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CWA # 169, 7 October 2019

The UN Climate Action Summit 2019
Climate Change: Four Actors, No Action

  Lakshman Chakravarthy N & Rashmi Ramesh

The 2019 summit could not bring the four set of actors – zealots, bystanders, enhancers and Non-State together. Their differences undermine a concerted action on climate change  
 

The 2019 summit could not bring the four set of actors – zealots, bystanders, enhancers and Non-State together. Their differences undermine a concerted action on climate change  
 

The United Nations Climate Change Summit 2019 was aimed at nudging the nation-states to redefine their climate targets to meet the global 1.5 degrees target opted as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The call for the Summit advocated participant nations to enhance their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by 2020 and ideally achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Several countries resolved to take stringent measures, while few of them were subtle in their approach and actions. Additionally, some non-state actors pledged to contribute more to the cause. 
This commentary makes an effort to profile the categories that the participants of the Summit fall into, based on their determination to combat the ill effects of climate change and also focus on the initiatives of the non-state actors. 

The Zealots
The Nordic countries (Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark) and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) pledged to act more stringently to achieve the targets set by the Paris Agreement. The former, together have stated that their efforts would focus on making the Nordics, the first industrialized carbon-neutral region by the year 2030. This also implies that the region would become the most sustainable one in the world. 
Finland along with Chile has initiated the “Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action”, aiming to use the financial instruments such as budget, procurement, investment and taxation in achieving carbon-neutrality. Sweden has announced a joint venture with India to ensure a faster transformation of heavy industries from fossil-fuel driven to fossil-free units of production. Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir announced her government’s decision to double the contribution it makes to the Green Climate Fund. GCF is an initiative to assist the developing nations to combat the ill effects of climate change. 
Small island countries stand as the most affected countries of the adverse consequences of climate change. Added to this misery is the fact that they are not responsible for accelerating global warming, yet come in the frontline of facing climate-related natural disasters. The Bahamas were recently hit by the deadly hurricane Dorian. Recognizing the impending danger, these island countries have pledged to stand as examples for the world to follow. The Prime Ministers of Jamaica and Norway convened a meeting on the sidelines of the Climate Action Summit and called for the replenishment of the GCF. 
Alongside the Nordic and Small Island Nations, key European powers of France, Germany and the UK promised to lead the way with stringent policies beyond the Paris Deal commitments. France decided not to draft trade deals with nations whose policies go against the Paris Agreement. Germany announced its carbon neutrality deadline as 2050. The United Kingdom followed Iceland in promising to double its overall international climate finance contribution. Multiple European countries decided to chart out an action committee to phase out coal usage in the next decade.   
Climate change affects all countries but the intensity of that effect determines the actions undertaken by them. The intensity with which the consequences of climate change hit the small island states and the Nordics and European nations pushes them to be the zealots who rigorously strive for a sustainable planet. 

The Bystanders
On 1st June 2017, Washington announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Its stance on not recognizing the issue stands firms and was reflected in the Climate Action Summit as well. Though President Trump made a brief appearance at the Summit, no word came from the United States. 
Saudi Arabia also followed suit and was not allowed to speak due to the importance it attaches to its fossil-fuel driven economic policies. As one of the largest crude oil exporters, it is seen as a long-standing resistor to mitigation initiatives by the global community. 
Brazil, once the host of the Rio Summit and the leader on the issues of climate change, today stands as a threat, absconding the Climate Action Summit. President Bolsonaro categorically stated at the UN General Assembly that his country has the sovereign right over the Brazilian portion of the Amazon. The state’s agricultural policy that is apathetic to clearing rainforests refrained Brazil from joining the Summit. This reiterates the debate where the idea of global commons is juxtaposed to the Westphalian concept of sovereignty.
Australia, Japan, and South Africa were unwelcome to the summit as the ongoing fossil-fuel policies that these nations are banking on for projected economic growth curbs them from a commitment to any concrete plan to raise the bar for climate action.
Given the social and political changes within each of these countries, this group is enacting policies that go counter to their commitments in the 2015 deal. The element of exacerbation comes where, despite their absence at the Summit, other countries with resolve are under pressure to do more to counter the effect of this group, most of which are truly economic giants.    

The Enhancers
70 countries promised to enact much stricter nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in 2020, which were previously numbered at 23. The new promisers include Argentina, Ethiopia, and Turkey. This group of major nations accounts for 6.8 per cent of the global emissions. These countries remained mostly adherent to the NDCs set for themselves in the 2015 Paris Climate Summit and some are yet to ratify the signed 2015 pact.
India stands within the limits set in 2015, with promises of boosting its renewable energy production by 2022. China also voiced its support for Climate action through its accelerated installations of renewable energy and increasing its forest cover. Both of the nations expressed the desire for increased contribution from developed nations to support climate change mitigation and adaptation work in the home countries. While India’s NDCs are in line with the global target of 2 degrees, China’s contributions have not yet met the desired global target. Unlike the zealots, these countries did not push beyond the boundaries set for themselves, e.g., regarding the continued usage of coal for power plants. It is noteworthy that India, China along with Turkey have the biggest coal expansion plans for the near future and none of them hinted at the issue, of moving away from coal, in their commitments.
Russia announced that it had ratified the agreement signed during the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, but had no intentions for any aggressive measures. Turkey is awaiting a demotion from the status of a developed to a developing country to have access to the Green Climate Fund; a reason with which has been delaying the ratification of the 2015 pact in its legislature. Although, a rise in renewable energy and increased forested land were raised as exemplary measures as part of climate action.
The common rhetoric from this group of nations is that they expect the developed countries to lead in their efforts through climate finance support for the developing nations. With the US nowhere in the scene, a significant hope breathed through UN regarding China, stemming from the recent China-France talks on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. China was expected to take a lead by setting up its bars high, with an ambitious proposal regarding its commitments, but has failed to materialize.

The Non-State Actors
Bill Gates announced a US$790 million fund to support research on making small farmers’ practices resilient to climate change. As part of adaptation measures, these small farmers are the most vulnerable and several nations’ food security is dependent on them. The fund is directed to the international food technology research group CGIAR. The fund is raised by Gates’ foundation alongside a few European countries and The World Bank. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged US$310 million of the US$790 million. This measure is estimated to impact 300 million farmers in the poorest nations.
As part of the UN Global Compact, a consortium of 87 major companies adopted business models tuned to profit from taking measures towards sustainability. These companies sum up to a combined market capitalization of more than US$2.3 trillion and the impact of this corporate change is equivalent to shutting down 73 coal-fired power plants. Alongside sustainability efforts, these companies pledged to adopt science-based targets, which allow independent assessment of corporate emission cuts. These companies include brands such as Burberry, Danone, Electrolux, Ericsson, IKEA, Maersk, and Nestlé. Maersk, e.g., partners with other shipping giants in launching “commercially-viable” zero emissions vessels on deep-sea trade routes by 2030.
The International Development Finance Club (IDFC), composed of 24 national and regional development banks in emerging and developing countries, is aimed at mobilizing US$1 trillion in Climate Finance by 2025, in partnership with the Green Climate Fund. 
To promote investments in tune with climate action, a group of insurance companies and pension funds promised to divest its funds completely from fossil fuel companies by 2050. They also promised to direct the new investments in adaptation- and mitigation-related projects. This group of companies include insurance giants such as Allianz and have combined management of US$2.3 trillion.
The momentum from these private funders in response to calls for climate action is considered unprecedented when compared to the pledges of nation-states. It is rare that large companies, some of them with footprints equivalent to that of small nations, do make such promises in emission cuts and new sources of raising finance to support climate action projects. Apart from generous donations from philanthropists, a sense of redirection towards climate-change-sensitive options is a promising trend in the economic and financial sectors. Such a proactive shift in industry and finance will ease the friction of implementing climate policies at the national level. 

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