A dozen more cities have signed on to an international pledge to fight climate change and reduce traffic pollution by transitioning to zero-emission buses and getting other fossil fuel-powered vehicles off their streets.
Honolulu, Santa Monica, Seoul, Warsaw and West Hollywood are among the communities pledging to procure only zero-emission buses by 2025 and make “a major area” emissions free by 2030, a coalition of mayors announced Friday at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.
The actions are based on preventing the most devastating effects of climate change by keeping the rise of global temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius. To do so, scientists say greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020, decline steeply by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by mid-century.
Gov. Jerry Brown embraced a package of proposals from lawmakers Thursday to boost the number of zero-emissions vehicles on California roads, from incentives to buy used cars to new emissions goals for the ride-share industry.
Brown used the deck of a hybrid-electric ferry boat, the first of its kind to cruise San Francisco Bay, as the setting for a brief ceremony as he signed bills that focus on the transportation sector. Several of the legislative authors of the bill joined the governor for a brief cruise on the bay, capping the second day of the Global Climate Action Summit.
Three bills signed by Brown seek to help low-income Californians who might otherwise be shut out of the expensive market for electric vehicles.
Actor Harrison Ford took the stage in San Francisco to discuss climate change at the international summit.
“If we can’t protect nature, we can’t protect ourselves,” he said.
“For God’s sake, stop electing leaders who don’t believe in science,” he said. “Or even worse, pretend they don’t believe in science” for political self-interest. “Never forget who you’re fighting for.”
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.