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U.N. climate change summit: Now we're getting serious, says World Bank President

Bernice Napach

The largest gathering of world leaders ever to combat climate change is taking place today in New York at the U.N.—two days after thousands marched in cities around the world demanding action.

Related: Climate change protests meet fossil fuel realities

The leaders of China and India, which are among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, are not attending the summit, but China did sign a statement supporting policies that would put a price tag on carbon emissions, along with 73 countries and more than 1,000 businesses.

The U.S., home to the U.N., is represented at today’s summit, but it did not support the carbon pricing statement. President Obama, however, addressed the summit, saying that climate change will define this century more than any other issue and that the U.S. was ready to lead a new set of global climate change negotiations. He also called on “all major economies” to curb emissions.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is optimistic about the latest global response to climate change. “There’s a seriousness around this issue… we’ve never seen before,” Kim tells Yahoo Finance's Bianna Golodryga, in an exclusive interview.

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“We had no idea when we started this statement whether anyone would sign on, so we’ve been really encouraged.” The countries, regions — including seven U.S. states — and companies that signed onto the statement account for 52% of global GDP, 54% of the global greenhouse gas emissions and almost half the world’s population, says Kim.

Could this be the turning point in the fight against climate change that environmentalists and others have been waiting for or just more talk?

Kim is hopeful and says the World Bank, is “going to do everything we can to make it happen.”

For starters, Kim wants countries to end carbon fuel subsidies, which he says is “the exact wrong thing to do." Instead, Kim says, "We need to get rid of them and begin investing in those things that will reduce the carbon that’s we’re putting in the air and will spur forward things like renewable agency."

According to the latest data from the International Energy Agency, global fuel subsidies reached $544 billion in 2012 – more than five times the total subsidies for renewable energy.

Kim's hope is that today’s U.N. summit will help build momentum for the 2015 International Climate Change Conference in Paris, where world leaders could decide whether to sign a new legally-binding agreement for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

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