UN wants to showcase ambitious countries at climate summit

Carole LANDRY
Youth protests against the inaction of governments on climate change have gathered momentum as the United Nations prepares for a major summit in September (AFP Photo/NICOLAS MAETERLINCK)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Hoping to spur international action on climate change, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told world leaders that only the most ambitious carbon-cutting countries will be showcased at a key summit in September.

In a note sent to member states, Guterres outlined plans for an "action-oriented" summit featuring a wide range of "deliverables" from governments to inject new impetus to the fight against global warming.

"It will be a summit of showcasing ambitious proposals for climate action and implementation," said the four-page document sent to UN member-states and seen by AFP on Tuesday.

The September 23 summit at the United Nations is billed as the first major stock-taking gathering of world leaders on climate change since the Paris agreement was reached in 2015.

The event follows a string of reports containing dire predictions about the future of the planet as carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, pushing targets set out under the Paris accord further out of reach.

President Donald Trump's 2017 decision to pull the United States out of the Paris accord will also cast a cloud over the summit that will be held on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting in New York.

In the document, Guterres asked countries to present "concrete, realistic plans" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade and to net zero by 2050.

- Picking the best -

Setting up a selection process similar to a contest, the United Nations will convene a meeting in Abu Dhabi on June 30-July 1 to pick the most ambitious proposals to take center stage at the summit.

To make the cut, countries will have to come up with plans that have a "transformational impact" that breaks new ground or aims at "dramatically scaling up an existing initiative."

The chosen proposals will be innovative, inclusive and have the ability to be replicated across sectors or regions, said the document sent to member-states last week.

Countries chosen to be in the summit spotlight will earn recognition as leaders on climate change and arguably a bigger say in crafting the world's response to what the United Nations has called the defining issue of our time, UN officials say.

Guterres has made clear the world has fallen behind on its commitment in the Paris agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capping the rise in Earth's temperature at "well under" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

"Let's be clear, we are not winning the race," Guterres told reporters as he discussed the damage from Cyclone Idai in southern Africa.

"At the present level, things will get worse and worse. We need to reverse this trend."

Countries will need "to substantially increase the commitments made in their national determined contributions" that were submitted to fight greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris accord, he said.