Climate scientists warn that global emissions need to peak by 2020 if the planet is to dodge catastrophic warming. At the summit Thursday, 27 cities announced they have already met that goal, and their emissions are on the decline even as their economies are growing.
These “peak emissions” cities are home to some 54 million people. Their emissions have fallen over the last five years, and are dropping at an average of 2% per year even as their populations grow. Los Angeles and San Francisco are among the cities that have peaked.
“While Washington refuses to act, while homes are lost while firefighters are dying… American cities are saying this is real and we will take action,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, vice chair of C40 Cities, a global coalition of cities working to fulfill the Paris climate agreement.
While delegates to Thursday’s events at the Global Climate Action Summit praised the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown, a raucous crowd outside the San Francisco venue had sharp criticism for the state’s chief executive.
Protesters demanded that Brown take a more firm stand against the expansion of oil production in California. One group carried a large yellow banner telling the governor that he has a “last chance” to choose between “fossil fuel or our future.” Many were part of a group that has challenged Brown throughout the year for what they see as having too close of a relationship with the oil industry.
The crowd at one point blocked one of the entrances to the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco, the site for the summit. A large police presence remained on scene throughout the morning.
Soon after the summit got underway, the prime minister from Barbados, Mia Mottley, put into perspective for attendees what President Trump’s decision to cancel the U.S. commitment to the Green Climate Fund means for her country.
The fund was created as part of a Copenhagen climate agreement that preceded the Paris accord. Its aim is to enable the richest countries to help developing nations reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.
Trump complained that the U.S. commitment of $3 billion to the fund was onerous, and he ordered the payments stopped.
Awesome to see citizens peacefully demonstrating this morning (songs, signs & chants) @ SF Moscone Center #GCAS2018 in protest for more regulations to protect environment & reduce carbon emissions. We should all be that passionate about climate change. 🌎❤️ pic.twitter.com/knlMv7Psk3
Just before the climate summit got underway, Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order that was so far-reaching and unprecedented that it was met with considerable skepticism. The directive calls for the entire California economy to go completely carbon free by 2045.
The ambitious plan raised immediate questions. As an executive order, is it even binding? Does California have any plan in place for a complete decarbonization of its economy?
Brown vowed Thursday morning that the order was not just symbolic. He said such transitions in California have traditionally started with an executive order, which are then followed by agencies putting plans in place and the Legislature cementing the policy with new law. He acknowledged that getting to carbon neutrality requires “technological changes that don’t exist yet” and his measure is aimed at bolstering their innovation.
Times columnist George Skelton examines the criticism of Jerry Brown from activists who say that for all his talk, he’s not quite the climate warrior many think:
Gov. Jerry Brown is unquestionably one of America’s most outspoken climate warriors. Yet in his own state, activists protest that he’s an overrated slacker. That’s quintessential left-coast California.
Even though the governor is outspoken, his critics say, it doesn’t mean he isn’t a softie on some polluting industries, especially oil.
There’s little consensus on the extent to which local and state measures and industry pledges can make up for a lack of federal action — let alone cut enough pollution to make a meaningful dent in humanity’s most existential threat.
Here is a look at how much global emissions cuts are needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
“What happens in Washington still matters, of course, and we need to vote out of office those who refuse to recognize reality. But the American people are not waiting on Washington to take action because the benefits are clear: Businesses are saving money by investing in clean energy and efficiency upgrades. Technology companies are making money by driving down the cost of wind and solar,” Gov. Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg. Los Angeles Times
“It’s a bit like a game show,” said summit communications director Nick Nuttall. “It’s going to be loads of Hollywood style announcements.” Associated Press
“Climate change is too important for us not to act,” San Francisco Mayor Taylor Breed. “We’re already seeing the impacts of global warming here in California and all over our planet.” San Francisco Chronicle