Guest Post from Janis Bookout –
Janis Bookout is an organizer with 2020 or Bust, a nonprofit organization that seeks to end the climate crisis by helping people all over the world reduce their own personal carbon footprint. She is also the Outreach Manager of Earth Day Austin.
Tis the season to count our blessings. One such blessing is the latest news from C40 Cities. In their summit this year in Mexico City, C40 Cities (a global network of mayors committed to reducing carbon emissions) announced the initiative Deadline 2020 — a project to lower emissions through city commitments within the next four years. Why four years? Because that’s the job at hand if we aim to stay on a sustainable path.
Nothing the world has come up with to deal with climate change has been sufficient to meet the scope and urgency of the challenge, and time to shift the trajectory is running out.
According to the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, putting ourselves on track for limiting global warming to 2°C requires reducing global annual emissions by eight gigatons (billion metric tons) by 2020. Right now, without intervention, where we are headed is closer to 5°C (9°F). After 21 years of negotiation, the first global agreement on the issue (COP21/Paris Agreement) puts us on track for an increase of 3°C (5.4°F). This is a gap no entity has sufficiently accounted for. It can be very challenging to confront these facts, but every year we delay the necessary actions, it becomes harder and harder to shift the trajectory. We at 2020 or Bust have designed our global initiative to address this gap with aggregated individual action.
People Are Disempowered
Fundamentally, the laypersons’ context for climate change varies between overwhelming concern, cynicism, and of course, denial. Yale’s “Six Americas” summary of American attitudes about climate change distinguishes two groups that share the highest levels of concern – the “Alarmed” and the “Concerned.” According to Yale, “The Alarmed are fully convinced of the reality and seriousness of climate change and are already taking individual, consumer, and political action to address it. The Concerned are also convinced that global warming is happening and a serious problem, but have not yet engaged the issue personally.”
What is desperately needed is a shift in context from one of feeling overwhelmed to one of action. And specifically, action inside a committed initiative based in reality. Deadline 2020 is a key part of that shift.
Deadline 2020 Shifts The Global Conversation
A partnership between consulting company ARUP and C40 Cities, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Realdania, and the Children’s Investment Foundation, Deadline 2020 is the first urban-focused roadmap for taking the internationally supported climate goals from the Paris Agreement and turning them into a reality.
The Deadline 2020 report begins with a bold statement:
“We have four years to act, it really is Deadline 2020. Action taken in the next four years will determine if it is possible for cities to get on the trajectory required to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement. If insufficient action is taken over this period, 1.5°C will be impossible.”
Given that we are already locked in to 1.2°C warming, 1.5°C might seem ambitious. However, this kind of language coming from C40 cities is very promising. And, it’s not just talk either. The actions necessary have been spelled out and are being accounted for. From the report:
“C40 Cities collectively delivered nearly 11,000 climate actions between 2005 and 2016. In the next four years to 2020, an additional 14,000 actions are required. This represents an additional 125 percent in less than half the time, with an additional significant scaling up of actions to a city-wide scale.”
Zach Baumer, the City of Austin’s climate program director, is excited for what is possible – “Cities play a critical role in the fight against climate change and this convening of leading mayors shows how much energy, interest, and motivation there is for cities to take action to help us fulfill the Paris Agreement,” Baumer said. “C40 is an amazing platform for global collaboration around ideas, examples, and collaboration to solve the climate crisis.”
And the potential ripple effect is even more promising. According to Baumer, “If all cities followed in the steps of C40 cities, we would have the global momentum needed to achieve our short- and long-term carbon reduction targets.”
But will cities get the public support they need? Research indicates yes.
The market for climate solutions is expanding rapidly. A recent study from the University of Texas at Austin shows that 54 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats believe climate change is occurring. A 2016 Gallup poll shows that concern for global warming is at an eight-year high at 64 percent. That’s up from 55 percent just last year. A study conducted by Pew Research indicates a high level of international concern as well. In 19 of 40 countries surveyed, people identified climate change as the top global threat.
But we should certainly not rest on our laurels. And we are not. 2020 or Bust is already studying the report to look for ways to support the initiative with citizen action and reporting. And this January, climate leaders from Central Texas will meet with COA to look at how we can collaborate to fulfill the existing Austin Community Climate Plan and our C40 Cities initiative.
If you want to learn more, listen to Shades of Green Radio next Thursday, December 15th at 1 pm. The entire program will be dedicated to Deadline 2020 and the global commitment of cities in fighting climate change.