U.S. and China pledge their commitments to fighting climate change at UN Summit in New York

Climate cummit
© Manon Verchot

Written with Manon Verchot

Today, world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York to address the challenges of climate change. The non-negotiating summit aimed to build political momentum leading up to the meetings in Lima in December and Paris in 2015, which are expected to result in multinational development agreements.

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called upon heads of state to make “bold” announcements at today’s Climate Summit. Over 125 heads of state and government officials announced commitments and intentions to combating climate change.

President Barack Obama said that China and the U.S. must lead the way for climate mitigation, as the two largest economies—and the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases—in the world.

“We recognize our role in creating this problem, we embrace our role in the effort to combat it,” said Obama. He announced a new executive order that will require U.S. agencies to factor climate resilience into its development work, and thereby help developing nations. The United States also committed to sharing data and technology with developing nations to help them better prepare for the impacts of global warming, such as extreme weather events.

Among the new coalitions created today, an ambitious plan to end forest loss by 2030 was announced. This “New York Declaration on Forests” was endorsed by 32 national governments, as well as private sector companies and nonprofits.

Climate Summit© Manon Verchot

Many countries pledged drastic emissions reductions and funding over the coming years. China pledged 6 million dollars to support South-South cooperation on climate change. The European Union pledged 14 billion Euros over the next 7 years while also promising to reduce emissions by 95 percent by 2050.

In his closing remarks, Ban Ki-moon called today "a historic day," saying that we will look back on these meetings as the day the world began to look after its "home."

But there is still a long way to go before the Paris 2015 conference if countries want to prevent the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius. Obama promised that the 17 percent emissions reduction by 2020 would be achieved, but has yet to announce any new goals for the U.S. More action will be needed to reach the goal of 41-71 percent decrease in emissions by 2050. There will also need to be a push to reach the funding goal of $10 billion by the Paris meetings and $100 billion by 2020.

"There is a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the problem and the response here today," said Graca Machel, humanitarian and Nelson Mandela's widow. "The obligation is to step up the ambition. We, the citizens of the world, will be watching."