NEW YORK, New York, September 27, 2014 (AMG) —For one day on September 23, over 120 of the world’s leaders gathered in New York at the request of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to declare their commitments to combat climate change through energy-efficient climate initiatives, and the mobilisation of funds to assist in climate action.

The first meeting of world leaders in five years heard that the latest scientific data shows that global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 60% of their 1990 levels by the year 2050, in order to avoid  global temperature increases greater than 2oC/3.5oF by the end of the century.

Global temperature rise, according to scientific models, is seen to have a knock-on effect for rising sea levels, melting glaciers and more frequent and extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and floods.

Paris, 2015: A legally-binding global agreement to stem emissions is the Caribbean’s best hope to avoid the worst consequences of global temperature rise, and the New York summit set the momentum for agreements expected to be made at negotiations in Paris next year, which will be binding on global emitters from 2020.

For the Caribbean and other small island states, Paris represents the most eagerly-anticipated meeting of the UN climate negotiation process since the Copenhagen conference of 2009, which failed to establish a binding agreement on emission reduction targets despite small islands’ fervent hopes.

If Paris is successful, and countries commit to their pledges of reducing emissions, the world may be able to stay within the window of a 2oC/3.5oF temperature increase by the end of the century.

“We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and the last generation that can do anything about it” — Barack Obama

What Caribbean leaders said…

In keeping with the goal of reducing emissions, some CARICOM leaders pledged their continued use of green energy. Prime Minister of Barbados, the Right Honourable Freundel Stuart, committed to 29% green energy usage nationwide by 2029, to realise a 22% savings in electricity through the deployment of energy efficiency measures.

Following this trend, St. Vincent & the Grenadines’ Foreign Minister, Camillo Gonsalves, pledged St. Vincent’s impressive goal of being a 100% green economy by 2050.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Perry Christie, addressed the Summit with urgency, saying that science predicts that a 1.5 metre rise in sea level would sink over 80% of the nation’s land mass.

Mr. Christie said that regardless of their negligible contribution to global emissions, the Bahamas has adopted a Nation Energy Policy which aims at 30% renewable energy use by 2030. He also stated that Bahamas has done its fair share in enhancing their resilience to the impacts of climate change, despite limited funding.

Other Caribbean officials made commitments including doubled renewable energy usage from Jamaica by 2016, announced by Senator the Honourable Arnold J. Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who proudly stated that Jamaica was the first Caribbean country to establish a Climate Change Ministry.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, announced plans for 100% natural gas usage for electricity, and pledged her support of the goal of net zero global greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this century.

St. Lucia’s Minister for Sustainable Development, James Fletcher, announced his country’s commitment to 35% geothermal usage by 2020 and further stated that St. Lucia is currently on an 80% emissions reduction pathway.

Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell, announced his support for carbon pricing, which Secretary General Ban described as “one of the most powerful tools available for reducing emissions and generating sustainable development and growth.” Dr. Mitchell also called for island states to commit to 100% renewable energy usage.

Not all announcements came in the form of commitments and support. Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne (above), condemned the ‘culprits of climate change’ saying that small and developing countries are being urged to commit to climate action without substantial financial assistance. He went on to say that “we have paid – and continue to pay – a high price for (climate change).” President Donald Ramotar of Guyana also urged that “wealthy countries must take the lead in helping the most vulnerable states.”

What developed countries pledged…

Pledges from wealthier, more-developed nations came both in the form of promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to increase financial contributions.

Contributions to climate funds play a critical role in assisting Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in reaching their emission reduction goals, alleviating the severity of the effects of climate change and assisting SIDS in their adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) – the largest funder of environmental projects – will provide developing nations with over $3 billion over the next four years to assist in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Meanwhile, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – developed in 2010 to assist poor nations cope with climate change –  expects to receive donations of approximately $2.3 billion to assist developing countries in adaptation. The figure however falls short of the $10 – $15 billion that developing countries and UN officials estimate is required to demonstrate the commitment of developed nations to combat climate change.

Countries contributing to the GCF include Mexico, Iceland, Switzerland, South Korea, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Contributions from France and the United Kingdom are expected to be given in increments over the next few years.

See also: When will the international community’s inaction on Climate Change end?

Here’s what Caribbean leaders pushed for at the UN Climate Summit

Sophia Longsworth

Sophia is a Grenadian residing in the United States. She holds an MPH and an MSc. in Natural Resource and Environmental Management, and has research interests in the impact of the environment on public health.

Category: Sustainability