The United Nation’s Climate Summit lasted just one day, but world leaders heard powerful messages from President Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

While it was conversation on a global level on Tuesday, the emphasis was on how to reduce gas emissions on local levels, from Boston to Beirut.
Gabriel Chan, 27, is a Ph.D student at Harvard in public policy, focusing on climate change and energy technology. But his daily efforts to cut his carbon footprint aren’t always inspired by his research.
“Recently, I changed my light bulbs to LED light bulbs.," Chan explained. "And that’s because my energy company sent me a letter that said I was way worse than all my neighbors. They gave me a little graph and said you’re doing badly. So, we switched all our light bulbs and this was the first month and now we’re better than our neighbors. But really it was motivated by saving money.”
Saving money and competition: the same motivators discussed by more than 120 heads of state this week. It’s the largest number of world leaders ever to attend a climate conference. And students like Chan believe reducing carbon and methane emissions will be both a grassroots and a diplomatic effort.
“The real way to build ambition, or the strategy global leaders have been proposing, has been to have countries inspire each other. To have them push each other to be more ambitious. For example, the US didn’t want to do anything unless China was going to do something that would put them in similar competitive positions,” Chan said.
The summit was not a formal negotiation between nations. That takes place later in Lima, Peru and in Paris. Chan’s professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Robert Stavins, was in New York. He’s helping leaders discuss an international agreement on carbon markets.
“Different countries in the world will propose their own action," Stavins said. "But their actions on their own will not be cost effective unless the countries are able to link together. That’s extremely important because if the cost is lower then the degree of ambition will be higher.”
It really does always come back to cost and competition and a sense of personal connection to climate change, Stavins said.
“None of us, no one in Boston, myself included, experiences and observes the climate. We observe the weather. And the weather varies tremendously.”
Weather, which UN scientists say will only get more extreme unless there are drastic reductions in gas emissions worldwide.