UN Official: Washington DC Climate Summit Proof of “Race to The Top”

Robert Orr, assistant UN secretary-general. Photo: University of Maryland
Robert Orr, assistant UN secretary-general. Photo: University of Maryland

Following the historic Paris Agreement signing, an unprecedented Climate Action summit brings together global leaders from government, business and civil society on 5 and 6 May in Washington DC.

Implementing the Paris Agreement is going to require “all hands on deck,” assistant UN secretary-general Robert Orr told journalists on a conference call organised ahead of the event organised by the World Resources Institute.

It is the first agreement of its kind, he said, and will need global coordination in order to implement it. This includes the private sector, Orr stressed, who called the Climate Action summit “unprecedented.”

The national governments that have signed on to the Paris Agreement will need the support of international organisations, the private sector and civil society, Orr said.

Can The US Deliver?

That summit takes place in DC is something that Orr calls “significant.” He expects a major question the world is asking at the moment, namely “can the US deliver,” will be answered during the summit.

Orr believes political opposition to climate action in the U.S. is waning, “the once unthinkable has become inevitable,” he said, citing the broad coalitions of businesses and financial institutions attending the summit.

Ahead of the summit in Washington DC, European politicians highlighted the need for a strong transatlantic partnership to ensure the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement.

But the breadth of the coalitions at the Climate Action summit demonstrate that even since the negotiations in Paris – a little over four months ago – there has been a huge amount of progress in terms of climate action on the ground, Orr said.

Stay in Your Lanes Approach

Organisations are already taking action in their own sectors, Orr said. But he emphasised that a “stay in your lanes approach will not get the job done.”

That’s why this gathering is so significant, we are witnessing a “race to the top,” he said, “this is not an end point.” The coalitions attending the summit will not just be “going back to their barracks.”

Orr expects that at the UN climate change summit COP22 in Marrakesh, which will take place in November, many of the examples of climate action that will come to light at the Washington DC event will be “mainstreamed” into new agreements.

China could organise the next Climate Action summit as part of its G20 presidency this year, Orr revealed. The fact that the world’s two biggest emitters hold global meetings of this magnitude just months after the Paris Agreement is significant, he said, signalling high hopes that the agreement will be implement soon.

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