Together, Obama and Jinping represent the world’s largest economic powers and its most egregious polluters. Their names will top a “very long list of confirmations” to attend the conference, according to UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres.
In his address to the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly in late 2013, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited heads of governments, businesses and civil society organizations “to bring bold announcements and actions to the 2014 Climate Summit to raise the level of ambition through new and more robust action on climate change.”
The one-day event is meant to build momentum for the major climate summit that will take place in Paris next year. The New York summit will also give countries a chance to review their commitments to previous climate pledges. As Figueres notes, “No country is doing enough to stay on the path of a 2C temperature rise. The agreement in Paris will be looking at that.”
U.S. President Barack Obama has made several attempts at fighting climate change, from offering expansions to marine sanctuaries to proposing sweeping reductions in carbon emissions from current power plants. Germany has gone much farther in its commitment to generating 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Other countries, such as China, have not committed to major efficiency or renewable plans as of yet, but General Secretary Xi Jinping’s presence at the summit may be an encouraging sign. Australia, on the other hand, having just repealed its carbon tax, stands as the only country to make significant backward strides in its climate change policy. Figueres suggested the country “need[s] to go back to the drawing board.”
Ban Ki-moon’s New York summit may serve as a bellwether for current international climate policy. For now, says Figueres, “[a]ll countries are very, very busy doing their homework.”
Over 1 million people are expected to march through New York City the day before the summit. It is predicted to be the “largest ever climate march” in world history.