UN official: New York climate summit a 'major turning point'

The United Nations climate summit in New York is expected to be a "major turning point" for negotiations on an international pact to address global warming, according to officials organizing the event.

Selwin Hart, director of the U.N. climate team under Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, said on call with reporters Monday that the summit "will be a major turning point in the way the world is approaching climate change," and is meant to put the issue "back on top of the international agenda."

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Over 100 heads of state and government leaders, including President Obama, are expected to attend the summit on Sept. 23.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be notably absent from the event.

When asked if those leaders' absence would hurt the summit and undermine any hopes of having meaningful talks amongst the world's greatest emitters before a 2015 meeting in Paris, Hart said no.

"We have no doubt about the commitment of those countries to take climate action," Hart said of China and India.

China is the world's greatest emitter of greenhouse gases and India is third, right behind the U.S.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a staunch supporter of climate change policies, said it would be a "mistake to read into the absence of the president of China," noting the country's efforts to curb air pollution in its cities.

The U.N.'s Hart also stressed that the summit was not a negotiating session, but is meant to provide leaders with an opportunity to make key announcements and share steps their countries have taken to mitigate climate change.

The talks are expected to build momentum in the next 15 months leading to the Paris conference, where countries will work to seal the deal on the global climate change pact.

"The countries will be represented at high levels and we expect them to make high-quality announcements," Hart said of the September summit.

World Bank special envoy on climate change Rachel Kyte said the summit has already been successful in getting the attention of over 100 government leaders, adding that the representatives from China will be the most senior officials to attend a climate talk since the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference.

When asked how many U.S. companies support putting a price on carbon, Kyte responded a "significant number" that "extend across most sectors of the economy." 

The World Bank won't release the list of companies that will be represented at the talks, which Kyte said includes Fortune 500 and smaller businesses, until right before the summit.