Abu Dhabi, 4 May 2014 - Ministers and leaders of business, finance and civil society organizations have gathered for a special two-day meeting to explore a range of concrete proposals for action on climate change, ahead of the unprecedented Secretary-General's Climate Summit slated to take place on 23 September 2014.
The "Abu Dhabi Ascent" meeting, which runs today and tomorrow in the United Arab Emirates, is intended to encourage announcements of greater commitment from world leaders at the September Climate Summit.
Taking place the day before the General Assembly is set to begin the high-level week of its 69th session, the Climate Summit will be one of the most prominent-level meetings ever to take place on a specific environmental issue.
Among topics discussed at the Ascent meeting in Abu Dhabi will be energy and short-lived climate pollutants; agriculture; adaptation, resilience and disaster risk reduction; and climate finance and economic drivers, among others.
Speakers will include Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair and UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
"The Abu Dhabi Ascent is an essential step in the preparations for the Climate Summit, and aims to raise the level of global ambition on climate change and catalyze concrete climate action on the ground to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience," said Mr. Ban, in a statement prior to the meeting.
"The meeting will be critical to this effort, as the only time before the Summit where governments, private sector and civil society will have the opportunity to come together, and strengthen and expand these multi-stakeholder efforts towards significant and robust outcomes that can be announced at the Summit," he added.
Speaking alongside World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy on Climate Change Rachel Kyte on the topic of climate finance and economic drivers, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner stressed the need for prompt action to reduce the rapidly accelerating - and often devastating - impacts of climate change.
According to UNEP's Emissions Gap Report 2013, humanity's chance of remaining on the least-cost path to achieving global climate targets this century will narrow rapidly should the global community not immediately embark upon wide-ranging actions such as the ones to be discussed at the September Climate Summit.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently issued two reports (Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from its Working Group II, and Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, from its Working Group III) that further detail the impacts of climate change, future threats from climate disruption, and opportunities for risk mitigation.
Despite the urgent need for action, however, Mr. Steiner noted that commitments must be taken in a way that drives higher levels of efficiency across economies, cities, companies and communities, in order to decouple the positive aspects of growth from the negative impacts they have historically had on the Earth's climate.
In this vein, UNEP is presenting concrete science-based policy advice and strategies to decelerate climate change and its impacts, including through forest conservation - a topic singled out by the Secretary-General as a major focus area for the September Climate Summit.
In this regard, the UN-REDD (United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) programme has already shown that tremendous results can be reaped by investing relatively small amounts of capital in this green economy strategy.
A recent UNEP report revealed that an investment of just USD 30 billion per year - under seven per cent of the USD 480 billion paid in annual global fossil fuel subsidies - in the REDD+ forest conservation initiative can accelerate the global transition to green and sustainable growth and ensure the long-term wellbeing of tens of millions in developing countries.
Mr. Steiner said that such innovative programmes can be drivers of economic growth and can accelerate the global transition to an inclusive green economy.
While governments still need to raise the USD 100 billion per year needed by 2020 to finance agreements under the UN's climate change convention, research shows that insurance companies and investment funds in the OECD alone had over Euros 70 trillion under management in 2011.
Moreover, an increasing percentage of those funds are now being spent on renewable energy, according to another report newly released by UNEP, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014 - a benchmark annual report for investments in renewables - found that, in 2013, more long-term investors such as pension funds, insurance companies, wealth managers and private individuals had invested in wind and solar projects than ever before.
Experts say that these types of concrete investments by business and civil society will be critical to reducing the impacts of climate change and bringing about a truly inclusive green economy. They are also the kinds of commitments that will be sought when the world gathers in September at the Secretary-General's landmark Summit.
In addition to speaking on climate finance and economic drivers, Mr. Steiner joined Gregory Barker, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change of the United Kingdom, Bahijjahtu Abubkar, Co-Chair of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and National Coordinator of Nigeria's Renewable Energy Programme, among others, in addressing the topic of energy and short-lived climate pollutants.
More on energy and short-lived climate pollutants in the context of the Ascent meeting can be found here.