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Virtual leaders' climate summit announced at GEF Assembly

Released at: 17:01, 28/06/2018

Virtual leaders' climate summit announced at GEF Assembly

Photos: Viet Tuan

Carbon-free summit to be convened online on November 22.

by Doanh Doanh

Around 50 heads of government will hold the world's first-ever virtual summit to renew political momentum in tackling climate change, Ms. Hilda Heine, President of the Marshall Islands, announced at the opening of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly on June 27 in Da Nang.

The carbon-free summit, on November 22, will bring together leaders of the 48-nation Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which represents many of the countries most threatened by climate change. President Emmanuel Macron of France, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. of California, and Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF, were among leading international figures who immediately welcomed it.

The announcement was one of the highlights of an opening session that heard from heads of government and UN bodies, top business leaders, and scientists.

President Heine said the summit “will be convened entirely online as a 'Virtual Summit', showcasing our intentions to work in new and innovative ways and to build broader coalitions across society for the change we need.”

She added that her country - which played a leading role at the 2015 Paris climate summit - had committed to reduce its emissions by 32 per cent from 2010 levels and would bring forward a “new and more ambitious target” for 2030, “even though our contribution to global warming is infinitesimal.” It had also taken strong action to protect the ocean on which it relies.           

President Heine told the 1,200 delegates, including representatives from all of the GEF’s 183 member countries, that the Marshall Islands was grappling with “an existential threat in the face of the growing environmental crisis.” But she added that the Assembly was “an engine room of hope” and was “at the forefront of efforts to help overcome this crisis,” and that the GEFs expenditure over the years “constitutes perhaps the most impressive single contribution to safeguarding the environment.”           

“Thousands of protected areas have been created, the integrity of hundreds of millions of hectares of land safeguarded, and support made possible to critical watersheds around the world,” she explained. “The work of the GEF in supporting developing countries with nationally-led emission reduction efforts and protection for millions of people vulnerable to climate change has saved lives and improved our chances of survival. The GEF's contributions to addressing chemicals and pollutants played a pivotal role in paving the way for a recovery of the ozone layer.”    

“Our Earth, the common home of humankind, is suffering from severe impacts of environmental degradation and pollution, climate change, and rising sea levels,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told delegates. “As a result, all nations and peoples, with no exception, will have to face immeasurable consequences if we fail to come up with integrated solutions. Nevertheless, this enormous challenge also presents an opportunity for humankind to review and rethink the path and models of development, and, most importantly, is also an opportunity for us all to unite and realize the dream and aspirations of many generations, regardless of skin color and ethnicity, of a resilient, sustainable and life-affirming planet.”

He said the GEF “has been playing a significant role in addressing the great global environment and climate change challenges,” adding that “Vietnam is ready to work closely with you for sustainable development for current and future generations.”

Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Center, described research showing that Vietnam had done better than any other country in combining economic growth with environmental protection.        

Yet he warned that abrupt shifts in the world's climate were occurring earlier than had been expected. “We are now facing existential risks,” he added. “It is only by managing the global commons that we can sustain existing living standards.”

Held every four years, the GEF Assembly brings together environment ministers and other senior officials from all member countries, along with heads of UN agencies, regional development banks, civil society organizations, and business leaders, to share ideas, solutions and actions needed to protect the global environment.

Last month, close to 30 countries jointly pledged $4.1 billion to GEF for its new four-year investment cycle, (known as GEF-7), to better protect the future of the planet and human well-being.

The Assembly is taking place from June 27 to 28 at the Furama International Conference Center in Da Nang. 

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