Sep 23, 2019 - Energy & Environment

The big pledges from the UN climate summit

Chancellor Angela Merkel and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/Getty Images

Today's UN summit and the past 2 days are bringing fresh pledges by countries and corporations as the UN warns that the world faces warming levels that vastly exceeds the Paris agreement targets.

Why it matters: Secretary-General António Guterres warned Monday, "Science tells us that on our current path, we face at least 3-degrees Celsius of global heating by the end of the century."

Where it stands: The 2015 Paris deal calls for holding eventual warming below 2°C and includes a more ambitious target of 1.5°C.

What they're saying: “The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win,” he said in a statement.

What's new: Here's a sampling of steps announced Monday and over the weekend:

  • The UN said "many" countries are using the summit to preview plans to update their Paris agreement pledges "with the aim to collectively reduce emissions by at least 45 percent by 2030."
  • Expansion of the 2-year-old "Powering Past Coal Alliance" of nations pledging to phase out coal and stop building new plants.
  • A bunch of huge multinationals — including L'Oréal, Nestle, Salesforce and Swiss Re — has signed onto a coalition of companies pledging to set targets "aligned" with 1.5°C and net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a coalition of oil giants, rolled out plans Monday to bolster deployment of carbon capture systems.
  • "Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government on Friday agreed to support a $60 billion package of climate policies aimed at getting Germany back on track to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030," NYT reports.

But, but, but: It'll be impossible to gauge the summit's efficacy for a long time. That's because the big question is how much the pledges translate into real policy implementation, financial flows and changes in corporate behavior.

Go deeper: UN press release on shifting the global response on the climate crisis.

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