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World Leaders Respond to U.N. Call for Climate Change Action

By Andrew Burger

At the United Nations Climate Summit 2014, held at U.N. headquarters in New York City on Sept. 23, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for bold commitments to catalyze climate change mitigation and adaptation actions. In response, leaders spanning government, business, finance and civil society announced new initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.

New climate change action initiatives were announced in the areas of finance, farming and forests. New coalitions between cities, businesses and citizens were formed that aim to reduce GHG emissions and strengthen resilience to climate change, according to a Climate Summit 2014 news release.

“Change is in the air. Today’s Climate Summit has shown an entirely new, cooperative global approach to climate change,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “The actions announced today by governments, businesses, finance and civil society show that many partners are eager to confront the challenges of climate change together.”

Climate Summit 2014 action pledges

The wide-ranging climate change initiatives announced during the U.N. climate summit “will have a profound impact on global financial markets to more local actions that will reduce the emissions of smallholder farmers,” the U.N. commented. Renewable energy initiatives in southern Africa and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), for examples, are to be increased in scale and rolled out across these regions.

Secretary-General Ban was encouraged by the response of world leaders and delegates:

“Today shows that the world is finally waking up to the economic and social opportunities of taking action on climate change,” he was quoted in a news release. “The Climate Summit is showcasing a level of ambition not seen before and producing actions and new initiatives that will make a significant difference.”

Following is a summary of the climate change action initiatives related to climate finance, forests, cities and climate-smart agriculture announced during the U.N. Climate Summit 2014:


  • An initiative to mobilize more than US$200 billion in financial resources from public and private sources by the end of 2015. This includes new pledges for the Green Climate Fund, the decarbonization of investment portfolios (moving assets out of fossil fuel-based investments), the continued efforts of national banks to invest in new climate activities, and wide support for putting a price on carbon emissions.

  • A coalition of institutional investors has committed to decarbonizing $100 billion in institutional equity investments by COP 21 (December 2015) and to measure and disclose the carbon footprint of at least $ 500 billion in investments.

  • Commercial banks will provide $30 billion in new climate finance by the end of 2015 by issuing green bonds and other innovative financing instruments.

  • The national, bilateral and regional development banks of the International Development Finance Club announced they are on track to increase their direct green/climate financing to $100 billion a year for new climate finance activities by the end of 2015.

  • The insurance industry has committed to double its green investments to $84 billion by the end of 2015 and announced that it would increase the amount placed in climate-smart investments to ten times the current amount by 2020. Developed and developing countries have started pulling together to capitalize the Green Climate Fund, by pledging several billion dollars.

  • A group of developed countries announced a commitment of $2 billion to be channeled to the developing countries during 2014-2015 with strong focus on adaptation.

  • Three major pension funds from North America and Europe announced their ambition to accelerate their investments in low-carbon investments across asset classes up to more than $31 billion by 2020.

  • More than 70 countries and 1,000 companies endorsed the need for developing mechanisms that would adequately reflect the true costs relating to polluting and emissions; and over 30 leading companies endorsed the Caring for Climate Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing, which include setting an internal carbon price high enough to materially affect investment decisions to drive down greenhouse gas emissions.


Calling for cutting deforestation in half by 2020 and ending it completely by 2030, more than 150 organizations, including 28 governments, eight sub-national governments, 35 companies, 16 indigenous peoples groups, and 45 NGO and civil society groups, signed the New York Declaration on Forests.

Government, the private sector and civil society groups pledged to back up the declaration with resources and actions. According to Climate Summit 2014:

  • The Declaration reaffirms and stretches commitments to reforestation and halting deforestation. Supporting this are a basket of strong commitments by the private sector, including palm oil companies and food companies, indigenous peoples, and governments -- from local through national -- to financial support for REDD+, deforestation programs at scale, and deforestation-free supply chains for commodities on which we all rely.

  • More than 20 global food companies committed to deforestation-free sourcing policies of palm oil. Three of these -- the world's largest palm oil companies, Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources and Cargill -- committed additionally to work together in Indonesia on implementation with governments and indigenous peoples.

  • Taken together, the share of palm oil under zero deforestation commitments has grown from 0 to about 60 percent in the last year, with potential to reduce 400 to 450 million tons of CO2 per year by 2020, or 2 billion tons in the period through 2020.


"Cities," Climate Summit 2014 highlights, "are currently responsible for about 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and can play a critical role in reducing these emissions and strengthening resilience." At the Summit:

  • Mayors from around the world, including New York, Seoul, Paris, Johannesburg, Bogota and Copenhagen, announced the signing of the Mayor’s Compact that will harmonize their members’ targets and strategies.

  • Among the over 2,000 in the Compact, 228 cities have voluntary targets and strategies for greenhouse gas reductions, which could avoid up to 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

  • City networks also announced a harmonized, transparent approach and platform to reducing city emissions which will help coordinate efforts and make them more transparent.


A series of “climate-smart” agricultural initiatives are intended to help some 500 million smallholder farmers reduce GHG emissions, enhance resilience to climate change and adapt to changing climate conditions. They include:

  • A newly launched Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture was supported by more than 40 governments, organizations and companies. Countries joining represent millions of farmers, at least a quarter of world cereal production, 43 million undernourished people and 16 percent of total agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

  • An Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance will help some 25 million farming households across Africa practice climate-smart agriculture by 2025.

  • Fortune 500 companies, including Kellogg Co., McDonald's and Walmart, committed to increase the amount of food in their respective supply chains produced with climate-smart approaches.
*Image credits: U.N. Climate Summit 2014
Andrew Burger headshot

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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