The Drumbeat for Climate Action Grows
The appetite is all but gone for hearing more about our frightening global forecast and who’s at fault for it. The more time the environmental and sustainability movement spends sharing solutions, the more mainstream these choices will have the chance of becoming. As those involved in the global negotiations for a climate treaty approach this December’s meeting in Peru, the milestone events during Climate Week in New York have provided two main reasons for optimism. First, a series of actions taken by the public and private sectors, and second the 400,000 people marching in the streets. Collectively, participants sent a clear and powerful message: it’s time for action, and leaders will be rewarded.
While signing a global treaty in Paris next year remains an important goal, many are now looking beyond the treaty for solutions. This growing drumbeat of action across sectors is in response not just to the amount of carbon pollution in the atmosphere. Many stakeholders are now acting because they see that the global competitive landscape and marketplace is rapidly changing due to the many connected issues of energy security, food security, water security, disaster risk, and our current unsustainable approach to managing other essential resources.
Climate change is an undercurrent to all these issues, and if these important issues inspire action that benefits the environment – that’s a good thing and should be celebrated.
• China, the global leader in carbon pollution, committed for the first time to capping its carbon emissions “as early as possible”—with a specific timeframe expected in 2015. As Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli said, “we are doing it for our own sake.”
• The European Union Commission approved a plan to cut EU carbon pollution by 40% in the next 15 years.
• Mexico pledged that one-third of its electricity generation will be based on renewable energy within the next five years.
• Building on a recent pledge to eliminate deforestation in its palm oil trade, Cargill pledged to cut deforestation across other commodities it deals in, including soy, sugar, beef and cocoa.
• Mars, Swiss Re, IKEA and Nestle committed to using 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.
• A global call for a price on carbon, organized by the World Bank, was signed by 73 countries, including China, 11 states and provinces, 11 cities, and over 1,000 companies and investors, including Shell, Dow Chemical, Rio Tinto, and others. The countries and states represent roughly half of both global GDP and total carbon pollution.
• Deforestation and agriculture account for roughly one quarter of total global carbon pollution. More than 150 companies, governments, indigenous peoples and other groups signed a commitment (the “New York Declaration on Forests”) to cut deforestation in half by 2020 and eliminate it by 2030. The agreement included 40 companies, including McDonalds, Nestle, Cargill, Kellogg’s, Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, and General Mills, and more than 30 countries, including the United States and key tropical forest countries, such as Indonesia, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and select states in Brazil.
For my organization’s part, we signed the New York Declaration on Forests and the World Bank’s carbon pricing statement, co-launched the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture initiative, and were involved in other actions as well.
This is not to suggest naively that these actions in New York add up to a complete solution. But, they provide a compelling vision of what a better path might look like. We should celebrate and share them. And, of course, many of the climate warnings and predicted impacts we have been hearing about and fearing for years are now here. People are seeing and feeling impacts to their coasts, to their rainfall, and to their businesses. Indeed, the environmental and sustainability movement would do itself a great service by using the most talked-about climate event in years to continue communicating a drumbeat of action—to shine the light on those growing areas of hope. This means not just trying to interpret and communicate what the New York meetings signal for the chances of a global treaty, but celebrating and broadcasting the increasing leadership and milestones by countries, companies and communities that we are witnessing along the way.
It’s time for action, and leaders will be rewarded.
Glenn Prickett is chief external affairs officer for The Nature Conservancy. He oversees international and US government relations, corporate practices and sustainability efforts, and relationships with leading international institutions and non-governmental organizations for the Conservancy. He joined the Conservancy in January 2010 after two decades working on international environment and development policy. He worked for 13 years at Conservation International, where he led efforts to engage the private and public sectors in conservation and sustainability. He founded and led CI’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, a division created to engage the private sector in developing solutions to environmental challenges. In 2009, Prickett served as a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation to help shape core elements of an effective global response to climate change. He also served in the Clinton Administration as chief environmental advisor at the US Agency for International Development, where he coordinated policy and budget for US environmental and energy assistance to developing nations.
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