What happens this fall matters more than ever. Together, we must hold our global leaders and corporations accountable to committing to significant climate actions. This is our moment to be fearless and fight to create the change we need to protect our people and our planet.
Starting with Climate Week and ending with the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in November, known as COP26, world and corporate leaders have their most critical opportunity to dramatically scale up their pledges to cut carbon emissions to net zero.
In the lead-up to this year’s Climate Week, the issue that should be at the forefront of every person’s mind is the stark and dire warning on the current pace of climate change, as reported in the most recent publication from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The report shows that the Earth’s temperature has warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and is barreling toward 1.5 degrees of warming — a milestone scientists say we must not reach if we are to avoid catastrophic impacts.
But along with the scariest scenarios, the IPCC highlights pathways that could significantly lessen the worst impacts of climate change, saving countless lives, should our elected and business leaders make the tough choices necessary to meet this moment — now.
What is the good news?
It’s not too late. That is the bottom line. And this reality is supported by both the IPCC report and recent science from many other reputable groups. As my colleague, EDF Senior Climate Scientist Ilissa Ocko, recently wrote “…the earlier we act, the better off we will be, and the more devastating consequences we will avoid.”
This is not a zero-sum game. We need to reduce greenhouse gases ASAP or the probability of increasingly bad outcomes for people and nature will continue to increase.
But this is not just about the future and preventing catastrophic impacts from worsening extreme weather and other climate calamities. This is equally about protecting and improving the quality of our lives today.
We all need to breathe clean air and drink clean water, raise our children and earn a good living so that we can enjoy stable, healthy lives without fear of being wiped out by the next disastrous fire, hurricane or drought.
Above all, we want this for everyone. Black, Latino and Indigenous people have shouldered the bulk of the burden of pollution for far too long. We want all people in every corner of the world to live healthy and prosperous lives now and for all time to come.
What if we act now?
So what if we could improve our current quality of life and pull back from the most devastating impacts of climate change, while building a safer, more resilient world for all?
What if we could reduce the Earth’s temperature to prevent 200 million homes from being swallowed by rising seas, ensure that 75% of our croplands continue to produce abundant food and save hundreds of millions of acres of essential land that helps us thrive — and helps the Earth heal?
We can! To do so, here are a few steps our leaders must take immediately:
- Double-down on methane. Driving more than 25% of today’s warming, methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide during the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. Slashing methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is the fastest, most cost-effective way to slow the rate of warming today. We could easily create a world where methane pollution from the oil and gas industry has been cut 45% by 2025 — delivering the same 20-year benefit as closing a third of the world’s coal plants.
- Deliver clean power generation. Power generation is the first sector that must decarbonize. It will be impossible to decarbonize transport without clean energy as electric cars charged from coal-fired power do not meet the definition of zero emission.
- Catalyze the transition to clean transportation. This is the fourth-largest source of global climate pollution.
- By 2035, all new cars — and by 2040, all new trucks and buses — sold in the U.S. must be zero emission, with deployment prioritized in communities that suffer the brunt of air pollution.
- By 2030, zero-emission cargo ships must use green alternative shipping fuels to travel deep-sea shipping routes.
- And we must switch to high-quality sustainable aviation fuels and embrace technologies that decarbonize the aviation industry. If aviation were a country, this industry would be among the world’s top 10 emitters. Demand for jet fuel could reach double pre-pandemic levels by 2050.
- Protect tropical forests. It’s urgent we tackle deforestation as soon as possible: Tropical deforestation accounts for about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and we’re losing tropical forests at alarming rates. Simply put, we have no chance at meeting the Paris Agreement climate goals without dramatically reducing deforestation in the coming decade.
- Set bold corporate net-zero goals. We need companies to make bold commitments and to implement them through ambitious and immediate action.
So the word on climate is now. Now is the time to go all-in on saving what we have and re-imagining our future, one with stronger, more resilient communities — with better health and better lives for all.
This is our world, and it is worth fighting for. We can do this together if we go bold on climate now. Will you join us?
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