Record Number of World Leaders Meet to Accelerate Progress on Climate Change

22 Sep 2009

Nearly 100 World Leaders gather for Summit on Climate Change at the United Nations

New York — Nearly 100 world leaders have accepted United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation to participate an historic Summit on Climate Change to mobilize political will and strengthen momentum for a fair, effective, and ambitious climate deal in Copenhagen.

According to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the purpose of the Summit is to focus minds and generate urgent action at the highest levels. “This year at we have an unprecedented opportunity to prevent climate change from slipping out of control and to jumpstart the transformation to a safer, cleaner, more prosperous green economy that benefits all,” he said.

Head of State leadership from all countries – industrialized nations, newly emerging economies, and developing nations on the front lines of climate change impacts - is crucial to realizing this achievement.

The Summit will mark the first UN visit for the Presidents of China and the United States as well as the newly elected Prime Minister of Japan.

World leaders who will address the opening session following the Secretary-General include Barack Obama, President of the United States of America; Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Republic of Maldives; Hu Jintao, President of the Peoples Republic of China; Yukio Hatoyama, Prime Minister of Japan; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden; Óscar Arias Sánchez, President of Costa Rica; and Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France.

Climate change cuts across all issues – from energy and food security to trade, finance, and international security. Its effects will fundamentally shape the economic growth, development, and security of every country in the world.  It requires strategic focus at the highest political level.

The Summit will provide this opportunity by mobilizing the political momentum needed to help the world cross over the finish line in Copenhagen, where representatives from 193 Parties to the Convention will gather in December to negotiate a climate agreement for the post-2012 period.

“I hope world leaders will leave the Summit ready to give their negotiating teams the green light and specific guidance needed to accelerate progress on the road to Copenhagen,” said the Secretary-General. “The clock is ticking. I hope they will publicly commit to sealing a deal in Copenhagen,” he said.

Negotiations on an agreement at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December have made some progress, but require immediate political impetus if the world is seal a global climate deal this year.

“Through direct dialogue with their fellow world leaders, we hope Summit participants will come to grips with the urgent need for action, as well as the benefits of transforming their economies along a cleaner energy, low-emissions pathway,” said the Secretary-General.

While not a negotiating session, the Summit will seek to find a common understanding among the leaders on a path forward.  This understanding will be captured in a Chairman’s Summary presented by the Secretary-General at the conclusion of the Summit.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, who is Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will present the scientific basis for action. Professor Wangari Maathai, recognized for her tree planting and environmental efforts among the poorest communities, will speak for civil society.

Former US Vice President Al Gore, who was a co-winner of the Nobel Prize with the IPCC, will address the UN Leadership Forum Luncheon.  This Forum marks the first time that world leaders and leaders from the business, investor, and civil society communities will meet on such a large scale at the UN.

Opening the Summit will be the two-time Academy Award Nominee Djimon Honsou, who will recite a portion of a speech known as the “Pale Blue Dot” written by the late astronomer Carl Sagan.  This will be followed by a film written and narrated children from around the world who will be facing the effects of climate change caused by the present generation.

The Summit will depart from traditional practice in favor of more time spent in direct discussions between world leaders.  Following the public opening session, Heads of State and Government will meet in smaller roundtable discussions.  There will be eight closed roundtables throughout the day, each co-chaired by a Head of State or Government from a developing and developed country.  Statements from national leaders will be available online at the Summit website (www.un.org/climatechange/2009summit).

The United Nations will offset participants’ travel by purchasing carbon emission credits from the Clean Development Mechanism, an innovative tool that directs investment in clean technologies to developing countries.  The Summit's emissions will be offset by investments in a project in a poor semi-arid region in Kolar District, Karnataka State, India, seeking to reduce deforestation and provide clean energy for cooking.

Contact Information

For more information on the Summit:
Dan Shepard, tel. +917-365-8362, email shepard@un.org or Martina Donlon, tel.: +212-963-6816

For more information on the Leadership Forum: 
Matthais Stausberg, Spokesperson, UN Global Compact, tel:  +1-917-214-1337 (cell), +1-917-367-3423 (office), stausberg@un.org

Information on the Summit is posted at www.un.org/climate change/2009summit.