Although the heads of 125 states are gathering at UN Headquarters in New York today to discuss global commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, Stephen Harper will be elsewhere.
Instead Canada’s prime minister will arrive in New York in two days time to attend the UN’s Every Woman, Every Child event on September 25th.
The UN Climate Summit is intended to “galvanize and catalyze climate action” in advance of the Paris COP climate talks in 2015 where countries will form binding agreements to address global warming.
President Barack Obama will announce a new executive order today that directs all federal agencies to include climate concerns in international aid and development initiatives.
China’s president Xi Jinping, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and Australian prime minister Tony Abbott have also announced they will not attend the summit.
China announced vice premier Zhang Gaoli will attend in the president’s place and Canada will send environment minister Leona Aglukkaq in Harper’s stead.
China is the number one emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by the U.S. and India. Canada and Australia are eighth and fourteenth, respectively, according to data released by the European Commission.
In the lead up to the summit UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said “this is the time for decisive global action.”
“I have been pleased to see climate change rise on the political agenda and in the consciousness of people worldwide,” he said. “But I remain alarmed that governments and businesses have still failed to act at the pace and scale needed.”
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said the absence of a few world leaders will not affect the credibility or outcomes of the summit.
“This is not something that will stop on September 24,” Figueres said, adding, “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.”
On Sunday an estimated 400,000 people participated in what is being heralded as the largest climate march in history. Support for the People’s Climate March came from across many sectors of society, showing a growing climate concern from religious, youth, business and investment groups.
Figueres said that growing involvement in cross-sector climate action is also represented in climate summit participants.
“The inclusion of business at the summit and over the past few years is frankly a recognition that climate change is not a one person or one sector issue,” she said.
“It cannot be solved by one country, one sector or one level of government. Climate is an every-person issue, and it requires everyone to work collaboratively in order to reach the solutions to the level and at the speed we need to find.”
Recently prime ministers Harper and Abbott hosted a press conference in Canada where they criticized government actions to make polluters pay for carbon emissions.
At the press gathering Harper said, “No country is going to undertake actions on climate change, no matter what they say, no country is going to [take] actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country. We are just a little more frank about that, but that is the approach that every country is seeking.”