By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 12 2018 (IPS)
Local communities across the globe have risen up to demand commitments on climate change, as frustration mounts over the lack of action.
Over the next few days, leaders from civil society, local governments, and the private sector will convene in California to highlight the urgency of the threat of climate change and “take ambition to the next level.”
And it is nothing if not timely.
Not only is it being hosted midway between when the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016 and when it will legally commence in 2020, the Global Climate Action Summit is happening as the United States’ government continues to roll back federal regulations aimed at addressing the issue.“All of the scientists who understand climate change are telling us that we are running out of time to address this issue.” — Union of Concerned Scientists’ president Ken Kimmell.
In July, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed weakening a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicles. Most recently, the U.S. agency proposed easing Obama-era rules on the reduction of oil and gas industry leaks of methane gas, a major fossil fuel that contributes to climate change.
“The Trump Administration is kind of a wrecking ball that is swinging at virtually all the policies we have in place to try to address climate change,” Union of Concerned Scientists’ president Ken Kimmell told IPS. The union is a nonprofit science advocacy organisation.
“What’s so important about the summit is that if you look beyond the federal government and look at what states and cities and the private sector are doing, you see that in fact there is a still very significant commitment to addressing climate change… it gives us a chance to tell the rest of the world that we are still in this fight,” he continued.
Just days before the meeting, over 300,000 people took part in climate marches and protests around the world to urge local governments to step up action—from rising sea levels in Vanuatu to fossil fuel extraction across the U.S. to coal mining in Kenya.
Executive director of international climate change campaign 350.org, May Boeve, told IPS of the importance of local voices and action, stating: “Part of why the mobilisation is rooted in the local is because we recognise that tackling the climate crisis requires building a new economy that works for all of us and leaves no one behind.”
“This is a set of people who, in many ways, are dedicating their lives to making sure this transition happens. For them, the fact that it’s global, helps them realise that they are not isolated, that the fight that they are waging in their community may seem unwinnable at times but they can draw inspiration from elsewhere,” she continued.
And the summit aims to do exactly that—put the local at the heart by not only hearing the voices and experiences of local communities, but also to showcase the existing grassroots achievements in climate action and that progress is possible.
Earlier this week, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to transition the state’s electricity to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, a major step forward to achieving a carbon-free society.
On the other side of the country, the state of Massachusetts has announced its intention to create offshore wind farms to help power homes.
In China, electric buses are replacing diesel-fuelled assemblies at a rapid rate. Soon, Chinese company BYD, the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer, will supply electric vehicles to the U.S. state of Georgia, which will help the state achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gases.
Even still, more can be done, Boeve and Kimmell said.
Boeve highlighted the need for Brown to cease the expansion of oil drilling and fracking. While production has decreased, California is still ranked sixth among U.S. states in crude oil production.
Kimmell noted that states and cities could work to make building more efficient while the private sector can purchase and use renewable energy for their operations.
“For us to effectively fight climate change, it really has to be from the bottom up, not the top down. It’s really important that local governments and states and private businesses are thinking about what they can do within their power to lower their carbon footprint and the answer is that there is a lot that they can do,” Kimmell told IPS.
Boeve expressed concern that progress on climate action, including the transition to renewable energy and the Paris Agreement, are not moving fast enough.
“This is an enormous opportunity to make this transition happen. But if that happens in 50-75 years, we are not actually addressing what we know will reduce warming in the future so we have to make sure the people making decisions on this issue know that the timetable is critical,” she said.
A recent United Nations (U.N.) climate change meeting in Bangkok was criticised by activists after it failed to produce concrete outcomes, including a set of guidelines to implement the Paris Agreement.
“We have not progressed far enough. It is not just an additional session; it is an urgent session,” said Fijian prime minister and COP23 president Frank Bainimarama in his opening remarks. COP23 is the 23rdannual Conference of the Parties to the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Among the controversial topics in the meeting was climate finance for developing countries, from which developed nations such as the U.S. shied away from committing to.
“When people understand the climate crisis, you immediately realise that any country can’t do it alone. Not even half the countries can do it alone—it really requires all of us together,” Boeve said.
“All of the scientists who understand climate change are telling us that we are running out of time to address this issue,” Kimmell said.
He expressed hope that summit participants will leave with a renewed appreciation for the urgency of the crisis and motivation to raise their own and their local and national government’s ambitions.
“There are all of these different success stories and what’s driving this progress is technology and innovation coupled with clear-thinking state policies…this is really a clean energy train that has left the station and I don’t think that Donald Trump can stop it,” Kimmel said.