Global climate summit to push countries to reduce emissions
San Francisco : The three-day Global Climate Action Summit here from September 12 will see 4,000-plus business leaders, investors, citizens and government representatives from all over the world, including India and China, coming together with the united resolve to "take ambition to the next level" and nudge the world's Presidents and Prime Ministers to go further and faster in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
It will also be a moment to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens with respect to climate action and realise the historic 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, the first-ever legally binding treaty adopted by 197 countries that came in force on November 4, 2016.
To this date, 180 parties have ratified the Paris convention.
This climate action summit, an initiative by California Governor Jerry Brown, is crucial as it is happening midway between Paris 2015 and 2020, the UNFCCC's timeframe for dealing with mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and finance.
Under the Paris agreement, countries agreed to limit average global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels and aim for the safer target of 1.5 degrees, to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
As world leaders gear up for the climate action summit, the silent demise of Mer de Glace, France's largest glacier, serves as a reminder of how quickly climate change is affecting our planet and how urgent it is for us to act, reads a post on the UN Environment website.
Another report, "California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment", released on August 27, warns that two-thirds of Southern California's beaches could completely disappear and the average area burned by wildfires could nearly double by 2100.
From India, Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra is one of the summit's Co-Chairs. In a plenary on September 13, he will provide an update on the science-based targets that he committed to in Davos this year.
Organised by Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC), US-India Business Council, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Self Employed Women's Association and Administrative Staff College of India, a high-level affiliate event on climate actions will be held on September 12.
It will showcase progress on climate action in leading cities and states in India and point to areas for increased focus and investment. It will focus on India's current and future needs for sectors of climate resilient technology and infrastructure.
According to The Climate Group, three of India's largest industrial conglomerates or companies will be committing at the summit to the EP100 programme for doubling energy productivity and a smart energy future.
Under the Paris Agreement, India pledged to cut the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions by 30 to 35 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
"We expect a significant climate action announcement by a major food and beverage company and several companies are also making commitments to roll out more zero-emissions vehicles and charging infrastructure," spokesperson and Director of Communications Nick Nuttall told IANS.
Patricia Espinosa, the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary and summit Co-Chair, said: "The summit recognises the key role of non-party stakeholders in climate action in addition to that of governments. We need everyone on board."
A hopeful United Nations Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim, who is attending the Global Climate Action Summit, said: "The bottom line is that we need to step up the ambition and create a momentum."
"Once again, we face the challenge that we're moving in the right direction, but that we're not moving quickly enough. The priority, therefore, is to energise the cause."
Foreseeing electric vehicles will play a crucial role in decarbonising the economy, Solheim told IANS: "We have to see the introduction of electric vehicles as part of the wider change we need to see in transport. That includes more public transport or transport sharing solutions."
According to UN Environment's Emissions Gap Report 2017, even if countries fulfill their pledges to limit global warming to under two degrees Celsius, their actions would only represent a third of what is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
President Hilda C. Heine of the Marshall Islands; Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji; Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna; CEO of Unilever Paul Polman; CEO of Dalmia Cement Mahendra Singhi; former US Vice President Al Gore; and former US Secretary of State John Kerry are among a group of speakers and delegates attending the summit.
The purpose of the summit is to announce bold new climate commitments across every facet of society, from greening investment flows and higher commitments to clean energy to the electrification of transportation to zeroing in on waste, forest loss and boosting corporate and sub-national emission reduction plans.
Collectively these actions will help give international leaders the confidence that they can go further starting with the next United Nations Climate Change meeting (COP24) in Poland this December.
(Vishal Gulati is in San Francisco at the invitation of Climate Trends to cover the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS). He can be contacted at email@example.com)