UN climate summit starts in New York but the long-term forecast is cloudy

Leaders of China and India will be notable absences at the talks

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The planet will be drowned in love and good intentions at the United Nations today when leaders from around the world gather for a climate summit that will attempt to lend fresh impetus to global negotiations for a long-term plan to lower the emissions that cause global warming.

While something of a circus frenzy will take hold at UN headquarters – national leaders, who will include David Cameron and President Barack Obama, haven’t come together in such numbers to discuss the climate crisis in five years – little is likely to be achieved to overcome intractable divisions on the best way forward. Notably absent from the talks will be the leaders of China and India.

Security is tight. Patrol boats circle in the East River and a marquee has been erected in the driveway to deprive possible snipers of a clear sight of world leaders as they emerge from their limousines.

The necessarily bloated proceedings – so numerous that the summit will actually be two summits held in parallel in side-by-side conference rooms – will open against a background of popular global warming marches in New York and London last weekend and an unveiling by the World Bank last night of a new coalition of nations and companies backing pricing carbon emissions as a means of curbing them.


Those joining the “Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition” included the EU, China and companies such as IAG and EDF of France. “Governments representing almost half of the world’s population and 52 per cent of global GDP have thrown their weight behind a price on carbon as a necessary, if insufficient, solution to climate change and a step on the path to low carbon growth,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

But carbon pricing is still not supported by the US Congress and, even if some giddiness creeps into the summit today, it isn’t clear it will translate into faster progress in the efforts to negotiate a new global pact to the replace the flawed Kyoto treaty which is meant to be concluded in Paris at the end of next year.