Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji and COP23 President, and Jerry Brown, Governor of California, hosted a high-level Talanoa Dialogue on 12 September 2018 on the rapid transition to net-zero emission societies.
The high-level event set the stage for GCAS by bringing together leaders of national and sub-national governments, private sector CEOs and the heads of various civil society organisations to share stories from their own experiences and perspectives about how the world can achieve net-zero emissions within the next handful of decades.
The world needs more determined leadership for a rapid transition towards a net-zero emissions society
The Paris Agreement devised a new vision for the future. At this critical moment in history, political leaders, on behalf of all the world’s citizens, forged a new path to bring about fundamental changes to society. These changes include, among others, that our economies should be powered only by clean energy; that our transport systems should be sustainable and smart; that our infrastructure and food production systems should be resilient and emissions neutral; and that our ecosystems should be managed in a sustainable and climate-smart manner. The ultimate vision of Paris is that global emissions must peak and rapidly decline until we become a net-zero emissions society, and that this should happen before the middle of this century.
Paris was a great moment of bold and focused leadership; an example of what is possible when leaders are committed to stepping up ambition. But now, to move the vision of the Paris Agreement forward, to turn its words into action, and to deliver results on the ground, the world now needs a new kind of leadership.
We are already seeing this leadership emerging. Those who think globally and for the long term. Those who are convinced and concerned about climate change. Those who put the interests of society in front of their own. Those who are courageous, determined, committed and perseverant. And, above all, those who realize that they need to work together in pursuit of a common goal.
But the fact remains, no single leader will be able to take on this challenge by themselves. To reach a net-zero emissions society, we must move beyond a single company, a single sector or city, or a single country. Leaders from across the world must, within their constituencies and jurisdictions, listen to what science is saying, and translate a global vision into local action. They must make bold decisions, provide the necessary resources and motivate and mobilize the people they can influence to follow-through and deliver.
Political and government leaders at all levels must bring society together to collectively and urgently address climate change and identify innovative measures to do so. They should set national, regional, sectoral and city-level targets; put forward bold policies; and create the necessary frameworks to establish predictable economic and a socially-conscious environments. At the national level, they also have a responsibility to incorporate the best avenues for climate action in their NDCs, which secure maximum ambition for reducing emissions.
Business leaders must believe in the benefits of sustainability for competitiveness and growth. Within their companies, they should establish science-based targets and make the necessary resources available for achieving them, including creating an environment that encourages innovation. Outside their companies, they can also become agents of sectoral change by expanding their climate ambition into their supply chains, and by motivating their peers to act.
Leaders from the investment community must become a bigger motor of change by committing their companies and clients to deploy financial resources to expand technologies, support companies of the future and divest from those of the past. They should direct their companies to incorporate the assessment of climate-related risk and promote financial disclosure.
Civil society leaders must continue to be the voice of the people, call for responsible, committed and accountable governments and companies. They should also work with individuals to promote behavioral change.
Spiritual leaders can unlock spiritual pathways for addressing climate change by helping people to re-connect to the wonders of nature and creation, to nurture love for the planet and foster compassion and reconciliation.
As the reality of climate change becomes more urgent, more and more leaders are joining in this Grand Coalition to combat climate change. They have discovered that it is not only possible to decouple emissions from growth, but that it can also be an engine of economic and social growth. However, we need more of these leaders, because the challenge ahead of us is immense. Delivering the Paris Agreement for ourselves and for future generations calls for the new era of climate leadership to take root around the world.