Lack of climate action ambition from governments balanced by pivotal non-state actors

Non-state actors made a number of pledges and a call to action at the San Francisco summit. [Global Climate Action]

San Francisco’s Global Climate Action Summit ended on 14 September with non-state actors sending a call to action to governments ahead of the crucial COP24 in December, while highlighting their pivotal role in reducing emissions and reaching climate targets. 

From 12-14 September, over 4,500 local, regional and business leaders gathered on the east coast of the US for the Global Climate Action Summit convened by California Governor Jerry Brown.

The aim of the summit was to foster bold climate action among non-state actors against the backdrop of national plans that are currently unable to meet the Paris Agreement target of keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius, and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees.  

“The climate crisis calls for urgent action. We have seen the human impact on health, disease, famine, conflict, refugee crises, and livelihoods,” the declaration reads.

“We have seen thousands of people die each year from worsening storms and floods, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires. These impacts disproportionately affect the poor, disadvantaged, and vulnerable.”

“We dedicate our actions, commitments and determination to give national leaders the confidence and assurance needed to increase their ambition and accelerate climate action by 2020 for the security of our planet, now and for generations to come,” it adds.

EU’s next top model could unlock Paris Agreement

The European Commission outlined plans this week for a long-term strategy to drag Europe onto a Paris Agreement-compliant climate trajectory. But there are concerns that the forthcoming set of scenarios could be undermined by one factor: maths.

More than 500 announcements were made at the summit itself, among which six are mentioned in the one-page document: 

  • 100 mayors, state and regional leaders, as well as CEOs have committed to become emissions neutral by 2050 at the latest and in line with the 1.5 degree goal of the Paris Agreement; 
  • 488 businesses will set science-based targets to ensure that they are part of the climate solution;
  • 60 CEOs, state and regional leaders, and mayors committed to delivering a 100% zero-emission transport future by 2030;
  • 38 cities, major businesses, state and regional governments have committed to net-zero carbon buildings, cutting emissions equivalent to more than 50 coal-fired power stations;
  • More than 100 indigenous groups, state and local governments, and businesses launched a forest, food and land-focused coalition to deliver 30% of climate solutions needed by 2030; 
  • 392 investors, with $32 trillion under management, will work to ensure a low-carbon transformation of the global economy with the urgency required to meet the challenge.

The summit also included UN special envoy for climate action and former mayor of New-York City Michael Bloomberg and Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Climate and Energy, launching a new partnership to boost Europe’s clean energy ambitions.

The partnership will build on the Commission’s platform for coal regions that find themselves in transition.

Launched in December 2017, the tool provides economic and technological support for 41 coal-dependent regions located in 12 European countries. With this new partnership, the Bloomberg Foundation will fund research projects aim to improve the platform’s  database and enable more targeted actions.

In Central Europe, activists fight for ‘just transition’ away from coal

As Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic start phasing out coal, campaigners argue that all actors – including small entrepreneurs, communities and civil society – must be part of the process.

“Bottom-up movement”

Regional, local and business leaders, referred to as ‘non-state actors’ in UN jargon, are proving crucial to climate action as UN talks between countries over the definition of a rulebook to apply the Paris Agreement are currently embroiled in technical struggles.

They also show that they can overtake unambitious, if not opposing, national governments in meeting the Paris Agreement target as a report presented 13 September by Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg finds.

It finds that US cities, states, businesses and market forces are poised to trim carbon emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2025. That compares with the 26% to 28% US commitment under the Paris deal. 

These stakeholders are part of America’s Pledge, a climate action group with more than 3,000 US cities, states, businesses and other groups attempting to deliver on America’s Paris goal, despite president Donald Trump’s announcement to withdraw the US from the agreement. 

Trump told that Paris Agreement is ‘irreversible and non-negotiable’

The terms of the Paris Agreement are set in stone, the EU, China and Canada agreed at a summit in Montreal this weekend, while Washington was forced to deny that the US is planning to stay in the accord.

America’s Pledge now claims it is within “striking distance” of fulfilling the US climate commitment. The group is optimistic to gather enough momentum at every level of society to hinder federal efforts to stop progress on reducing emissions.

The call to action will be handed over to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during climate week, which will take place in New York from 24 to 30 September. On Friday, it was handed over to Executive Secretary of UNFCCC Patricia Espinosa.

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