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UN leaders push for ambitious climate action ahead of New York Summit

Christiana Figueres and Ban Ki-moon. Creative Commons: UNFCCC, 2013

Christiana Figueres and Ban Ki-moon. Creative Commons: UNFCCC, 2013

Two of the world’s foremost international voices are ramping up their calls to action in advance of the UN Climate Summit taking place later this month in New York City.

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon published an op-ed in the Huffington Post, urging action on global warming before rising greenhouse gas concentrations make irreversible changes to the climate.

The Secretary-General made a case for immediate action, writing:

Time is running out. The more we delay, the more we will pay. Climate change is accelerating and human activities are the principal cause, as documented in a series of authoritative scientific reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The effects are already widespread, costly and consequential—to agriculture, water resources, human health, and ecosystems on land and in the oceans. Climate change poses sweeping risks for economic stability and the security of nations.

Ban, who has placed climate change among the top priorities of his organization, is convening the Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. In the lead up to the event, Ban has appointed special envoys to mobilize political will for the event, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson.

At the Summit, world leaders will have the opportunity to make announcements and future commitments related to emissions reductions and adaptation to climate change.

Just after Ban Ki-moon set the stage for his event in print, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres coauthored a piece in the Guardian with Mario Molina that outlines a vision for a climate neutrality—a scenario Ban called “ambitious but achievable” late last year.

According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading scientific authority on climate science, the world cannot contain global warming to the internationally agreed-upon threshold of 2 degrees Celsius if countries continue to emit at their current rate.

Figueres and Molia write:

Bold initiatives are certainly needed now to slow the growth of emissions before 2020, peak global emissions shortly thereafter and rapidly put in place policies capable of delivering clean and resilient development.

With emissions growing ever faster, dramatic and unprecedented cuts would be necessary to bring the world to carbon equilibrium by the end of the 21st century. Despite the challenges this presents, such cuts are the most certain way to avoid the droughts, hurricanes, flooding, and sea-level rise that will all become more severe with climate change.

Both Ban and Figueres are wagering that the Summit on 23 September will prove a pivotal moment for the climate change mitigation effort. Along with the accompanying People’s Climate March, the UN Climate Summit will kick off a critical period of international climate negotiations culminating with the UNFCC conference in Paris at the end of 2015.

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