Stepping Up Climate Action at the California Global Summit

California and other states, provinces and cities did not skip a beat when President Trump announced his intention to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement; they kept moving forward with real climate action. Even though the United States, the world’s second largest climate polluter, is the only country not committed to the global pact’s goals of curbing climate change, leaders across the country, in government, in business, and beyond, are taking action.

In just a few days, here in San Francisco, the city where I was born, we’ll see a large, loud and far-reaching response to Trump’s retreat. Tens of thousands of people from across the country and around the world will come together to demand decisive leadership, demonstrating, with one resounding voice, “We are still in!” And we are working together to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals.

Marching in the streets at the Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice March on Saturday September 8, before gathering September 12–14 at the Global Climate Action Summit, participants will showcase the thousands of steps and actions commited to and underway to hold global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and avoid climate catastrophe. They are expected to reaffirm actions they’ve already pledged and go further by declaring stepped up commitments to do more, faster. 

Leaders at all levels are driving these climate actions—governors, state lawmakers, mayors, major businesses, advocacy organizations like NRDC and world leaders. The summit, hosted by California Gov. Jerry Brown, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, UN officals and top leaders in India and China, will highlight the work in cities, counties, states, regions and companies to reduce climate-harming pollution, accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy and protect the most vulnerable people and places from climate harm.

Many of my colleagues from NRDC will be there as well. We’ll support those who are stepping up, prod them with calls for more ambitious actions, and co-host several events addressing climate action in the United States, India, and China, clean vehicles, clean energy, reducing food waste and protecting boreal forests.

I was lucky to be there in Paris in December 2015, where I witnessed the thrilling approval of the landmark climate accord that united nearly 200 countries. And last year in Bonn, Germany, when the world held its breath to see how the United States would participate in the UN climate conference after Trump’s retreat, I witnessed states, cities and businesses stepping up to make it very clear that #WeAreStillIn. Now I can’t wait to see how far we go with the next step carrying that promise forward here in California where I’ve dedicated my life’s work fighting to protect our environment and public health. 

The summit arrives at a sobering time. Climate change and its damages are piling up everywhere. The world is on fire, literally, in many places.

This summer, the largest wildfires in the state’s history roared across California, destroying thousands of homes and affecting the earth’s atmosphere. Heat waves blazed in Canada, Japan, the U.S., Europe, and Africa. This climate-intensified chaos took the lives of hundreds of people.

That makes this Global Climate Action Summit all the more important to me and the millions of people who are already experiencing extreme weather firsthand. The summit, held at the Moscone Center, opens with call to action from communities on the frontlines of climate chaos, and a discussion of the latest scientific proof that climate change is causing historic droughts, damaging wildfires, torrential storms and extreme heat.

The sessions on Thursday and Friday will highlight, in part: the transition to clean and renewable energy; what businesses are doing to reduce emissions; the work to make cities climate safe; efforts to reduce food waste; investments in a low-carbon world; developing zero-emissions transportation and buildings; clean energy jobs; new technologies curbing climate change; empowering women to act on climate; protecting oceans; reducing super-pollutants like HFCs; building more just communities and more.

Throughout summit week, hundreds of side events, art exhibitions, performances, and excursions  will be held in or near the Moscone Center, including some hosted by NRDC and partners:

  • September 11: 5:30–8 p.m. “Spotlighting Latino Leadership on Climate Change in California and Beyond Led by NRDC expert Linda Escalante, the event highlights and celebrates how Latino leaders in California, the U.S. and internationally are committed to achieving a cleaner, healthier future for all.
  • September 12: 8 a.m.–2 p.m. “Forum on India Climate Actions.”  NRDC Senior India Director Anjali Jaiswal, along with leaders from India, will showcase progress on climate action in leading cities and states in India. Topics addressed include green finance, building energy efficiency, HFCs, renewable energy, electric vehicles, clean air and heat action plans.
  • September 12: 1 p.m.–4:30 p.m. “More Feast, Less Footprint: New Goals & Progress Toward Wasting Less Food.”, this event, co-organized by NRDC’s Elizabeth Balkan, seeks to attract new government and business leaders to explore why food waste action is critical, how food waste cuts across diverse issues, and the opportunity for city-led work, like that supported by NRDC’s Food Matters initiative, to create a model for communities nationally and globally.
  • September 12: 3–6:30 p.m. “The Business Case for Smart Climate and Clean Energy Policy.” Co-hosted by NRDC affiliate Environmental Entrepreneurs and partners and led by E2 Executive Director Bob Keefe, this event will highlight how California’s pioneering climate and clean energy policies are driving the fifth-biggest economy in the world, creating 500,000 clean energy jobs and attracting billions in investments; similar policies in other states—red, blue and purple; and how climate and clean energy policies are driving innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • September 12: 3:30–6 p.m. “Fast Tracking Electric Vehicle Deployment.” This event, led by NRDC’s Simon Mui, brings together the world’s top policy makers, industry leaders and experts to discuss the international business and policy landscape for electric vehicles and the how to bridge the gap in developing charging infrastructure.
  • September 13: 1:30 p.m.–3 p.m. “Chinese Provinces and Cities in Action NRDC Senior China Director Jingjing Qian will participate in a panel on Chinese local climate action as a means to achieve its national target of peaking carbon emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early. The panel will also share local progress from California in order to advance international cooperation on climate change.
  • September 13: 5–7 p.m. “Will China Save the Planet?” Led by Barbara Finamore, senior director, Asia, at NRDC and a veteran China expert, previews her soon-to-be-released book, which explores the progress and challenges of China’s climate and clean energy leadership. Now that President Trump has backed away from the Paris climate agreement and blocked climate action, will China take the lead in safeguarding the planet from environmental destruction?
  • September 14, 2–3:30 p.m. “The Northern Forests: Defusing a Global Carbon Bomb and Conserving an Essential Climate Mitigation Tool.” A panel of experts organized by NRDC’s Anthony Swift, director of the Canada Project, will spotlight forests of the northern latitudes, particularly the boreal forest covering parts of Canada, Russia, Scandinavia and Alaska. These carbon-capturing forests are vastly underappreciated and at risk, but can play a significant role in mitigating global climate change.

These events are just a small part of NRDC’s activities during what will likely be an historic convening in San Francisco. The world is on the move against climate change and taking the opportunity of this existential challenge to work together for a cleaner, safer, healthier, more humane and more prosperous future for us all.

We’re not too late, but we must step up now on authentic action, follow through on our commitments, make new ones and find ways to spur ingenuity, collaboration and investment to stave off climate hardship. We owe that to our children, their children and this place we call home—planet earth.

About the Authors

Annie Notthoff

Director, California Advocacy, San Francisco and Sacramento

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