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‘Hothouse earth: Will San Francisco Summit usher in new levels of climate ambition?

Hothouse earth
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Hothouse earth

There are only a few weeks to go until international and local leaders from states, regions, cities, businesses, investors and civil society take up the invitation of California’s Governor Brown to attend the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

The summit aims at bringing together these stakeholders – also known as non-party stakeholders or non-state actors in the climate negotiation space – with national government leaders to create a new wave of mobilisation. Those going to San Francisco should be sure to bring more than flowers in their hair.

What is needed is a really ambitious action at the summit.

The year 2018 can be considered a midway between 2015 – when the Paris Agreement was adopted – and the year 2020 after the results of the Talanoa Dialogue need to be translated into more ambitious action. 2020 is also often considered as the critical threshold that represents the point of no return, the year until which emissions need to peak to avoid incalculable risks to humanity.

The 2018-summer has already given more than a wake up-call for international politics.

Devastating forest fires in places such as California, Greece and Sweden are a current example for what is now referred to as “Hothouse Earth”. This is the description given by leading scientist Will Steffen from the Stockholm Resilience Centre in a recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Steffen’s team warn that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, earth is at risk of entering a situation of extreme conditions, i.e. a hothouse. The global average temperature would be 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures leading, for example, to a sea level 10-60 m higher than today.

Such scenarios should alert political leaders around the world, U.S. president Donald Trump among them. Right before the start

Global Climate Action Summit

of this year’s hurricane season in the Caribbean region, political leaders asked the U.S. president to revise his climate (non-)strategy and to start addressing the existential threat they face, including those from extreme weather events. Last year’s Hurricane Maria caused an ongoing disaster in Puerto Rico with thousands of casualties.

The hothouse world will be one affecting regional security and stability – accordingly this topic will be discussed in San Francisco.

In a recent blog post, Ken Alex, Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Brown, stressed that the Summit will seek “to engage people who have remained on the side-lines” by really showcasing climate action around the world and presenting new commitments as well. Scientist Will Steffen and his colleagues emphasized in their PNAS study that ambitious mitigation measures must also be underpinned by fundamental societal changes to maintain a stable Earth. They also provide recommendations for enhancing or creating new biological carbon stores.

Climate diplomats need do their part in San Francisco to implement the necessary policies recommended by the scientific world.

According to Climate and Sustainable Development Network of Nigeria (CSDevNet), an anticipated outcome of the September Climate Action Summit is for governments to create climate resilience strategies that protect frontline communities located in areas that can be disproportionately affected by climate change and yet are often without resources to rebuild after unprecedented natural disasters.

“Climate action must lift up people of color, workers, and poor communities. Everyone, particularly those communities hardest hit by natural and economic disasters, should have the opportunity to benefit from the billions of public and private investments being made, not just the 1%,” Atayi Babs, National Network Coordinator of CSDevNet said .

CSDevNet welcomes the forthcoming march as according to them, “we are at a crossroads. Our planet, livelihoods, and future are under attack. It’s time for real leadership to reclaim our future. To change everything, we need everyone: In the streets, at the ballot box, and beyond.”

Meanwhile, days before the summit, CSO groups around the world are planning to host Peoples Climate March III in San Francisco. The protesters plan to fill the streets with marches and murals in a bid to change the course of climate leadership on the 8th of September 2018.

Thousands of people are expected to converge on the streets of San Francisco to demand that government leaders commit to ending all new fossil fuel projects and accelerating the move toward renewable energy. The march is part of a global campaign calling for environmental justice and a “just transition” to renewable energy that protects workers and frontline communities. Satellite events will happen across the U.S. and around the world, including Indonesia, Turkey, Nigeria and the United Kingdom, among other places.

CSDevNet welcomes the forthcoming march as according to them, “we are at a crossroads. Our planet, livelihoods, and future are under attack. It’s time for real leadership to reclaim our future. To change everything, we need everyone: In the streets, at the ballot box, and beyond.”

“The causes of climate change not only warm our planet but harm communities across the country and as we transition, we must fight to make sure that every person has clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and can live in a community and workplace free from environmental degradation,” CSDevNet declared in a statement.

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