Climate summit closes with billions in pledges to reduce global warming

The day-long United Nations Climate Summit has closed with hundreds of billions of dollars in pledges from member states to fight global warming but no binding agreements.

U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are calling for a new global commitment to protect the Earth from greenhouse gas emissions. The World Bank is promoting a price on carbon emissions.

Addressing this year’s United Nations Climate Summit Tuesday, Obama said the United States, the world’s second biggest polluter, takes responsibility for its role in damaging the global environment, but that all nations must act together to combat the worsening problem of climate change.

At the largest high-level gathering on climate in years, Obama called on world leaders to reduce emissions and invest in clean energy, saying it is time to take action against what he called the urgent and growing threat posed by rising temperatures.

“The climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. The alarm bells keep ringing, our citizens keep marching,” he said. “We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.”

The U.S. leader said the United States has reduced pollution by more than any other nation, adding that his administration has taken measures to cut carbon emissions by 300 million metric tons through the year 2030.

He then urged other nations to take similar measures, saying no one gets a pass, or is exempt, from the effort.

That effort, Obama said, includes China, the world’s biggest carbon polluter. He met Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli on the sidelines of the summit before his speech. Obama said they agreed that their countries, with the world’s two biggest economies, must take responsibility to lead the effort to curb carbon emissions.

The summit has shown the sharp divisions that exist between industrialized countries and those with developing economies that see environmental restrictions as a threat to growth.

Minutes after Obama spoke, the Chinese vice premier called for developing countries to be allowed to have more relaxed carbon emission restrictions than industrialized nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the summit by calling for the world’s nations to adopt a new course to protect the global environment from the carbon emissions. Ban said the world should be carbon neutral by the end of the 21st century.

Monday, the World Bank announced that 73 national and 22 regional governments, together with about 1,000 companies, will join forces to push for policies that encourage a shift to cleaner energy technologies.

That coalition includes countries like China, South Africa, Russia and the Marshall Islands, and companies like British Airways, Unilever and Swiss cement manufacturer Holcim. The United States, the World Bank’s largest single financial supporter, was absent from the list.

Carbon pricing, if expanded to this scale and then globally, has the potential to bring down emissions in a way that supports clean energy and low-carbon growth while giving businesses the flexibility to innovate and find the most efficient choices, the World Bank said.

“The science is clear. The economics are compelling. We are seeing a shift toward the economic architecture that will be necessary to avoid a 2-degree-warmer world, an architecture that supports green growth, jobs and competitiveness,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change .

To move carbon pricing use and understanding forward, the World Bank Group, World Economic Forum, and We Mean Business Coalition announced that they would convene a carbon pricing leadership coalition with business and government leaders.

Carbon pricing brings together two distinct groups that have each spoken in favor of climate action but rarely worked together to address climate change: governments, which have been testing carbon trading systems and carbon taxes, and businesses that have started setting internal shadow carbon prices to help guide decisions.

Quebec started with a tax on fossil fuels and a goal to reduce emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. It launched a carbon trading system in 2012 that is now linked with California’s.

“We are encouraging our businesses to become more energy-efficient, adopt clean technologies, and use renewable forms of energy,” said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard. That means modernizing business models. “Decisions made by companies should reflect the high environmental, social and economic costs associated with climate disruptions.”

Couillard and California Gov. Jerry Brown added their public support for carbon pricing through the Put a Price on Carbon Statement, organized by the World Bank with support from several partners.

“There has to be a price on carbon because there is a price on carbon: it’s the consequences to health and the economy and to our climate,” Brown said.

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