16 July 2019
Abu Dhabi Meeting Takes Stock of Progress Ahead of UN Climate Action Summit
Photo credit: Anastasia Palagutina/Unsplash
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The meeting consisted of Leaders’ Roundtable meetings, parallel meetings of the nine Summit coalitions, and four synergies sessions.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said keeping the global average temperature rise to below 1.5°C above preindustrial levels will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in how land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities are managed.

1 July 2019: The Abu Dhabi Preparatory Meeting for the UN Secretary General’s UN Climate Action Summit brought together representatives from government, business, local authorities, civil society, the UN system and youth to take stock of progress ahead of the Summit. The meeting assessed progress across the Summit’s nine action areas, and identified and developed proposals for initiatives for announcement at the Summit.

The meeting, hosted by Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 30 June to 1 July 2019, consisted of Leaders’ Roundtable meetings, parallel meetings of the nine Summit coalitions, and four synergies sessions.

Addressing the meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said keeping the global average temperature rise to below 1.5°C above preindustrial levels will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in how land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities are managed. He called on governments and private sector leaders to present, at the Summit or by December 2020 at the latest, plans to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Guterres called for, inter alia: imposing a carbon tax; eliminating fossil fuel subsidies; halting the building of new coal plants by 2020; new climate-smart and climate-friendly infrastructure; and providing sustainable, clean and affordable energy for the more than 800 million people living without access to power. He underscored the importance of climate financing for both adaptation and mitigation, and urged investors to scale up green ventures, increase lending for low-carbon solutions and stop financing pollution.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed expressed hope that the synergies sessions would enable working across tracks to strengthen proposals, identify gaps and foster deeper collaboration with other partners. She said 2019 was a defining year for climate change and for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, lamenting that “we are not on track” to meet climate and sustainable development objectives.

Four leaders’ roundtables convened during the meeting. During the Ambition Leaders’ Roundtable, participants: highlighted the need to raise ambition; shared plans for implementation and enhancement of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); and urged collaboration with the private sector to accelerate action. They raised concerns regarding access to climate finance, called on developed countries to meet the USD 100 billion annual commitment by 2020, and stressed the importance of successful Green Climate Fund (GCF) replenishment.

The Leaders’ Roundtable on NDC Enhancement focused on many of the same issues as the Ambition Roundtable, and emphasized that the Climate Summit will provide an opportunity to demonstrate increased ambition.

The Leaders’ Roundtable on Energy Transition for Climate Action discussed, inter alia: the need for national policies that support the energy transition, taking into account a just transition; the private sector’s role, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors through renewables and energy efficiency; support for developing countries’ transition; and cost efficiency and availability of low-carbon energy technologies.

The Health and Climate Change Ministerial Meeting emphasized that clean energy and sustainable transport systems will reduce carbon emissions as well as decrease air pollution. Many ministers called for stronger action on the climate-health nexus.

The coalitions for the Summit’s nine action areas held meetings on 30 June. The Youth Engagement and Public Mobilization coalition discussed planned Summit outcomes, including the Youth Climate Summit on 21 September, the establishment of the African Youth Climate Hub, the Sustainable Gaming Alliance and a pledge by national governments to include young people in climate policy development and implementation.

The Social and Political Drivers coalition discussed initiatives related to, among others: aligning air quality and climate change policies; financing resilient health systems; the development of national plans for a just transition; and the private sector ensuring decent, quality jobs. Discussions also focused on financing to enable women-led initiatives to address climate change, and an initiative on heritage sites and climate change. The coalition is finalizing a proposal for gender equality and climate change. The SDG Knowledge Hub story on the coalition’s call to action proposing health commitments for national and local governments and health commitments on finance is here.

The Mitigation Strategy coalition stressed, among other things: the untapped potential of energy, industry and nature-based solutions to increase mitigation ambition; the complementarity between NDCs and long-term strategies in the transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient pathways; and integrating the process of updating NDCs and preparing long-term strategies into domestic development planning.

The Resilience and Adaptation coalition discussed initiatives on: mainstreaming adaptation and resilience considerations into planning and decision making, particularly investments; disaster risk reduction (DRR); and the food, agriculture and water nexus. Participants also stressed the importance of adequate and sustainable finance to implement proposed initiatives.

The Nature-based Solutions coalition discussed possible commitments on: mainstreaming nature-based solutions in the sustainable development agenda through climate policy-related instruments; strengthening finance pathways to bring investments to scale for nature-based solutions; and scaling up nature-based solutions to increase climate action for resilience and adaptation.

The Energy Transition coalition was presented with five initiatives on cooling, shipping, energy efficiency, batteries and a climate investment platform to enhance NDCs.

The Industry Transition coalition discussed ways to enable ambitious announcements from heavy industry at the Climate Action Summit. The coalition’s planned outcome is a commitment from a group of heavy industry CEOs to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and a call to action to the rest of the sector. Discussions also focused on a potential announcement of an industry transition leadership coalition to share lessons learned and best practices on innovation, technology and policy.

The Infrastructure, Cities and Local Action coalition discussed planned Summit outcomes, including initiatives on: zero-net-emission buildings by 2050; zero-emission vehicles; building the resilience of 600 million slum dwellers; and accelerating, upscaling and leveraging climate finance for cities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Coalition members also discussed a partnership between national and local governments on spatial/urban planning to “unleash the power of cities” to carry out the economic and social transformation.

The Climate Finance and Carbon Pricing coalition highlighted, inter alia: systemic issues of the financial sector, including regulatory, credit and debt matters; the fact that real economic opportunities are not fully visible; the need to further scale up the provision of public climate finance; and the challenge of effectively accessing and channeling climate finance.

Four synergies sessions were organized on 1 July. The session on ‘Transitioning Away From Coal Towards Renewable Energy’ discussed the UN Secretary-General’s call to halt the building of new coal-fired power plants by 2020, with those further ahead in the transition sharing best practices and challenges. The session also addressed: social and political drivers, such as the creation of green and fair jobs, and gender as components of the transition; the business case for energy-intensive industries and hard-to-abate sectors to transition away from fossil fuels; availability of financing for the industry transition; and the need for an ambitious policy framework to ensure a just transition towards renewable energy. Participants were invited to join the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform.

The session on ‘Building a Resilient and Carbon-neutral World, Leaving No One Behind, With a Focus on Islands and Least Developed Countries’ brought together six of the nine coalitions. The meeting’s sub-sessions focused on: living in a resilient and carbon neutral world; ensuring sustainable livelihoods; and enabling action through finance, social and political drivers, and public mobilization. The session addressed the importance of: people-centered action to curb emissions and build resilience in small island developing States (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs); stronger governance, citizen mobilization, increased access to finance, and increased support to SIDS and LDCs to absorb more resources to further enable actions; and a rights-centered approach to ensure those affected by climate change are not “undermined by activities in the name of climate action.”

The session on ‘Decarbonized and Resilient Infrastructure, Cities and Transport’ identified synergies with: the Energy Transition coalition, on initiatives related to energy efficiency and cooling and on carbon-free transport with initiatives related to shipping; the Industry Transition coalition, on initiatives related to cement and the steel industry that could address the building sector’s carbon footprint and on transport with initiatives related to trucks; the Social and Political Drivers coalition, on the initiative on air quality; and the Nature-based Solutions coalition, on solutions to include more nature in the urban environment.

The session on ‘Finance and Carbon Pricing’ enabled a more in-depth discussion of this action area, including on: ensuring that multilateral development banks (MDBs) align their financial flows with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change; and ensuring private finance alignment with the Paris Agreement. [Abu Dhabi Climate Action Summit Preparatory Meeting Summary of Discussions] [UN Press Release] [UNFCCC Press Release] [UN Secretary-General’s Remarks] [UN Deputy Secretary-General’s Remarks] [Abu Dhabi Preparatory Meeting Website] [UAE Host Country Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Agendas for Abu Dhabi Meeting]

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