What you need to know about the One Planet climate summit

United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May attends the One Planet Summit in Paris. Photo by: Number 10 / CC BY-NC-ND

PARIS — “We shouldn’t deceive ourselves,” French President Emmanuel Macron told heads of state, chief executives and development leaders at his One Planet climate summit this week. “We’re having a good time, everything seems fantastic because we’re getting together …” But when it comes to keeping the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius, as required by the Paris Agreement on climate change two years ago, Macron said, “we are in the process of losing the battle.”

Tuesday’s summit, co-hosted by France, the World Bank, and the United Nations, brought together banks, sovereign wealth funds, philanthropists and NGOs with dozens of world leaders from countries including Iraq, Mali, and Mexico, as well as the United Kingdom and Spain. Their mission: Find the necessary public and private investments to bridge the gap between current commitments and what is needed to stay below a 2-degrees temperature rise and avoid catastrophic climate change. The European Commission estimates that figure at 179 billion euros per year.

Should rising temperatures go unchecked, Macron said gesturing to the leaders sitting behind him, “in 50, 60 or 100 years, there are five, 10 or 15 who quite simply will no longer be there.”

The gathering was not part of the official Conference of Parties negotiations on climate change, the 23rd edition of which wrapped in Bonn, Germany, last month. Rather, Laurence Tubiana, chief executive officer of the European Climate Foundation, told AFP it was intended as a “mobilisation of those who want to go faster.”

Actors Sean Penn and Marion Cotillard sat alongside billionaire philanthropists Sir Richard Branson and Bill Gates. Scandinavian prime ministers loitered in the conference hallways. Later, a selfie-thirsty throng followed Arnold Schwarzenegger to the coffee shop.

Macron spoke of the need to unite as many public and private sector players as possible, “because it’s not one person in one country who changes things.”

He might have been talking about himself, or Donald Trump.

The United States president’s decision to quit the Paris Agreement appeared to have a galvanising effect on the climate movement. Businessman and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg said, “I think we owe President Trump a bit of gratitude for helping us meet our climate goals.”

The U.S. government was represented at the summit by Brent Hardt, the second-highest diplomat in the U.S. embassy in Paris, as AFP reported.

But Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York, was there to promote America’s Pledge, the effort by U.S. states and cities to implement the Paris accord, as well as the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure, whose recommendations on what information companies should publish now has more than 230 backers.

He said Trump’s move had “helped rally people who understand the problem to join forces and to actually do something, rather than waiting for our federal government to do something.”

On Monday, Macron announced research grants for 18 climate scientists, including 13 from the U.S., to move to France to continue their work.

The 39-year-old president arrived at the summit the next day to cheers, after traveling to the venue, an island on the Seine river formerly home to a Renault car factory, on a cruise boat with celebrities and other leaders.

After a day of panel discussions, press conferences and funding announcements, the organisers released a list of 12 commitments to step up financing for climate adaptation and resilience.

Not everyone was satisfied.

Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change for ActionAid International, took Macron to task for raising and then dashing expectations that he would announce more public money to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

“While action by businesses is needed, governments need reminding that they can’t fix climate change by giving up their responsibilities, and letting business dictate the entire climate agenda,” Singh said.

Meanwhile, some “announcements,” such as the European Commission’s plan to support climate-friendly investments under its External Investment Plan, were mostly existing plans repackaged for the event. The Commission also committed $318 million between 2018 and 2020 to better protect smallholder farmers’ crops against rising temperatures, droughts and floods, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The World Bank won praise from NGOs for its pledge to quit upstream oil and gas projects after 2019, a commitment they had been calling on for years. French insurer AXA and Dutch bank ING also pledged to accelerate their divestment from fossil fuels.

A Banktrack report found that “between January 2014 and September 2017, the global banking sector provided and mobilised financing in excess of $600 billion for the top 120 coal plant developers, via lending and underwriting.” NGOs have long urged policymakers not to ignore this.

The board of the European Investment Bank said Tuesday it needed to look more closely at whether to grant a 1.5 billion euro ($1.77 billion) loan to support the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, a gas project linking Azerbaijan to Europe.

Here are the other major announcements from the summit:

► U.K. pledges 140 million British pounds ($187.9 million) to help the world’s poorest address the effects of climate change

The commitment by United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May is designed to help 2 million more of those who are disproportionately affected by climate change, such as through deforestation or vulnerability to natural disasters. It includes 30 million pounds ($40.2 million) through the Department of International Development’s Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters program.

► Sustainable Finance Facilities — a collaboration between UNEP and BNP Paribas

The U.N. Environment Programme and BNP Paribas will work to find commercial projects with measurable environmental and social impact, under a memorandum of understanding signed in Paris. They are aiming to provide $10 billion in capital funding by 2025 in developing countries, with a focus on renewable energy access, agroforestry, water access, and responsible agriculture.

► A ‘climate-smart zone’ in the Caribbean

Caribbean leaders announced the launch of a public-private coalition to create a "climate-smart zone."

Around $4 billion has already been raised for new, green investment and financial instruments, as part of a partnership between 11 CARICOM, or Caribbean Community, countries and regional and international organizations, businesses, and foundations.

Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of Grenada, and chair of CARICOM, welcomed the financial commitments, which amount to “around $1.3 billion for recovery efforts and $2.8 billion toward the vision shared by all members of the coalition and others.”

► Hewlett Foundation’s $600 million for climate change nonprofits

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation pledged $600 million over five years to nonprofits around the world who are working on solving climate change.

The foundation said its donations would focus on big emitting regions, the U.S, China, India, and Europe. It wants to support organisations that conduct scientific research and policy analysis; offer policymakers technical expertise on energy systems and transitions; advocate for communities; and promote private-public partnerships to achieve energy goals. It also wants to convene best practice and expertise-sharing networks.

Green cities climate finance accelerator

Launched together with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will provide over $500 million in “first mover” financing to drive climate action in up to 60 cities. The EBRD money is designed to leverage additional third party contributions for city projects worth a total of $1.5 billion.

► Development banks agree to align financial flows with Paris Agreement

Finally, some 23 national and regional development banks from the International Development Finance Club, including Brazil, China, France and Germany, agreed a joint declaration with multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, to prioritise investments in alternatives to fossil fuels.

The declaration includes a commitment to work on “a common framework for tracking progress towards achieving resilience, to be shared by COP24,” the Conference of Parties meeting in Katowice, Poland, in 2018.

Rémy Rioux, president of the IDFC and director general of the French Development Bank (AFD), told the website La Croix that following a commitment made by the bank 10 years ago, 50 percent of the projects it supports today have a climate benefit. Rioux said that, by contrast, the figure for the World Bank is around 22 percent.

The IDFC, which includes the biggest national and regional development banks from countries including China, Colombia, Germany, and France, released figures Monday showing that its members had supported $160 billion in climate-related projects last year, up $30 billion from 2015.

Update, Dec. 14: This story was amended to clarify that members of the IDFC include Brazil, China, France and Germany

About the author

  • Vince Chadwick

    Vince Chadwick is the Brussels Correspondent for Devex. He covers the EU institutions, member states, and European civil society. A law graduate from Melbourne, Australia, he was social affairs reporter for The Age newspaper, before moving to Europe in 2013. He covered breaking news, the arts and public policy across the continent, including as a reporter and editor at POLITICO Europe.