Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent
Issue Brief

Making the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit Count

An Opportunity for Credible Climate Leadership

Arunabha Ghosh
September 2014 | Low-Carbon Pathways

Suggested Citation: Arunabha Ghosh. 2014. Making the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit Count: An Opportunity for Credible Climate Leadership. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water.


This issue brief, published in collaboration with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) highlights potential roles that each participating country/member could play in making the UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) Summit count. It elaborates on the three objectives that UNSG’s climate summit should have had - giving heads of government a platform to lead on different themes, allowing for multiple small group deals and issue linkage, and managed well with the process being perceived as inclusive and legitimate.

Key Highlights

  • An effective climate agreement would offer opportunities to leverage the following growing demands: (1) from the poor for the access to basic services, (2) from the middle class for a better quality of life, and (3) from the upper strata for better returns on investments in technologies and new business opportunities.
  • It would provide a platform for heads of state to demonstrate their willingness to act on the issue on which they and their countries could deliver. Examples could include- China and India on renewable energy manufacturing and deployment; India, Kenya, Thailand and others on decentralised clean energy services; the United States and Japan on energy efficiency, etc.
  • Summit could set out a roadmap for action at scale rather than merely reporting and monitoring country-specific policies and registry of limited actions.
  • Leaders attending the summit must outline the key areas in which they would promote action, as a means to demonstrate their commitment and build trust by drawing in other partners.
  • China and India are well placed to position together as crucial nodes in an otherwise global supply chain of renewable energy products and services.
  • Germany could take the lead on the integration of renewable energy into the grid, given the vast capacity addition in that country and the large share of electricity being drawn from renewable sources.
  • Innovations in dozens of business models to deliver energy access in India could be applicable in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, parts of South America and even western China.
  • Global initiatives around sustainable cities offer the chance for provincial or city-level governments to collaborate on air and water pollution, with co-benefits for the climate.
  • Political leaders interested in levelling the playing field for renewable energy sources and reducing the fiscal burden of inefficient subsidies should rely on each other’s experiences.

UN summit could serve as the forum to forge cross-country collaborations and find opportunities for issue linkage. Heads of government could convene or participate in one or more small-N meetings to bring along other like-minded leaders.

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