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Global Climate Action Summit brings surge of new commitments and calls for increased government action

In the United States (US), top United Nations (UN) officials welcomed the outcomes of the Global Climate Action Summit that concluded in San Francisco on September 14, showcasing a surge of climate action and commitments from regions, cities, businesses, investors and civil society; and calling on governments everywhere to step up their efforts to tackle climate change.

UN officials have welcomed the outcomes of the Global Climate Action Summit that concluded in San Francisco on September 14, showcasing a surge of climate action and commitments and calling on governments everywhere to step up their efforts to tackle climate change (photo courtesy Global Climate Action Summit).

Leaders from all sectors of society gathered at the event to demonstrate how they are ‘taking ambition to the next level’ with a wave of fresh and brave climate action announcements that, if implemented will generate over 65 million new, low-carbon jobs by 2030.

We are experiencing huge economic losses due to climate change. But the Global Climate Action Summit has brought together actors demonstrating the vast opportunity afforded by climate action. They are betting on green because they understand this is the path to prosperity and peace on a healthy planet, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

This momentum culminated in a landmark Call to Action, which was presented to the UN’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, in a symbolic gesture to illustrate that it is future generations who will be most affected by the decisions of the current generation to build a better, more resilient world.

Accepting the Summit’s Call to Action on behalf of the United Nations, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said that “this Summit and its Call to Action make an important contribution towards achieving our collective goal: to keep global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement. It will encourage governments worldwide to step up their actions, demonstrating the vital role that states and regions, cities, companies, investors, and civil society are playing to tackle climate change.”

Global Climate Action Summit took place against a background of accelerating impacts of climate change, including Super Typhoon Mangkhut that hit the Philippines and Hurricane Florence that hit the east coast of the United States (US).

UN Environment highlighted the vital role of non-Party stakeholders in propelling the global fight against climate change forward, in an excerpt of their Emissions Gap Report launched at the Summit.

Climate change is undoubtedly the defining issue of our time, and working together across nations, organizations, and communities is the only way that we can tackle this enormous task and seize the huge opportunities. We have seen here over the past few days the inspiring amount of work that is already being undertaken by communities around the world to address these issues. If we manage to put our environment first, we can come out on the other end of this formidable challenge and achieve our common goal, a sustainable world for all, said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment .

Patricia Espinosa’s speech at the Closing Ceremony underscored the need for all actors to embrace ‘inclusive multilateralism’, strongly mirroring the UN Secretary-General’s remarks on September 10 in New York, where he called on leaders to adopt a sense of urgency to deliver a decisive response to climate change.

This spirit of collaboration is in keeping with the history of San Francisco, which witnessed the signing of the UN Charter in 1945, first establishing a rules-based international order that championed multilateralism over self-interest, and endorsed progress not through conflict, but through all people working together.

Over the last three days, Californian Governor, Jerry Brown, has played host to an official programme of events that generated more than 500 commitments.

Participants used these events to unveil new commitments under five challenge areas – healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship, and transformative climate investments – captured in the Summit’s final communiqué and registered on UN’s revamped Climate Action Portal – aimed to send a strong signal to governments to step up action by 2020, when global emissions need to peak and then swiftly decline.

The outcomes of the Summit – a ‘call to action’ from actors who are seizing the opportunities to transition to a low-carbon economy – will provide a valuable contribution ahead of UN General Assembly discussions and New York Climate Week, taking place in a few days’ time.

Bold climate action could deliver US$26 trillion in economic benefits and create millions of jobs. By bringing together cities, states, private sector and civil society, the Global Climate Action Summit is setting the stage for even more ambitious action needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, said Achim Steiner UNDP Administrator.

Business leaders were fully engaged in the Global Climate Action Summit.

It is clear that enlightened business leaders are taking their place at the vanguard of climate action and seizing the opportunity that this exponential shift to a cleaner and more sustainable economy represents. Now we need to ensure that all companies, industries, and markets step up to the challenge, said Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact.

Additionally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will issue a Special Report in October. The report will look not only at the impacts of 1.5C warming but also at the pathways that are still available to limit warming to 1.5C while enhancing sustainable development and alleviating poverty.

Importantly, the outcome of the Summit will provide encouragement to governments as they finalize the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement in Poland in December of this year. It will guide them in preparing their national climate action plans in 2020 and give them bold options and examples for change in designing their short and long-term climate strategies.

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