Another view of the Climate Action Summit
The so-called ‘Climate Action Summit’ was an odd affair. It began with a youth dialogue, including a speech from Greta Thunberg, who called out the audience of heads of state and CEOs of some of the companies known for their inaction in the face of the climate emergency.
“How dare you say it is business as usual”, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth, how dare you”, she said. This public telling off was greeted with tumultuous applause – perhaps showing that it was going to be business as usual after all.
Continuing the business of the day: the aim of the Summit was to “boost ambition and rapidly accelerate action to implement the Paris Agreement”, something some of the richest countries on earth have resolutely chosen to ignore or to obstruct.
Countries show off their achievements
The day was arranged into a series of sessions, during which we heard from a number of countries of the plans they had put, or were putting in place, with some positive results.
The Colombian speaker described how a coalition of eight Latin American countries, including Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Haiti were working together so that by 2030, 70% of regional energy will come from renewable sources.
The Chinese state counsellor said that the country was mobilising stakeholders and resources to scale up pre 2020 actions, while its neighbour India is devising low carbon pathways for industry.
Germany plans to phase out coal by 2038.
The New Zealand Prime Minister recounted how on a visit to Tokelau she learnt that the sea is invading the seaside burial grounds, so there will be a zero carbon bill in Parliament to ensure the country keeps to its 1.5 degree limit.
Perhaps the most moving presentation – apart from Thunberg – was that by the Marshall Islands, one of the countries most likely to suffer from the climate emergency, who’s President described it as “representative of the most climate-vulnerable people on earth.
Business – turns from bad to good fairy
This time around business is showing that it is a full-time actor – and perhaps will make a full-time take-over of the UN. Each of the sessions – except the last one on Small Island Developing States – had a presentation from a business CEO, financial institution, or philantrocapitalist (billionaires who have turned over a new leaf).
It was edifying to see how positive they all were about the changes they were planning to bring about. Almost as if, having finally made it to ‘the good side’, they wanted to prove how well they were behaving and collect their gold stars.
Willis Towers Watson CEO and Board Director, John Haley talked about investment to low and middle income countries to build infrastructure to withstand climatic risks. The Chairman of Danone spoke on working to build a 1% coalition of food and agri-based businesses around the world, which are committed to putting nature-based solutions at the heart of their businesses.
Bill Gates, who is now co-chair of the Global Commission of Adaptation described how the Commission will focus on scaling up support to farmers, with services such as digital advisory services, farmer finance, and implementing policies that incentivise resilience. Strangely there was an emphasis on how big the returns could be on investment – almost as if this were a company presentation.
All in all, another day at the new-style UN.
By Daphne Davies.