• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

UN Moves Forward with Paris Climate Agreement

Air Date: Week of

President Xi Jinping spoke at the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit and pledged to reduce China’s carbon intensity over 65% by 2030. (Photo: Screenshot of UN Climate Summit)

The coronavirus pandemic has postponed the key 2020 UN climate Conference of the Parties (COP 26, but the vital work of ramping up international ambition to face the climate crisis must go on. So led by China’s bold pledge of more ambition, 70 world leaders and heads of state convened for a virtual “Climate Ambition Summit,” with nations that have ramped up their initial pledges made during the 2015 Paris Climate talks. The US was not invited, nor Russia, Brazil or other nations who have failed to increase their commitments to address the climate emergency.


CURWOOD: From PRX and the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios at the University of Massachusetts Boston, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

BELTRAN: And I’m Paloma Beltran. The annual UN climate meetings scheduled to take place in Glasgow at COP26 this year were postponed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the important work of ramping up international ambition on climate must go on, as the Paris Climate Accord turns five. So despite a year full of challenges and limitations 70 world leaders and heads of state convened for a virtual “Climate Ambition Summit” co-hosted by the UN, UK and France. And the goal of the summit was to highlight the increased commitments nations made beyond their initial pledges during the 2015 Paris Climate talks to keep the rise of global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius. Since this was a virtual event climate activists weren’t able to gather in numbers but made themselves heard in a film shown at the summit.


WWF Clip 1: It’s not the time for a concept anymore, this is the time for a real action. I think everybody now needs to work together to fight climate change, we can't pass the blame on to others. It is vital for us to be able to continue this fight and to actually accomplish our goal which is to save the planet.

BELTRAN: China led ambition with perhaps the biggest leap in commitments by promising to create renewable energy sources equal to 1,000 of the biggest coal plants and achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2060. We’ll have more about China’s bid for climate leadership later in the program. By contrast the second largest carbon polluter on the planet, the United States, was not invited to the summit since it said it would leave the Paris Climate Agreement four years ago even though the carbon footprint of the average American is twice as large as that of a Chinese or European citizen.

The President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, called on developed nations to take leadership in reducing carbon emissions and lending out a helping hand to vulnerable nations. (Photo: Screenshot of UN Climate Summit)

President elect Joe Biden has already pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement and set America on course to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. And Mr. Biden has also promised to host a US climate summit within the first 100 days of his presidency.
Speaking through a translator during the virtual summit last week, Cuban President Diaz Canel Bermudez said the climate emergency requires economic reforms.

DIAZ: It is necessary to emphasize that capitalist production and consumption patterns are irrational and unsustainable. Climate change and the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are crying out for an increased international cooperation. Let’s stop compromising human survival with our irrational selfishness. We are all facing the same threat.

BELTRAN: President Diaz committed to generating 24% of Cuba’s energy from renewable sources by the year 2030 and pledged to cut in half the amount of fossil fuels used in road vehicles. The climate emergency is already here now. And deadly for Central America. The leaders of Honduras and Guatemala talked about how hurricanes including Mitch in 1998, and Eta and Iota just this year left a path of devastation and thousands dead or homeless. From further South in the Caribbean Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley also spoke up for the most vulnerable.

Mia Mottley is the Prime Minister of Barbados and leader of the Barbados Labour Project. (Photo: Timothy Sullivan, UNCTAD)

MOTTLEY: Frankly, at the global level, we need to move from placatory rhetoric to real effective action, or numerous nations across the world will be robbed of their future. I would like to believe that the major emitters are not capable of what would in essence, be close to climate genocide. I’d like to believe that we are visible, and indispensable for them.

BELTRAN: Zuzana Čaputová is President of Slovakia and Europe’s 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize winner.

President of Slovakia, Zuzana Čaputová, referred to climate action as an investment for future generations and pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. (Photo: Screenshot of UN Climate Summit)

CAPUTOVA: We have a wealth of scientific knowledge and unprecedented resources at our disposal – and yet we are creating an ecological calamity. To change the current trajectory, we need a greater climate ambition. This is not just about another number, nor about soft diplomacy.

BELTRAN: Ali Bongo Ondimba President of Gabon is Chair of the African group of negotiators.

Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Gabonese Republic and chair of the African Climate Group of Negotiators, highlighted that Africa emits only around 4% of global emissions but is strongly committed to revising their commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreements before COP26 in 2021. (Photo: Screenshot of UN Climate Summit)

BONGO: As champion of the African adaptation initiative, it gives me hope that we can come together in the face of climate change, a threat far more significant than COVID-19. Adaptation is a key priority for our continent.

BELTRAN: The President of Denmark Metta Fredricksen went straight to the point.

METTE: We made a promise in Paris. The children of the world trust that we will keep it.



Click here to watch videos of the individual speeches during the 2020 Climate Ambition Summit

Click here to watch the complete Climate Ambition Summit


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth