate COP27 in Egypt last month.

He called the agreement struck at COP15 a sign that humanity is “finally starting to form a peace pact with nature”, with nations agreeing to end destruction and degradation this decade. Under the top-line pledge, the agreed treaty includes steps to mobilise billions of dollars of finance; reform damaging subsidies; improve corporate disclosures on nature impacts and increase the proportion of land and water-based habitats designated as protected.

While acknowledging that there is still much work to do to shift to a nature-positive future, Guterres said he had hope for the implementation of the new post-2020 biodiversity treaty. In general, he stated, 2022 has been “a time for resolve, determination, and – yes – even hope”. He elaborated: “Because despite the limitations and long odds, we are working to push back against despair, to fight back against disillusion and to find real solutions.”

On climate, specifically, however, the Secretary-General was extremely blunt about how mitigation and adaptation efforts to date have fallen far short of what science tells us is needed – storing up economic, social and environmental risks for the future.

The UN’s latest synthesis report assessing the national climate commitments made by nations under the Paris Agreement concluded that, if all commitments were delivered in full, the global temperature increase between 1900 and 2100 will be 2.5C. This far exceeds the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C and 2C trajectories. The UN has also recorded that global emissions continue to increase year-on-year, whereas steep reductions are needed this decade to deliver the Paris Agreement.

Efforts on climate adaptation have also, the UN has emphasised, fallen short so far. The organisation’s latest ‘adaptation gap report’ confirmed that international adaptation finance flows to developing nations are at least five times below estimated needs. With estimated needs set to grow to at least $160bn by 2030 and $315bn by 2050, there needs to be a concerted effort to scale this type of finance.

This is why the new ‘Climate Action Summit’ will be held in September, ahead of the start of the 28th climate COP in Dubai.

At the summit, Guterres said, nations will be asked to put forward “ credible, serious and new climate action and nature-based solutions that will move the needle forward and respond to the urgency of the climate crisis”. Without these plans, nations will not be able to attend.

In the lead-up to COP27, most nations failed to update their Paris Agreement commitments despite pledging to do so at COP26.

Guterres said that the Summit would be “no nonsense” with “no room for back-sliders, greenwashers, blame-shifters or repackaging of announcements of previous years”.

“Going forward, I will keep pushing for a Climate Solidarity Pact, in which all countries make an extra effort to reduce emissions this decade in line with the 1.5C goal and ensure support for those who need it,” Guterres said. “I have pulled no punches on the imperative for all of us to confront this existential threat. And I will not relent.”

Summit specifics

The Summit will be convened alongside an opening week summit for the UN General Assembly, at which the theme will be taking stock of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The exact dates and the location of the event are yet to be confirmed by the UN.

Non-state actors including businesses, cities, regions, the finance sector and civil society groups are set to be invited to participate in the new Summit. Guterres has said that these organisations need to “step up” as well as nations “to accelerate the pace of change”.

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