Actions, not words, will tackle climate change

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The United Nations Summit on climate change, held in New York on Tuesday, followed, once again, a time-honoured formula — being preceded by hype and concluding on a note of promise. According to the concluding speech by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, the overwhelming takeaway from the summit was a resurgence of commitment to the mission of reducing carbon emissions around the world by 2020.

Words like “climate resilient pathway” and “low-carbon affinities” punched the air and all participating nations expressed an affinity for them. The European Union (EU) assured the world that it would adopt the 40 per cent emissions reductions target this October and funnel substantial financial commitments to support climate action in the EU and abroad. China made promises to level off its carbon emissions at the earliest while Grenada appealed to all island nations to go 100 per cent renewable. South Korea and Denmark made new pledges while Germany and France committed to donate $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) to the Climate Fund. The pricing of carbon was an important discussion as it would lead to more finance for low-carbon growth.

Despite these gestures, however, we need to hold back the celebrations. Because time and again post-event, this fervour has rapidly lost its effervescence. The real import of the promises made at this summit will be clear next year when all participating nations will have to present their concrete plans for carbon reduction to the UN. Till then, the “change in the air” that the UN so proudly predicted at the summit will remain a figure of speech.