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‘The world is watching’: Leaders set to relaunch climate ambitions at next week’s UN summit

This “critical policy step” hopes to demonstrate a global desire for more ambitious climate action.

Next week, world leaders are due to meet in a bid to keep the Paris Agreement alive.


The Ambition Climate Summit will take place on September 20 after the heads of state and government meet for the general UN negotiations.

Following the release of Global assessment – the first global “report” on climate change – it is clear that some countries are not respecting their commitments. This summit hopes to kick off action on ambitious new commitments, turning words into action.

In the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “the world is watching – and the planet cannot wait.”

What is on the table at the Climate Ambition Summit?

The UN says the Climate Ambition Summit represents a “crucial political step” in demonstrating a collective will to accelerate efforts to keep global warming to 1.5°C.

This follows a call from Guterres for countries – particularly G20 members – to cooperate to accelerate climate action. The to-do list includes discussing the best way to move from fossil fuels towards clean energy, rapid emissions reductions and a commitment to science-based action.

The three key pillars of the summit are ambition, credibility and implementation.

Climate justice is another priority topic on the agenda. While people in countries least responsible for the climate crisis suffer the most from its consequences, they need help to adapt and recover from loss and damage.

At the recent African Climate Summit, African heads of state unanimously called for a global carbon tax to finance resources for the poorest countries. And – with this position informing their negotiations at COP28 in Dubai later this year – where the money for losses and damages will come from is likely to be a big talking point.

The credibility of net zero emissions promises is also on the agenda. Countries were asked to take “concrete and clearly defined steps” to reach net zero faster – as close as possible to 2040 for developed countries and 2050 for emerging countries.

But what constitutes a credible commitment to net zero emissions? How can the world ensure that voluntary commitments actually come to fruition? And how to avoid greenwashing? The summit hopes that some of the most ambitious business, city and regional leaders can show the way for others.

Who will be present at the Ambition Climate Summit?

Guterres called on world leaders to attend the Climate Ambition Summit to hear from “first movers and shakers” from government, civil society, local authorities, finance and business.


It will highlight leaders who responded to his call for accelerated action. This means those who have “gullible, serious and new climate action and nature-based solutions that will move the needle and address the urgency of the climate crisis,” the Secretary-General said.

Leaders and heads of state from the world’s largest economies, including US President Joe Biden, are likely to attend, but some have already confirmed they will not attend, such as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

He will be the country’s first prime minister in a decade to avoid the UN General Assembly. Some suggest that the UK’s recent decision to approve new oil and gas fields in the North Sea and its wavering commitments to its Paris Agreement commitments could mean it is not welcome to take part in the discussions.

Although other members of the British Government will be there, campaigners from civil society group #StopRosebank described Sunak’s decision as “frankly embarrassing”.

Some have also questioned the inclusion of leaders of the world’s most polluting countries, saying their participation undermines the summit’s ambition. But it remains to be seen whether Guterres chooses to exclude countries that are not on track to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement.


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