16 takeaways from the Climate Ambition Summit

UN general Antonio Guterres calls on leaders to declare a state of climate emergency

More than 75 world leaders convened on 12 December for the Climate Ambition Summit, a chance to strengthen climate commitments ahead of the UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow next November.

Co-hosted by the United Nations, the UK and France, in partnership with Italy and Chile, on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, the summit heard commitments from heads of state and financial leaders, but countries were told still not enough was being done to tackle the climate emergency.

Here are the highlights from the summit:

  • UN general Antonio Guterres said five years on from the Paris Agreement “we are still not going in the right direction”. He said if we don’t change course we might be headed for a “catastrophic” temperature rise. “Can anybody still deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency,” Guterres asked. “That is why today, I call on all leaders worldwide to declare a state of climate emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached.”
  • Guterres also said G20 countries were spending 50% more in their coronavirus stimulus packages linked to fossil fuels than on low-carbon energy, calling it “unacceptable”.
  • In a similar vein, UK business secretary and next year’s COP26 president Alok Sharma said, “Have we done enough to put the world on track to limit warming to 1.5C and protect people and nature from the effects of climate change? We must be honest with ourselves – the answer to that is currently no.”

Country commitments

Some 45 countries announced 2030 climate plans, with 24 making net-zero commitments.

  • China’s president Xi Jinping pledged the country would cut carbon intensity by more than 65% by 2030 and triple its wind and solar capacity in the next 10 years.
  • The UK will stop financing overseas fossil fuel projects.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country would have 450 gigawatts of renewable capacity installed by 2030.
  • Canada will raise carbon taxes to C$170 by 2030.
  • Pakistan will stop building new coal power plants and receive 60% of its power from renewables by 2030.
  • Germany promised €500m in climate finance and Italy €30m to the Adaptation Fund.

Finance

  •  “The asset management industry must play its part”, said David Blood, senior partner of Generation Investment Management, as part of statements from founding members of the new Net Zero Asset Management commitment. The summit also heard from Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, Jean Hynes, managing partner and incoming CEO of Wellington Management and Michelle Scrimgeour, CEO of LGIM.
  • Werner Hoyer, president of European investment bank said “50% of our investment will be in climate and environment by 2025. We aim to mobilise investment in this field by over $1.2trn by 2030.” 
  • David Malpass, president of the World Bank Group, said: “We’ve made $83bn in climate-related investments over the last five years. That’s 26% of group commitments. Last year saw the largest climate investments in our history. Over the next five years, we intend to go further, targeting 35% climate co-benefits on average across the World Bank Group.”
  • Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said we can use the “firepower” of the financial sector through full disclosure of climate-related financial risk, and through policies that “nurture green finance”.

Absences

  • With Donald Trump having pulled out of the Paris Agreement, the US did not have a federal representative, but Republican governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, and the Democrat governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, said the US was “all-in” on tackling climate change.
  • French president Emmanuel Macron welcomed “back home” the US to the Paris Agreement. “We do not have a lot of time ahead of us and the action must be immediate,” he said.
  • Brazil, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia were deemed not to have made enough commitments to attend the summit.

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Natasha Turner

Natasha is global deputy editor at ESG Clarity, part of the Bonhill Group, and has been a financial journalist for six years. She has been shortlisted for Story of the Year and Investment Journalist of...