Ban Ki-moon opens the climate summit. Credit: UN Photos

The recent UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in New York City has come out with the New York Declaration on Forests, which takes a firm stance on deforestation and repopulating the world’s forests. The declaration, which is endorsed by 27 countries, 8 subnational governments in Brazil and Peru, 34 companies, 16 indigenous groups, and 45 NGOs, has pledged to halve the rate of deforestation by 2020 and end forest loss by 2030. Estimates of carbon emissions such a pledge could prevent are between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons per year by 2030, equal to the output of the United States. “Forests are not only a critical part of the climate solution – the actions agreed today will reduce poverty, enhance food security, improve the rule of law, secure the rights of indigenous peoples and benefit communities around the world,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement.

Also included in the declaration were commitments for restoration of 150 hectares of degraded land and developing alternative sources for products contributing to deforestation. Recently, President Ollanta Humala of Peru announced a partnership with Norway and Germany to make the biodiverse South American country carbon neutral in terms of deforestation and agriculture by 2021. Norway has pledged up to $300 million if Peru can meet its goal with Germany pledging support during the transition to carbon neutral policies. This news comes three months before Peru hosts the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 20, where leaders will prepare a draft of the binding and universal agreement on climate from all countries to be adopted in Paris in 2015.

In addition to forests, the UN also gave its full support to carbon pricing, with Ban-Ki-moon saying, “there is no more powerful way to drive the market transformation we need.”

Of the 100 nations represented at the summit, many countries took strong stances in favor of climate change action, including China, the nation with the world’s highest carbon emissions. Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli pledged that China’s emissions would be reduced by 45% per unit of carbon compared with 2005 levels, while the European Union pledged to cut emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The United States, following an executive order signed by President Barrack Obama, is directing all federal agencies to, “begin factoring climate resilience into international development programs and investments.”

Among the many long-term promises by countries across the world, a few countries pledged more drastic changes. The Ethiopian president pledged that Ethiopia will have zero net emissions by 2025, while Costa Rica pledged 100% clean energy by 2016. Other countries were not so daring in their goals; Brazil pledged to submit a national climate adaption plan in 2015, while France committed $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund. Such pledges are well below the average but the number and strength of most country’s pledges, combined with the resolute Declaration on Forests, could be the beginning of further international climate mitigation efforts.