4 ways to make this year’s climate summit a turning point for our planet

Fred Krupp

Nearly one in three Americans lived through a climate-related disaster during this past summer.

One of the first signs of fall, at least for me, is what’s known as Climate Week, which took place last week alongside the annual United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

This year felt more urgent than ever. Climate change is now an unavoidable global emergency. So the momentum generated by Climate Week needs to be ramped up considerably when global leaders meet again at the U.N. climate summit — known as COP26 — in November.

What needs to happen between Climate Week and COP26?

1. Countries must amp up their emission reduction targets.

Current targets, agreed to in the Paris accord, simply aren’t good enough to avert disastrous climate impacts. We all need to do better.

While many countries including the U.S., EU and the U.K. have established new, ambitious reduction targets, others need to step up, including Russia, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Brazil, India and China.

During Climate Week, President Xi Jinping pledged that China would not build new coal-fired power projects abroad. This is encouraging news, and we look forward to seeing that policy implemented.

All participating countries must submit new targets before COP26 begins. This moment demands action. Countries must commit to — and then deliver on — bold, ambitious plans to slash climate pollution. The vitality of our earth depends on it.

2. Wealthy nations must come to the table with strong commitments.

Richer countries need to not only meet but build upon the $100 billion-per-year commitment, previously agreed to in the Paris Agreement, for climate finance for developing nations. Financial support for the most vulnerable countries needs to be top of mind when the world’s major economies gather at the G20 summit in Rome in October.

President Biden announced that his administration would seek to double aid aimed at helping developing nations address climate change — to about $11.4 billion a year by 2024. That would be an excellent start, but it’s uncertain because it requires congressional approval.

The U.S. pledge is considered one key to the success of COP26. Its fate will be closely tied to the success of Biden’s climate agenda in Congress.

If Congress doesn’t come through with significant climate and clean energy action in the coming weeks, the U.S. will have much less to bring to the table at COP26. But I am still hopeful that sanity will prevail.

3. Businesses need to support strong climate policies.

Businesses have to put their lobbying muscle where their mouth is on climate.

Right now, that means advocating for Biden’s climate provisions and helping get the bill across the finish line. I recently joined the CEOs of 12 environment and sustainability groups calling on businesses to do just that.

If businesses support climate action globally, they must also support the achievement of global goals by backing strong U.S. climate policy, as GM, Salesforce and other companies recently did. This is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to pass meaningful climate and clean energy legislation, and business support is critical to get these provisions over the finish line.

In addition to supporting smart climate policy, businesses like Amazon and Microsoft recently pledged ambitious net zero emissions targets. This is great, and it is also building momentum for voluntary carbon markets.

However, we need to ensure that when businesses use carbon credits, they only use high-quality credits and they do so alongside internal reductions — this will reduce climate pollution faster, stimulate innovation and help drive investment in tropical forests and other urgent areas of climate action.

Businesses can also help support policies that clean up transportation — the top source of climate pollution in the U.S. — by driving investment in sustainable fuels and tech innovation to cut transport’s impact and by electrifying transportation and fleets.

Recently, IKEA, Nestle, eBay and others publicly called for the wide adoption of the Advanced Clean Trucks rule. And Ford just announced a historic $11.4 billion in investment in electric cars and trucks.

4. Countries must move quickly to slash methane pollution.

Cutting methane pollution is the single best chance we have to slow the rate of warming now, even as we accelerate the shift to a clean economy.

The U.S. and the European Union announced a Global Methane Pledge to galvanize international support for fast actions to cut emissions of methane — a pollutant that drives 25% of the warming we experience today.

In October, the U.S. is set to propose strong Environmental Protection Agency methane standards that will limit pollution from oil and gas production. This is the first U.S. action to begin delivering on its pledge commitment. Meanwhile, we expect to see more countries rally behind the methane pledge in the lead up to COP26 in Glasgow and make their commitments known.

The increasing number of oil and gas producing and consuming countries backing the pledge is an important sign of growing political will to address industry’s methane problem and deliver deep reductions now — while we continue to scale solutions to address other methane sources.

There’s no denying that the climate moment is now. We must be prepared to go bold on climate and use the biggest levers, the wealthiest economies and the fastest actions to ensure a vital earth for everyone.

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