The Climate Ambition Summit, convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, sought to accelerate action by governments, business, finance, local authorities, and civil society to support a just transition to a more equitable renewable-energy based, climate-resilient global economy. The Summit showcased “first mover and doer” leaders and included a special meeting on loss and damage finance.

Addressing the opening plenary, Guterres reminded delegates that “humanity has opened the gates of hell,” leaving current levels of climate action “dwarfed by the scale of the challenge.” He presented concrete action points proposed in his Climate Action Acceleration Agenda, including:

  • Phasing out coal by 2030 for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and by 2040 for all other countries; 
  • Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies;
  • Overhauling multilateral development banks (MDBs) to support climate action;
  • Replenishing the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and upholding the USD 100 billion climate finance commitment; and 
  • Operationalizing the loss and damage fund at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 28).

Participants then held high-level discussions on pathways towards accelerated climate action and increased ambition, addressing: credibility standards for net-zero commitments; adaptation and early warning systems; and industrial decarbonization and energy transition. During the closing segment, the rapporteurs of these thematic sessions shared key messages.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary report of the meeting notes that on credibility of net zero, rapporteur Laurence Tubiana, CEO, European Climate Foundation, said “greenwashing remains a distraction from real efforts, and noted calls for more action by authorities to ensure that transitions have scientific credibility.”

On adaptation and early warnings for all, rapporteur Seve Paeniu, Minister of Finance, Tuvalu, drew attention to “the first two partnerships formed to deliver adaptation finance and planning through the UN’s Adaptation Pipeline Accelerator,” and highlighted “joint commitments from regional development banks to support the development of early warning systems.”

On industrial decarbonization and energy transition, rapporteur Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA), said “clean energy is moving faster than many realize and highlighted emissions improvements in the power and transportation sectors.”

The event on loss and damage finance, ENB writes, provided a platform for discussions between representatives of MDBs, bilateral development finance institutions, global climate funds, insurance and risk financing institutions, foundations, and civil society. Speakers called for, inter alia: an effective fundraising campaign, using sovereign funds to unlock private capital, and leveraging innovative sources, notably through taxation; using a combination of needs- and performance-based criteria to develop a uniform approach to funding allocation; and clear and unified signals from shareholders.

In closing, Guterres urged all the climate “doers” to scale up action, bring people together, and “take no prisoners.”

The ENB analysis of the meeting notes that leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron, US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Chinese President Xi Jinping were notably absent at the Summit.

The Climate Ambition Summit took place during the UN General Assembly (UNGA) High-level Week in New York, US, on 20 September, immediately after the 2023 SDG Summit. [ENB Coverage of UN Summits Week 2023]