UN releases full list of the 125 world leaders who will be attending Climate Summit

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 3 minutes
13 September 2014

LONDON: The United Nations (UN) has published a list revealing the 125 countries which will be represented by their heads of state and government or deputies at the global Climate Summit in New York on September 23.

Hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Climate Summit takes place on the Tuesday of Climate Week NYC 2014, which is convened by The Climate Group and is the collaborative space for all related events in support of the Summit.

But until now, there was no official documentation detailing which countries were being represented by heads of state or their envoys, at the high-profile New York Summit.

With the world reaching record levels of CO2 pollution in 2013, it is crucial that many world leaders responsible for the biggest share of global emissions have confirmed their attendance, including US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

In fact, the list of heads of state and government or their deputies attending the morning session totals 125, a lofty number compared to the 36 countries sending ministers, who will instead gather for the afternoon session.

If this level of attendance is confirmed on September 23, the 2014 UN Climate Summit will become the largest leaders’ climate meeting ever organized, bringing together more heads of states and governments than the Copenhagen UNFCCC conference in 2009.

Big emitters

It had been no secret that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi were skipping the summit. According to the UN document, India and Canada will be represented by their environment ministers while Australia will send its foreign minister.

But as the world's biggest emitter, China's decision was long-awaited. It has now been confirmed Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli will attend as special envoy of President Xi Jinping, in the morning session. Chinese state media reported Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying as stating: "The Chinese side expects to join efforts with the international community to push for positive results in the summit, advance international cooperation on climate change, and contribute to addressing climate change." 

However, the absence of some heads of state will not impact the Summit's outcomes, according to UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. Speaking at a press briefing this week which was organized by The Climate Group to talk about We Mean Business - a pioneering business climate inititaive due to launch at Climate Week NYC - the UNFCCC Executive Secretary said: “I would not recommend we read too much into the person who is going to be speaking for the Chinese and India governments.

"The fact is that they had fully intended to be represented at the top level and for reasons that have nothing to do with the climate summit at the at the last minute they are not able to be there.”

Pathway to Paris

Ahead of the new global climate deal which is expected to be agreed at COP21 talks in Paris next year, countries are due to present their commitments to reduce emissions by March 2015, so it is unlikely many will do so at the Summit.

Leaders will deliver statements at the Summit though, which will give "some idea of how far we still have to go before the March commitments", UN climate envoy and former Irish president Mary Robinson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation this week. She said: "I hope it will be a good deal more ambitious (than previous announcements), and open the way for further understanding that we need pressure and urgency of real commitments."

We must also remember, as Christiana Figueres reiterated last week, that the UN Climate Summit is not an end-point but a critical moment in the 14-month progress toward shaping a global climate deal at COP21: “This is not something that will stop on September 24… rather what is important is the strength of commitments and action of all governments moving forward up and until we deliver a new universal agreement in Paris."

Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group is hopeful the active collaboration set to be showcased at the Summit and Climate Week NYC will be a harbinger of success next year. Writing for The Huffington Post last week, he said: "With little over a year to go until crucial climate talks in Paris in December 2015, I hope this week will show we've moved on from finding excuses not to act and arguing about whose approach is best, to working together and taking decisive action now."

For a full list of Climate Week NYC events, please visit ClimateWeekNYC.org and follow the conversation on Twitter using #CWNYC.

Find out more about We Mean Business ahead of the launch at Climate Week NYC, by joining our live Q&A at 4-5pm London time/11am-12pm New York time on Wednesday September 17, using hashtag #WeMeanIt.

You can also see our Climate Week NYC media resources for press releases, contacts and more info.

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