ClimateWire's Friedman previews N.Y. climate summit meeting

As the world's leaders head to New York City next week for the United Nations' climate summit, how will the meeting advance the discussion toward the next binding treaty, which is slated to be signed in Paris next year? On today's The Cutting Edge, ClimateWire deputy editor Lisa Friedman gives details on who is expected to attend the meeting and the role the United States could play in the discussions.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. The world's leaders are heading to New York City next week for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's climate summit. ClimateWire's Lisa Friedman joins me with a preview of what we can expect. Lisa, it's being dubbed "Climate Week" beginning with a climate march on Sunday. The secretary general is expected to attend. What's on tap for this important week in climate discussions?

Lisa Friedman: Thanks, Monica. Next week is a doozy for climate change, beginning, as you mentioned, on Sunday with the climate march. Ban Ki-moon will be, as he said, linking arms with activists. Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC chief, will be marching. World Bank officials will be marching, which could surprise some, and I've seen tweets from a number of celebrities, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Rock, so there could be some celebrities out in force, too.

It'll bleed into Monday, which will be the official opening of Climate Week, which is the sort of umbrella name given to the ream of events, everything from gatherings of business leaders to call for carbon pricing, which we can touch on in a bit, and to meetings of island leaders who're pushing for more renewable energy development. The big event will be on the 23rd. That will be the Ban Ki-moon formal leader summit, where 125 heads of state at least will gather on climate change.

Monica Trauzzi: The summit's goals, though, have shifted significantly since Ban Ki-moon first announced it. How significant will the summit be in advancing the conversation towards that next binding treaty that's expected to be signed in Paris?

Lisa Friedman: Any conversation you have with U.N. officials will begin with them telling you that this is not a negotiating session, that what's happening in New York is not part of the formal negotiations that diplomats and countries hope will culminate in Paris at the end of 2015 in a new international agreement. On the other hand, it is, of course, intimately tied to the negotiations heading towards Paris. On the one hand, they certainly don't want to, as one U.N. official said yesterday, import all of the sort of ugly dynamics of the negotiations into this process. They want this to be a time for building momentum and driving action. On the other hand, there will be a real hope that this can provide some specifics that can be folded into a Paris agreement.

You mentioned some shifting goalposts, and there have been. When this event was initially envisioned, there was a clear hope that this would be the place where countries would put on the table the targets, the post-2020 targets that they hoped to enfold into the Paris agreement. The U.S. has put the kibosh on that at the last negotiating session in Warsaw. The U.S. pushed for the first quarter of 2015 to be the formal date when countries put their cards on the table, a date that is well after the midterm elections, unlike the summit. So once you had that in place, once you had somewhat of an understanding that the U.S. was not going to put their post-2020 targets forward at this summit, things shifted a bit. You probably won't see big targets from countries at this, but leaders do want to see real momentum towards an agreement.

Monica Trauzzi: So then what is the U.S. going to deliver at this meeting?

Lisa Friedman: That's a great question. A lot of people have big hope for Obama, who will be there at this summit. The U.S., I'm told, believes it has a good story to tell, perhaps for the first time in a major international climate agreement. We all remember in Copenhagen, the White House thought Copenhagen went very well. The rest of the world didn't. At this summit, the White House is expected, the president is expected to talk about the EPA regulations, what the U.S. is doing to make sure that it meets its Copenhagen targets of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and what it plans to do going forward. A lot of people will be looking to see if Obama tells the world that, yes, the United States will put its targets on the table early next year.

Monica Trauzzi: So, dozens of noteworthy attendees, but it's also noteworthy who won't be there. So who's not expected to attend?

Lisa Friedman: The president of China, the prime minister of India, most notably, won't be there. Again, this is a place where goals have shifted a bit. The U.N. now says that the measure of success for the leader summit is not necessarily which leaders will be at the summit but rather what they deliver. If that's now the case, then the question will be: What will China bring to the table? The vice premier will be here. U.N. officials say that he is, indeed, the right man for this job on the 23rd, very senior official who can speak to what China's doing and what it plans to do. India's sending an environment minister, lower-level. We'll see what India chooses to say.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, Lisa. We'll look for your reporting from New York starting next week. Thank you for coming on the show.

Lisa Friedman: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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