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CA Had Its Own Climate Summit. Now What? — With video, other links and highlights from the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit

by Brad Plummer Read full NYTimes article here

SAN FRANCISCO — For years, presidents and prime ministers have been the public face of the fight against climate change, gathering at United Nations summit meetings and pressuring each other to reduce emissions. The results have often been lackluster.

A climate conference in California this week tried something different. The meeting, organized by the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, had far fewer national leaders present. Instead, an array of governors, mayors and business executives from around the globe met to promote their successes in cutting greenhouse gas emissions locally and to encourage one another to do more.

A key premise of the conference was that if a handful of leading-edge states, cities and businesses can demonstrate that it’s feasible — and even lucrative — to go green in their own backyards, they might inspire others to follow suit. That, in turn, could make it easier for national leaders to act more forcefully.

….There was no shortage of announcements at the meeting. Cities like Tokyo, Rotterdam and West Hollywood signed joint pledges to only buy zero-emissions buses after 2025. Companies like Walmart and Unilever rolled out new programs to limit deforestation in their huge supply chains. Dozens of philanthropic groups committed $4 billion over the next five years to fight climate change.

But it will take time to tell whether these local actions can scale up quickly enough to make a significant dent in global emissions. And scientists are warning that time is short if we want to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

On Thursday, a group of researchers released a road map for what it would take to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the internationally agreed-upon goal. It entailed a rapid transformation of the world’s energy system (measures such as banning the sales of gasoline vehicles in many cities within a decade) that went far beyond many of the proposals made in California.

The sheer scale of that challenge hasn’t fully sunk in with many policymakers, said Johan Rockström, a sustainability scientist and co-author of the report. “We need to be thinking about exponential changes.”

….There were even a few substantive policy announcements. California, New York, Maryland and Connecticut said they would craft new regulations to curtail hydrofluorocarbons, the highly potent greenhouse gasses used in air-conditioners and refrigerators. In 2016, nations agreed on a treaty to phase out these gases, but Mr. Trump has not submitted the pact for ratification or written federal regulations.

…local leaders in the United States who have promised to uphold the Paris climate agreement still face an uphill battle.

Their coalition — which now consists of 16 states, Puerto Rico, hundreds of cities and nearly 2,000 businesses — has vowed to press ahead with climate action and ensure that the United States meets former President Barack Obama’s Paris pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

A new report commissioned by the group found, however, that United States emissions are on track to fall only about 17 percent over that span.

Those states and cities would have to pursue ambitious new policies, like retrofitting hundreds of buildings to make them more energy efficient and plugging methane emissions from landfills, to get closer to the target. They would also have to persuade several other states beyond the blue coastal enclaves to join them, the report found.

….mayors from dozens of the world’s largest cities promised to cut the amount of trash they send to landfills in half, build more carbon-neutral buildings and encourage walking and cycling in their cities over the next few decades. But how well these mayors follow through remains to be seen.

…..“The U.N. talks are still locked in this finger-pointing dynamic, where people act as if tackling climate change as a zero-sum game,” said Alden Meyer, the director of policy and strategy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, who had flown to San Francisco from the Bangkok talks.

“The atmosphere here in California has been different, there’s a real can-do spirit,” he said. “We’ll see if that mentality can permeate upward.”