World leaders meeting at the United Nations Climate Summit pledged $2.3 billion on Tuesday for a new fund aimed at helping developing nations confront the potentially devastating effects of rising temperatures.
France and Germany pledged $1 billion each to the Green Climate Fund, which aims to raise $10 billion by the end of the year and $100 billion annually by 2020, but the pledges so far have remained well short of the fund’s goals.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the closing session of the summit he called to build momentum for a global climate deal next year in Paris, said other countries had promised to add their contributions by November.
“Let us look back on today as the day we decided – as a human family – to put our house in order to make it liveable for future generations,” Ban said.
Small island nations fear that climate change will literally wipe them off the map as sea levels rise, turning their populations into environmental refugees.
“Tuvalu’s future is in your hands. The time for denial, for hesitation, for pandering to the interests of the fossil fuel industry is over,” said the Pacific island’s prime minister, Enele Sosene Sopoaga.
US President Barack Obama said that the “urgent and growing threat of climate change” would ultimately “define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other” issue.
“We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm. We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change,” Obama said.
Obama called for an “ambitious” but also “flexible” agreement – a nod to the political difficulties he would face from Republicans if he were to ask Congress to ratify a treaty.
Developing nations have long balked at signing a binding accord without firm US commitments, noting that it is wealthy, developed countries that have contributed the most to climate change.
Obama said he met in New York with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, telling him that the world’s two largest economies “have a special responsibility to lead” on climate change.
Zhang said that China, which has surpassed the United States as the world’s top carbon polluter, wanted its emissions to peak as soon as possible.
He was not more specific, but senior official Xie Zhenhua told reporters that China was making good on reductions in carbon emissions and would announce a prediction of when its emissions would peak early next year.
The talks were the first such event since the 2009 Copenhagen summit on climate change ended in disarray and aims to set the tone for a 2015 conference in Paris aimed at sealing a new global agreement.
French President François Hollande warned that climate change posed a “threat to world peace and security” and said the Paris conference should deliver a “global and ambitious” deal next year.