On September 19 – 21, 2023, more than 190 countries attended the United Nations General Assembly climate summit. The summit came during a week when activists around the world demonstrated against fossil fuels. A description of the Seattle demonstration can be found here.

The agenda of the summit:
• updated pre-2030 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement;
• updated net-zero targets;
• energy transition plans with commitments to no new coal, oil, and gas;
• fossil fuel phase-out plans;
• more ambitious renewable-energy targets;
• Green Climate Fund pledges; and
• economy-wide plans on adaptation and resilience.
A report of the summit can be found here. Source: Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) September 6 and 22, 2023

President Biden outlined some recent major climate crises and said “Taken together these snapshots tell an urgent story of what awaits us if we fail to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and begin to climate-proof our world.” (New York Times, September 19, 2023) “From day one of my administration, the United States has treated this crisis as the existential threat that it is, not only to us, but to all of humanity,” he said. (Source: USA Today, September 19, 2023) Biden is responding to calls from environmentalists to declare a climate emergency but stopping short of using the presidential powers that come with that declaration.

“The fossil fuel age has failed,” Secretary General António Guterres told leaders at the General Assembly. He called for “phaseout of coal, oil and gas.” Despite his exhortations, governments have only increased their fossil fuel subsidies, to a record $7 trillion in 2022. Source: New York Times, September 19, 2023

Critics of the UN point out that statements and discussion of climate change are not enough action to address the climate emergency: “The rules of multilateral diplomacy and multilateral summitry are not fit for the speedy and effective response that we need,” said Richard Gowan, International Crisis Group. Source: New York Times, September 19, 2023


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