This is what the world promised at the UN climate action summit

Dozens of promises were made by governments, civil society and business. Accountability is the next step

Workers set up for the UN climate action summit in New York (Photo: UN Photo/Ariana Lindquist)

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Too often countries and companies make climate commitments that grab the media and political spotlight, only for governments or priorities to silently change.

Last week, UN chief António Guterres gathered the world’s political, business and civil society leaders in New York in an effort to jump start action on climate change.

While the world’s largest emitters failed to present substantive plans on how they are going to drive carbon out of their economies, dozens of announcements on climate action were made over the three-day summit.

CHN is publishing this (non-exhaustive) list of initiatives, promises and goals with a view toward accountability. We will be returning in the coming months and asking those listed below: what have you done?

If you have information about any of the announcements and the plans to see them fulfilled, or indeed if you think we have missed any, please get in touch to let us know by emailing [email protected]

Overall government ambition 

Europe 

  • EU said at least 25% of the next budget will go to climate-related activities.
  • France, Germany and the Netherlands called for EU emissions to be reduced by 55% by 2030 on 1990 levels – up from 40% at present.
  • France said it would not enter into any trade agreement with countries that have policies counter to the Paris Agreement.
  • Germany committed to carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Germany and Slovakia joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, bringing the number of members to 32 national governments, 25 subnational governments and 34 businesses.
  • Finland promised to become carbon neutral by 2035 and planned to become “carbon negative” soon afterwards.
  • Slovakia pledged to end subsidies to coal mines in 2023 as it joined the powering past coal alliance, committing to close all coal mines. It has also committed to carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Ireland has vowed to set a moratorium on exploring for new oil but said it still intends to use gas as a “bridging fuel”.
  • Russia ratified the Paris Agreement.
  • Italy said it would phase out coal by 2025 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. It also committed to put in place a “Green New Deal”, including a green jobs programme and review its subsidies to fossil fuel.
  • Greece pledged to close all lignite power plants by 2028 with coal plants to be dismantled from 2020.
  • Hungary promised to phase out all coal-powered electricity production by 2030 and increase forest cover by 30% by 2030
  • Sweden, South Korea, Denmark and Iceland announced a doubling of their contribution to the Green Climate Fund. A total of 12 countries made financing announcements to the fund, including the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Monaco, Slovenia, Hungary and Lichtenstein. 
  • The UK pledged to double its funding to tackle climate change through overseas development aid to £11.6 billion over the next five years.

Asia

  • India said it will raise the portion of renewable into its energy mix to 175GW by 2022, with the aim of boosting it to 450GW in the long-term.
  • Indonesia promised to cut fossil fuel subsidies and develop a green finance facility.
  • Pakistan committed to reach land degradation neutrality by 2030 by restoring at least 30% of degraded forests, 5% degraded croplands, 6% of degraded grasslands and 10% of degraded wetlands, and would plant 10 billion trees over the next five years. 

South and Central America

  • Chile promised a full decarbonisation of its energy mix, but did not communicate a date. 
  • Bolivia said it would reach 100% of households with electricity, with 79% renewable by 2030.
  • Guatemala pledged to restore 1.5 million hectares of forested land by 2022. 
  • Colombia has committed to restoring 300,000 hectare (about 180 million trees) of forest by 2022, and an additional 900,000 hectares of agro-forestry and sustainable forest management.

 Small Island States 

  • Small island developing states made a collective commitment to raise the ambition of their NDCs by 2020 and move to net zero emissions by 2050, contingent on assistance from the international community. They intend to move to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
  • Fiji committed to plant 1 million new trees and said it was exploring planting 31 million more.
  • Barbados pledged to plant one million trees by end of 2020 (on 166 square miles of land) and called on all Bajans around the world to come and help.

Oceania

  • New Zealand has committed to plant one billion trees by 2028 and to make the country “the most sustainable food producer in the world”. 

Africa 

  • Sierra Leone committed to planting 2 million trees by 2023.
  • Nigeria said it would employ youth to plant 25 million trees.
  • Kenya promised to plant 2 billion trees by 2022. 
  • Ethiopia reaffirmed its commitment to planting 4 billion new trees a year.
  • Congo DRC committed to stabilize its forest cover at 60%.
  • South Africa pledged to finalise a just transition plan compatible with the 1.5C target and a climate change bill to provide the legislative basis for updating its climate plan, allocate sectoral emissions targets, and regulate large emitters. It also vowed to develop a programme to enhance the land’s net emissions sink capacity by restoring subtropical thicket and grasslands, expanding forestry and reduce tillage.
  • Morocco promised to produce 52% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Subnational actors

  • 102 cities committed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • 10 regions, 93 businesses and 12 investors said they would reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • 2,000 cities committed to placing climate risk at the centre of their decision-making, planning and investments, including climate-smart urban projects and innovative financing mechanisms.

Business and industry

  • 87 businesses have committed to implement the 1.5C target across their operations and value chains. This includes Danone, Engie, Ikea, L’Oréal, Nestle, Sodexo. 
  • Getting to zero coalition. Giants from the shipping, energy and finance sectors pledged to work together to make net-zero shipping a commercial reality by 2030.
  • Zero carbon buildings. A host of rich and developing countries pledged to decarbonise the construction sector in a UN-endorsed initiative. The partnership will seek to kickstart adequate policy measures and mobilise $1 trillion for energy-efficient buildings in developing countries by 2030. So far Kenya, Turkey, the UK and United Arab Emirates have signed up.
  • One Planet Business for Biodiversity. A coalition of 19 companies pledged to develop solutions to scale up regenerative agricultural practices, boost cultivated biodiversity and diets and eliminate deforestation while enhancing the restoration and protection of natural ecosystems. The initiative was launched as part of French president Emmanuel Macron’s ‘One Planet Lab’. Partners are expected to develop policy recommendations during next year’s biodiversity talks in China.
  • Insurance firm AXA launched ORRAA, a multi-stakeholder collaboration platform to develop finance products such as blue carbon resilience credits and coral reef insurance which invest in coastal natural capital.

Financial sector

  • More than 130 banks, with $47 trillion in assets, signed onto new climate principles.
  • The International Development Finance Club (IDFC). A group of 24 national and regional development banks promised to inject $1 trillion into climate projects by 2025, with at least $100 million for adaptation. IDFC also vowed to launch a partnership with the Green Climate Fund to promote direct access to international climate finance and a new $10 million climate facility to support its members on accessing climate finance. 
  • Carbon neutral portfolio. Asset owners of the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance representing $2.4 trillion (and annual direct emissions equivalent to 73 coal-fired power plants) committed to align their investments with the goal of limiting warming to 1.5C. This includes Allianz, Caisse des Dépôts and La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ). 
  • The Climate Investment Platform was launched to directly mobilize $1 trillion in clean energy investment by 2025 in 20 least developed countries. The platform aims to provide a variety of services to governments and the private sector to scale-up the energy transition and accelerate investments for low carbon, climate-resilient development. It is also intended to enable the delivery of ambitious NDCs. This is a UN-led initiative
  • Climate risks in infrastructure. A coalition led by the private sector and representing more than 20 institutions with $8 trillion assets under management was launched with the goal of developing the first framework for the pricing of physical climate risks in infrastructure investing.
  • Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment (CCRI) led by Willis Towers Watson, the World Economic Forum, the Global Commission on Adaptation, Jamaica, and UK was launched to facilitate capital investment in resilient infrastructure. Under the scheme, stakeholders pledged that 70% of the $90 trillion expected to be invested in infrastructure globally between now and 2030, will go to low- and middle-income countries exposed to climate risks.
  • Risk-informed early action partnership pledged to deliver new and improved early warning systems. The initiative is led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. 

Joint diplomatic initiatives

  • Global deal for nature. Costa Rica called on countries to set aside 30% of the planet as part of a global deal for nature. The deal is expected to be finalised at the 15th biodiversity conference in Kunming, China, in 2020. The Seychelles, the United Arab Emirates, Monaco, Gabon, and Mozambique have backed the initiative.
  • Norway launched a high-level panel for the sustainable ocean economy, representing 14 countries that cover approximately 30% of the world’s coastlines, 30% of the world’s exclusive economic zones, 20% of the world’s ocean catch and 20% of the world’s shipping fleet, including a new initiative to build resilience for ocean and marine-protected areas.
  • The central African forest initiative pledged to maintain the forest cover of Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea, allowing the Central African rainforest to continue to stock approximately 70 gigatons of carbon and provide livelihoods of 60 million people and maintain regional rainfall patterns.
  • 7 Central American countries pledged to establish and manage 10 million hectares of “sustainable productive landscapes that are resilient to climate change,” with a goal to reduce emissions by no less than 40% reduction from the baseline year of 2010 by 2030. Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama have signed up. 
  • Amazon. The governments of Germany and France pledged to respectively contribute $250m and $100m to protect the Amazon forest, while the EU said it was drawing €190m through its cooperation and development programmes. The NGO Conservation International represented by actor Harrisson Ford also promised to put $20m on the table.
  • Small-holdings. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced $790m to double the funding of the food technology research body CGIAR. The foundation pledged $310m, with the rest to come from the Netherlands, European Commission, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Germany and the World Bank. 
  • Insurance resilience. Led by governments, multilateral organisations, the private sector, and civil society, the InsureResilience Partnership 2025 pledged to ensure that 500 million poor people worldwide will be covered against climate shocks by pre-arranged risk finance by 2025. Germany and the UK are enhancing risk finance and insurance programs, and the private insurance industry will commit up to $5bn of risk capacity until 2025. More here
  • African adaptation initiative promised to ensure regional cooperation on adaptation, and the investment of $1bn in African countries and the doubling of adaptation finance accessed and mobilised by African countries by 2025. The initiative also vowed to translate national adaptation plans into investment plans and projects eligible for funding by 2025.  
  • Coalition for sustainable energy access was jointly launched by Morocco and Ethiopia to meet the energy needs of the world’s population with clean energy . The initiative pledged to share experiences and best practices to deploy renewable sources of energy and, where appropriate, model existing practices, particularly in least developed countries.
  • LIFE-AR initiative, led by a coalition of least developed countries, promised to strengthen south-south cooperation, mobilise $30-40m, and deliver pathways to climate-resilient development by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.
  • The Three Percent Club. Fifteen governments and ten companies committed to tap into research by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and accelerate energy efficiency by 3% every year. Countries involved include: Argentina, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Portugal, Senegal and the UK.
  • The cooling coalition identified cooling as a “major blind spot” with emissions from air conditioning and refrigeration expected to rise 90% from 2017 levels by 2050. The coalition pledged to set ambitious cooling targets and support “cross-sectional” national strategies, policies and national action plans. Bangladesh and Lebanon promised to adopt comprehensive national cooling plans and several countries committed to the Biarritz pledge for fast action on efficient cooling, led by France. Countries which have promised to take action include: Andorra, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, France, Hungary, Japan, Lebanon, Morocco, North Macedonia, Norway, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, and the UK. Five countries are already committing to integrate cooling in their national climate plans:  the Dominican Republic, North Macedonia, Rwanda, Senegal and Spain.
  • Industry Transition. 5 companies and 9 countries, including Argentina, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, South Korea and UK, promised to set out pathways for carbon intensive sectors to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
  • Transport. 100 organisations, including governments, private sector leaders and cities, pledged to accelerate the decarbonisation of the transport sector. 
  • A leadership of urban climate investments initiative promised to accelerate, scale-up and leverage climate finance for climate-friendly urban infrastructure. Led by Germany, it includes France, UK, Mexico, Luxembourg, Cameroon and Japan. The initiative pledged to empower over 2,000 cities in project preparation by 2030, placing climate risk at the centre of decision making, planning, and investments. Up to $64m in grants have been pledged for its implementation.
  • Turkey, Kenya, the governor of Maine, US, the mayor of Surabaya, Indonesia, the European Investment Bank, committed funds to strengthen the resilience of 600 million urban slum dwellers by 2030 and to lift them out of poverty.
  • Climate action for jobs. Led the International Labour Organisation, Spain and Peru, the initiative pledged to develop a framework for countries that considers job creation, social protection, skills development, and technology and knowledge transfer when taking climate action.
  • Thirty-two national governments committed to implementing gender-responsive climate change action plans and policies and empowering women as leaders of climate action. 
  • Safer air initiative. 41 countries, 71 sub-national governments and two health finance organisations have committed to achieve air quality and align climate and air quality plans by 2030. The Clean Air Fund, which is taking part, vowed a $50m fund to start implementation.
  • African youth climate hub. Led by Morocco’s Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection, the initiative committed to showcase the leadership and innovation of African youth.

The UN 

The United Nations secretariat adopted a 10-year climate action plan, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% and source 80% of electricity from renewable energy by 2030. The plan commits the UN secretariat to achieve absolute and per capita greenhouse gas emission reductions of 25% by 2025 and per capita reductions in electricity consumption of 20% by 2025.  It also pledged to sourcing 40% of its electricity from renewable energy before 2025.

This article was corrected to delete a previous mention of China saying it will cut emissions by over 12 billion tons annually through nature-based solutions. Instead, China was referring to the mitigation potential of nature-based solutions globally. 

Read more on: Climate Finance | Climate Politics | UN Climate Action Summit 2019 | UN climate talks | World