New York City gears up for a busy week on climate, poverty, health pandemics, nuclear disarmament and conflict and peace negotiations. Over 100 world leaders from Russia, China, India, Iran and other developed and developing nations will gather at the UN’s Climate Summit and General Assembly, the Clinton Global Initiative and other smaller forums organized throughout the city. The climate debate is at the top of the agenda and industrialized leaders will travel to Pittsburgh at the end of the week where the G-20 will gather to discuss a plan to combat global warming ahead of a major international climate conference in Copenhagen in December.
Making your way through town, one can feel a buzz in the air–anti-Ahmadinejad and Qaddafi protests are rampant, as are tabloid papers masking themselves as the New York Post with headlines “We’re Screwed. What you’re not being told: Official City report predicts massive climate catastrophes, public health disasters.”
To add to the inflamed excitement, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a lead organizer of Climate Week NY failed to show up at his city’s climate opening ceremony. But other notables took the reign including former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair who’s climate group launched a report today entitled”Breaking the Climate Deadlock: Cutting the Cost.”
The report outlines the economic benefits for countries that go green and reduce carbon emissions. The findings indicate that if a deal is reached at the global Copenhagen climate conference in December, cutting emissions could potentially create as many as 10 million new jobs in 2020 and thus generate additional economic growth via the adoption of low carbon technologies that accelerate sustainable development in developing countries.
“This is more difficult that all the negotiations where I have been involved including the Middle East peace process and NATO,” Blair added. “However, there is a way — we must distinguish short term and long term targets. 2020 is a long way ahead. The enormous cost savings that can be achieved if countries act together are striking.”
CEO of the Climate Group, Steve Howard, summarized: “Climate Week is a partnership to see how we can come up with a successful deal in Copenhagen–but there is a lot of lifting to be done.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, said he wanted to ask Mayor Bloomberg to begin calling New York the “Big Green Apple.”
Celebrity actor Hugh Jackman also joined the opening ceremony and shared his “going green” experiences based on a recent trip to Ethiopia. Todd Stern, United States Special Envoy for Climate Change and the Administrator’s chief negotiator said he was hopeful Obama would go to Copenhagen with or without a Senate approved climate bill.
Representatives from China and India also commemorated the day–both recently lauded for implementing effective national plans to boost green energy. The word is also out that China plans to unveil an ambitious energy conservation plan tomorrow at the UN Climate Summit. According to Yves de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who met with reporters earlier this morning, “Everyone knows about the one or two power plants China opens up every week, but nobody knows that China is also closing one or two power plants every week as well.” De Boer added “China doesn’t need anybody’s money, but they want to cooperate on clean technology.”
Nevertheless, de Boer believes “Obama is doing his darndest. But the international community is saying, what is the United States doing in all of this? Why has the protocol son not joined the international community?”
Many international skeptics have criticized the United States for being the world’s biggest polluter per capita, and at the same time, being slow to approve the Markey-Waxman bill and other climate change initiatives –when other countries have sped far ahead on this agenda.
Across town, at the Natural History Museum in New York’s Upper West Side, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) including Cape Verde, Grenada, Nauru, Maldives and Trinidad, got together to talk about the “murder” being committed by industrialized nations on small islands. Lead organizer, President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives said “Climate Change is already delivering damage not of our making. Should we, leaders of the most vulnerable and exposed countries, be asking our people to sign onto significantly greater degrees of misery and livelihood insecurity, essentially becoming climate change guinea pigs?”
AOSIS is calling on industrialized nations to demand a global warming limit in Copenhagen and to cut emissions by 45% by 2020. The Alliance group is also asking for global temperature increases to be well below 1.5 degrees C in order to ensure the survival of small and low lying islands and their inhabitants. Many smaller islands are disappearing leaving residents homeless due to rising water levels caused by melting polar ice caps and global warming.