For one day only, more than 100 leaders from around the world came together at the United Nations on Tuesday to plot a new road map for combating climate change.
“No nation is immune, warned President Barack Obama on Tuesday. “We are the first generation to feel climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”
The plans and pledges that emerge from the summit are nonbinding and are intended to serve as building blocks for writing a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
“We will only succeed in combating climate change if we’re in this together,” said Obama. “No one gets a pass.”
Some hoped-for goals include the elimination of deforestation by 2030, cutting carbon emissions even further than pledged in Kyoto in the 1990s and offering billions of dollars in donations toward implementing greener policies.
Worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases rose more than 2 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to the Global Carbon Project.
Summer 2014’s average global temperature was the hottest on record.
Along with the U.S., the biggest greenhouse gas emitters of 2013 were India and China. Neither country’s top leader attended the summit.
India’s emissions rose by just over 5 percent, and China’s increased by just over 4 percent despite governmental efforts to increase spending on green energy.
“In 2013, China’s renewable energy contributed to 24 percent of the world’s total,” said China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli on Tuesday at the U.N. "As a responsible major country, China will make even greater effort to address climate change and take on international responsibility."
In most developed countries, emissions are gradually decreasing.
The U.S. has seen a decline in recent years — though 2013 was an exception, as coal regained ground in electricity generation. The European Union had a 1.8 percent decline in carbon emissions last year.
The E.U. pledged nearly $4 billion dollars on Tuesday to help developing countries create clean energy projects. One plan put forward by the International Renewable Energy Agency is the Africa Clean Energy Corridor.
Four-fifths of the power in eastern and southern Africa is generated from CO2-releasing fossil fuels. The action plan seeks to promote the sharing of renewable power in a network stretching from Egypt to South Africa.
Smaller nations are already seeing the dire effects of climate change firsthand. The tiny African island nation of Comoros voiced its concerns at the U.N.
“The deterioration of agricultural production has been the immediate consequence of climate change,” said its President Ikililou Dhoinine. “Other more painful events include increasingly frequent floods such as those in April 2012 that affected more than 11 percent of the Comoros population, with losses of human life and damage of about $20 million.”
The people of Comoros are not the only ones concerned about climate change. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to heighten awareness, from Helsinki to Hong Kong.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, were among the climate marchers in New York.
“Climate change is a defining issue of our time. And there is no time to lose,” said Ban on Sunday.
What is it going to take to draft a global accord?
Can rapidly developing countries act on climate change without hindering economic growth?
What’s different now from the 1990s, when the Kyoto Protocol was drafted?
We asked these questions and more on this edition of “Inside Story.”