UN Said to Summon Leaders to Closed-Door Climate Change Meeting

A Brief History of Global Warming
  • Ban Ki-moon wants to meet around 40 world leaders in September
  • Meeting to add `political push' to reach global carbon accord

Frustrated by slow progress in global climate talks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to invite around 40 world leaders including President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to a closed-door meeting next month.

The meeting will take place in New York on Sept. 27, a day ahead of the UN general assembly, said three people with knowledge of the matter. Ban also plans to invite French President Francois Hollande, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, as well as Chinese leaders, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak to the media.

More than 190 nations are working to reach an agreement in Paris this December to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and avert the worst effects of global warming. While Obama, Modi and other world leaders have declared support for the goal, negotiations are moving slowly and Ban has complained repeatedly about the slow pace of the talks. Deep divides remain about the legal structure of the agreement, how to provide financial help to poorer countries and other issues.

“The idea of the heads-of-state working meeting on climate change at the end of September is to give a political push to the negotiations in order to succeed in Paris,” said Alexis Lamek, deputy permanent representative at the French mission to the UN. “Leaders will exchange ideas on the level of ambition and the means to reach that goal.”

Time Running Short

France is helping to organize the closed-door meeting. It’s been in the works for months and comes as time is running short for what participants hope will be an historic deal. Meanwhile, diplomats gathered in Bonn Monday for the penultimate round of talks.

Countries accounting for more than two-thirds of heat-trapping pollution have filed plans with the UN on how they expect to control greenhouse gases. The 28-nation European Union pledged to cut emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels. The U.S. wants to lower pollution by 26 to 28 percent by 2025 from 2005, and China promised to peak its emissions, the world’s highest, by around 2030.

But major players including India, Indonesia and Brazil still haven’t submitted their climate plans, and the draft text for the Paris agreement remains an 88-page grab bag of conflicting options that negotiators still must sort out. At a news conference in Paris last week, Ban urged them to pick up the pace.

“We have only less than a hundred days for final negotiations,” Ban said, complaining that diplomats were still working on a “business-as-usual” schedule. “They have been repeating what they have been doing during the last 20 years. We don’t have time to waste.”

Emissions Cuts

Some of the top issues on the agenda of the New York climate meeting will be how to get countries to increase the level of emissions cuts they’re willing to make and how often countries should be required to update their pledges after the agreement takes effect in 2020, according to one of the people familiar with the plans.

Formal invitations still haven’t been sent out, and it’s unclear who will attend, the person said.

A German government spokesman confirmed Merkel would be there. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he didn’t have an update on Obama’s itinerary during his UN visit next month. The president “would welcome the opportunity” to discuss climate change with fellow leaders, he said.

A Brazilian government spokesman didn’t immediately respond to inquiries about the meeting.

Rising Seas

Even the toughest versions of measures already announced by governments across the world won’t be sufficient to limit the increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century. That’s what’s needed to prevent dangerous changes to the environment, including rising seas, deadly heat waves and disruptions to world food supplies, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN-organized panel of thousands of scientists.

The goal could be achievable with the help of additional efforts by companies and local governments as well as technological advances, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in an interview in Paris on Aug. 27.

The meeting in New York “is also a signal toward the private sector that heads of state are seriously committed and want to speed up climate action,” France’s Lamek said.

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