The beginning of a new year is a time for reflection, re-charging, and goal setting. Reflection leads to some negative realities: the COP 25 meetings last month in Madrid were labelled a failure by many; we are seeing devastating images of the worst fires Australia has seen, exacerbated greatly by the warming climate; and the Trump Administration is laying the groundwork to roll back more clean air and clean water protections.
Yet a re-charging of climate action is happening in spite of this all. The conversation about climate change everywhere is using the term “ambition,” focusing on the need to ramp up our collective action and advocacy. Ambition will be a major theme for our annual conference, the American Climate Leadership Summit, in March.
And in spite of the challenges, there were also positive steps taken at COP 25, including establishing a new dialogue to examine the role of oceans in climate change; strengthening an action plan to address gender and climate change; and giving non-party actors a stronger role in the global climate talks. A summary of the conclusions can be seen in the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions article here.
And in spite of sluggish national action, local communities everywhere are stepping up with solutions. Local governments, non-profits, youth activists, and even businesses are taking bold actions to de-carbonize their operations, fund innovative solutions, and spread knowledge and awareness of what individuals can do to help. Scientists and engineers are figuring out ways to take carbon out of the atmosphere and to restore green spaces and wild habitats. Cities are building new transit infrastructure, changing zoning and building codes, and making pledges to deploy more clean energy.
Many cities and organizations are also planning learning activities and celebrations for the month of April, when Earth Day will celebrate 50 years, such as the Smithsonian’s 4th annual Earth Optimism Summit which will highlight positive stories of climate solutions from around the globe. More investors are divesting of fossil fuels and supporting sustainable, climate friendly companies – for example, Goldman Sachs just pledged to support climate change adaptation, resilience, and clean energy projects with an investment of $750 billion. Volkswagen plans to sell one million electric vehicles a year by 2025. Minneapolis just eliminated single family zoning to make carbon-free transit and walkable neighborhoods work better. And the list of positive actions goes on and on.
This election year can be a time to double up on our climate solutions. Let’s make 2020 a year of positive climate action. Even in an atmosphere of growing impacts and stubborn deniers, we can persist – and we can all make a difference.
Happy New Year, and let’s get going!