By: Jim Gawron
Original post from Erb Institute

 

To mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, national governments and business must be ready to take a big leap forward. The Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), taking place in San Francisco September 12-14, will prepare these players to take this leap and and will encourage aggressive action more broadly.

Although the U.S. government has backed away from the Paris Climate Agreement, the business, nonprofit and academic communities have not. They all have a stake in global climate action, and the Erb Institute will be among the attendees at the GCAS.

I will be part of the Erb delegation, and I talked with GCAS Director of Communications Nick Nuttall—in between his interviews with BBC and the New York Times—to find out more about how the summit plans to encourage bolder action and garner new commitments. Our conversation touched on four main themes: purpose, goals, partnerships and outcomes.

 

The purpose of the Global Climate Action Summit

The GCAS was created in part to complement the annual United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP). The breakthrough Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015 at COP 21 to much fanfare, and it included voluntary nationally determined contributions (NDCs) from each of the 195 signatory countries. However, the current NDCs are projected to only limit temperature increases to 3-4°C, completely missing the 2°C target that scientists have determined is the critical tipping point to avoid the worst climate change effects. Nuttall says that “the GCAS will amplify the voices calling for more aggressive NDCs, in anticipation that governments will step up at the climate summit September 2019 in New York.“ This will be ideal timing, because the scientists’ road map calls for peaking greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.

 

Goals: celebration and opportunity

The GCAS’s success depends on including all stakeholders through robust partnerships among states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens. A few of the stakeholder groups will even be represented by high-profile summit co-chairs —including Jerry Brown (governor of California), Michael Bloomberg (UN Secretary General’s special envoy for climate action) and Anand Mahindra (chair of the Mahindra Group). Nuttall also indicated that academia will play an important role in the partnerships. The academic community has been instrumental in conducting research that aggregates the global actions to communicate the overall impact of greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Nuttall says he expects up to five new landmark reports from academic institutions to be released in the timeframe of the GCAS to outline progress and propose paths required to meet the 2°C target. The Erb Institute will contribute to these conversations at the summit. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm will also attend, and she and Erb will have the opportunity to share knowledge unique to the Midwest, including opportunities in the transportation sector.

 

Academic partnerships for global action

The GCAS’s success depends on including all stakeholders through robust partnerships among states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens. A few of the stakeholder groups will even be represented by high-profile summit co-chairs —including Jerry Brown (governor of California), Michael Bloomberg (UN Secretary General’s special envoy for climate action) and Anand Mahindra (chair of the Mahindra Group). Nuttall also indicated that academia will play an important role in the partnerships. The academic community has been instrumental in conducting research that aggregates the global actions to communicate the overall impact of greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Nuttall says he expects up to five new landmark reports from academic institutions to be released in the timeframe of the GCAS to outline progress and propose paths required to meet the 2°C target. The Erb Institute will contribute to these conversations at the summit. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm will also attend, and she and Erb will have the opportunity to share knowledge unique to the Midwest, including opportunities in the transportation sector.

 

Deeper commitments

Strong commitments and greater political will are expected from the GCAS. Nuttall says that we are likely to see deeper commitments to electrification of the transportation sector in the U.S., EU and China, as well as new investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Many cities around the world are expected to announce plans to peak their greenhouse gas emissions in the immediate future. Numerous large-scale investments into the green economy are on the horizon as well.

Overall, this call to action by global stakeholders will help us move beyond incremental improvement and toward the necessary big leap forward.

Diverse stakeholders are poised to take this leap—some in lockstep with their respective governments, and some in spite of their governments’ inaction. The Erb Institute is among the organizations working to advance sustainability through business—and looking forward to the GCAS to enable further progress. Summits like GCAS are important to help fortify existing commitments, create new ones and encourage bolder action.

Thank you to Nick Nuttall, Global Climate Action Summit Communications Director for taking the time to talk with me by phone in the days leading up to the Global Climate Action Summit.

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