Updated September 12, 2018
History is being made in San Francisco this week. The much-anticipated Global Climate Action Summit comes more than halfway between the finalizing of the Paris Agreement—which vowed to limit global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius—and its next scheduled step for countries to bolster their commitments in 2020.
Global leaders—governors, mayors, provincial leaders, presidents, and CEOs—have come together to recapture the ambitious spirit of the Paris Agreement, share successes, and announce their plans to raise the bar on climate action.
Here’s what has been announced so far:
- VIRGINIA: Governor Ralph Northam announced that the state will be joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a group of northeastern and mid-Atlantic states that work together to reduce pollution from the transportation sector—which, in Virginia, is the largest source of greenhouse gases. The TCI will eventually link with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a coalition of the same states that work to reduce emissions from the power sector. Virginia, whose fisheries and shellfish industries have been threatened by climate change, will also be joining the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, which would develop an acidification action plan for the state, a problem made worse by increased carbon in the atmosphere.
- While on an electric ferry ride across the San Francisco Bay, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two bills that help provide a roadmap for addressing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings—which represent a quarter of California’s emissions—produced by burning fossil fuels onsite for heat and hot water. Assembly Bill 3232 and State Bill 1477 are supported across the board by business, industry, and environmental leaders.
- Together with the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, NRDC released its recommendations to the chair of the California Air Resources Board for replacing hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants (which are used in air-conditioning technologies) with safer refrigerants by 2023. The recommendations, which include specifics like implementation dates and enforcement policies, will provide more market certainty while phasing out a super-pollutant that contributes to climate change. As populations grow and global temperatures rise, the agreement between NRDC and manufacturers assures we can see more cooling, but with less warming.
- Following the troubling shutdown earlier this year of NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System—a program meant to keep track of the world’s emissions—California governor Jerry Brown announced that the state is launching “its own damn satellite,” which will provide the climate data necessary to make scientific policy decisions. California will work alongside San Francisco–based Planet Labs and the state’s Air Resources Board.
- NEW JERSEY: Governor Phil Murphy is revving up the state’s offshore wind production, with the potential for more than 3,000 megawatts of solicitations over the next few years. Murphy also joined the bipartisan Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition.
- The governors of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Washington announced new joint commitments ranging from $1.4 billion in electric vehicle funding to closer climate collaboration with Canada and Mexico. The group represents a broader coalition of governors called the U.S. Climate Alliance—a united front against the federal government’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and its overall inaction to overcome global warming.
- New York, Maryland, and Connecticut announced plans to phase out super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and replace them with climate-friendlier coolants in new refrigerators, air conditioners, and other products. HFCs have hundreds to thousands of times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. They are also the fastest-growing climate pollutants.
- Building on the momentum of its Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan, India will continue to develop and implement extreme heat preparedness at every level of government. With the help of NRDC, six other heat-prone states are adopting heat action plans, which include key strategies like broader public awareness campaigns, better identification of vulnerable populations, and expanded use of “cool roof” reflective paint. This will help residents stay safe in dangerous heat and be better prepared in this new era of rising temperatures.
- Hyderabad, the capital of southern India's Telangana state, will install 1,000 “cool roofs,” a cost-effective way to reflect sunlight and absorb less heat, by the end of 2019. These roofs will be placed on all low-income government housing, as well as schools and hospitals. Ahmedabad, the largest city in the western state of Gujarat, will also institute a cool roof policy by 2019.
- Five cities in Telangana state plan to adopt mandatory Energy Conservation Building Codes by 2020. Building efficiency is a key strategy for saving energy and combating pollution in the rapidly modernizing nation. The pilot program will have an online component for processing building permit applications and compliance forms—making it fast, transparent, and easily replicable in other states.
- As part of its new electric vehicle policy, Telangana plans to add 2,000 electric buses to its fleet before March 2019—up from just 40. All new three-wheel rickshaws will also be electric, with no new diesel three-wheelers allowed. Pune, a city in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, will add 500 electric buses by 2020 and eliminate all diesel buses by 2021.
- Telangana plans to increase solar capacity, including more solar parks and rooftops.
- As studies show that the world's waste management industry could reduce up to 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, Ahmedabad announced its ambitious goal of zero waste by 2031 through a new policy in line with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.
- Most of the country’s salt farmers (agariyas) use inefficient water pumps powered by diesel. Through a pilot program led by the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and NRDC, women agariyas installed solar-powered pumps, which are cleaner, make energy more accessible in remote regions, and significantly lower costs. Now SEWA and NRDC are expanding the program to build 15,000 solar pumps, with each pump increasing an individual woman’s annual net income by almost 94 percent. SEWA is also working on a new residential energy-access project in two villages—which will facilitate solar-powered lights, cleaner stoves, and more efficient appliances—with plans to expand it to 10 more locales.
- The company that brought minimalist Scandinavian design into all our homes is now minimizing its carbon emissions too. IKEA announced that all its delivery services will be 100 percent zero emissions by 2025. In five major cities—Shanghai, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and Amsterdam—the target is even sooner, in 2020. The company also plans to encourage more customers to walk, bike, and take public transportation to its stores.
- The Mahindra Group, a $20.7 billion leader in technology and vehicle manufacturing based in India, committed to become carbon neutral by 2040.
- A group of nearly 400 investors have launched the climate-focused Investor Agenda, a plan to speed up and scale out climate action that brings us closer to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Investor Agenda manages a whopping $32 trillion in assets. (For scale, U.S. GDP is about $19 trillion.)
- A San Francisco–based bank with more than 600 branches has committed to reducing its emissions by shifting to clean and renewable energy. Bank of the West plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 25 percent and achieve carbon neutrality by 2020. It is also committing $1 billion toward financing, investments, and loans in the clean energy sector and low-emission vehicles.
- More global corporations, including tech giant Sony, have joined in on the RE100 initiative, which sets 100 percent renewable energy targets. To date, 144 companies have signed the RE100 pledge, up from 12 in 2014.
- APG, a global finances service provider that manages more than $560 billion in investments, committed to banning all coal-related infrastructure investments moving forward, acknowledging that investing in coal “is now striking the right balance between an economic and ecological future.” APG manages pension accounts for more than 4.5 million participants.
- Despite the rising costs of climate change fueled–disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, the 40 largest U.S. insurers currently have more than $450 billion invested in fossil fuels. A new initiative called Insure Our Future calls on insurance companies to stop propping up the fossil fuel industry. Lemonade, a smaller U.S. insurance company, announced it would be the first insurance company in the country to ban investments in coal.
- Being called the biggest philanthropic investment yet in the fight against climate change, 29 philanthropic organizations, including the Bloomberg Foundation, committed a total of $4 billion to fight climate change.
- Two leading electric car companies, California-based ChargePoint and EVBox, announced plans to build 3.5 million new charging ports for electric vehicles by 2025 across the United States and Europe. Accessibility for average consumers remains one of the main challenges in the EV market—but charging stations are rapidly rising.
- Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, which includes nine major U.S. law firms, will soon deliver $15 million in pro bono legal services to climate-focused entrepreneurs and community nonprofits around the world.
- Electricity storage (currently going through a wave of technological innovation) is critical for a full transition to clean energy—to ensure sources like solar can provide reliable, inexpensive energy on demand, even on cloudy days. So EDF, the French energy utility company, is committing to add 10 gigawatts of battery storage capacity around the world and doubling its investment in research and development.
- Twenty-six international states, regions, cities, and businesses—including megacities like Seoul and Tokyo—have committed to 100 percent zero-emission vehicle targets in their government-owned fleets. Together, the group represents more than 122 million people. Not only will the shift mean reduced emissions—thanks to electric public buses or company-owned business cars—but it will also increase visibility and help normalize electric vehicles while shifting market demands for automakers.
- Ten new members have committed to phasing out coal entirely by joining the Powering Past Coal Alliance. South Chungnam province in South Korea, home to about 50 percent of the country's coal-fired power generation, will also join the alliance in October.
- The Pacific Coast Collaborative, a coalition of cities and states in the United States and Canada, committed to cutting food waste and loss by 50 percent by 2030. An additional 25 cities, states, and regional governments have also committed to reducing solid municipal waste by at least 15 percent per person by 2030, as compared to 2005 levels.
- Heating, cooling, and powering buildings is one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions that fuel climate change. In an effort to create more energy-efficient buildings, 38 climate leaders—including cities, states, regions, and businesses—have signed the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. It includes targets for businesses, like eliminating the operational carbon emissions of their buildings, and cities, such as operating all buildings at net-zero carbon by 2030.
- A testament to bottom-up climate action, 72 cities, representing more than 425 million citizens, signed on to develop inclusive climate action plans and become carbon neutral by 2050 as part of the Deadline 2020 initiative led by climate group C40.
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