UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invited heads of state and governments to the Climate Summit in New York for 23 September 2019. Many well-known politicians accepted the invitation, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Guterres had made his expectations of the summit clear in advance: “Don’t bring a speech. Bring a Plan” was his motto. Many speeches were held. But there were only a few new far-reaching plans on how to achieve the climate targets.
Angela Merkel travelled to New York with light luggage on climate policy: shortly before in the Chancellery back in Berlin, the German climate package was adopted after a 19-hour marathon of negotiations. Although it received international recognition in New York, it was met with criticism at home. From the perspective of Foundation 2°, the climate protection law and the climate protection programme are not ambitious enough: From our point of view, the measures listed in the programme fall short and will probably by far not be sufficient to achieve the climate targets. At the same time, however, we acknowledge that the architecture for ambitious climate protection was created. This is because the annual emission quantities for each sector have been provided with review mechanisms for post-taxation – on which one will be able to build (here you can find a detailed position paper on the climate package).
Angela Merkel and other leading politicians have indeed made a number of commitments in New York. Germany, for example, has not only committed itself to greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050, but has also announced firm financial commitments, e.g. for the protection of rainforests and various forest initiatives. However, as a whole the strong signal for climate protection from heads of state and government hoped for by Guterres, which would actually be needed for the size of the challenge, did not emanate.
The situation was different for a number of non-state actors: For some years now there has been a trend at United Nations climate summits for so-called “side events” of civil society to play an increasingly important role. In New York countless events at the United Nations headquarters and in various locations in Manhattan have driven topics and discussions forward as well. Companies in particular are playing an increasingly important role here. After all, more and more companies are realizing that climate change is not just a risk to their business models. Rather, companies see opportunities in climate protection because they can position themselves for the future with innovative and sustainable products and services.
But many companies in New York have also made it clear that the business community needs the right policy framework in order to combine climate protection with economic success. Climate protection must become a business model. But there is still a long way to go – at the next climate summits in Chile, the UK and beyond.
Martin Kaul, Head of Office and Senior Policy Officer represented Foundation 2° as part of the German delegation at the Climate Summit in New York.