Next week dozens of countries will gather in New York for an emergency UN summit to help curb the grim prospect of rising greenhouse gas emissions, however the focus must be on good climate news, the body’s secretary-general said on Friday.
“If you have positive things to announce, you will be given the floor,” Antonio Guterres told some 15 journalists gathered for lunch at the UN headquarters ahead of its Climate Action Summit on Monday.
The goal of the daylong talks, which occur the day before world leaders gather at the UN General Assembly, is to elicit a commitment from more countries to increase their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, first made under the 2015 Paris climate accord.
“We asked countries: Are you ready or not to announce a positive development? If you are ready, send us a one-pager,” he said.
The hope, he added, was that a “very meaningful number of countries” announce their commitment to a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
Under such a pledge, countries would aim to achieve a carbon footprint of zero by minimizing their emissions and offsetting any that remain through such actions as planting trees that absorb excess CO2.
A total of 64 countries, as well as the European Union, will be represented. At present, approximately 20 countries have committed to the measure or passed laws that would bring such objectives into effect.
“Not everything will be solved in this summit,” Guterres said.
“My main objective is to make as much noise as I can, and to do as much as I can to support as many actors involved in this as I can, especially in relationship with the youth.”
On Friday huge numbers of children skipped school in more than 130 countries to join a worldwide strike against climate change, led by teen activist Greta Thunberg.
The 16-year-old joined demonstrations in New York where 1.1 million students were permitted to skip school for the event.
Guterres defended inclusion of China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, in the summit even as the country plows ahead with coal-fired power plants. It will be represented by Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“I believe that China will be one of the few countries that will be ahead of time in relation to the commitments made, those nationally determined contributions made in Paris,” Guterres said.
Some 60 world leaders will speak during the summit, limited to three minutes each.
Brazil and the United States, the latter of which will be represented by a State Department official, have not requested to speak.