SF Climate Meeting Aims to Rekindle Paris Deal, Though Views Differ

14 Sep 2018

During the first day of the Sept. 13-14 International Global Climate Action Summit promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown there were clashes inside and outside the hall over continuing fossil fuel use, as well as advancing carbon markets.

“Keep fossil fuels in the soil. Honor our next generation,Kanyon Sayers-Roods, Indian Canyon Muraun Band of Ohlone People, told the audience in the massive Moscone Center on Thursday.

“Don’t support carbon trading,” she added.

In a study in contrasts later that morning the European Union announced at the summit that it was working with California to bring their two carbon markets together.

Miguel Arias Cañete, commissioner for climate action and energy, European Commission, said the EU is working with the Golden State, including to “enhance key pricing options” for carbon trading. He added that the EU also is working with China to enlarge the carbon market.

The strategy, Arias Cañete said, is aimed at helping reduce emissions and creating “economic and sectoral transformation to achieve zero carbon by 2050.”

Earlier in the week, Brown bragged about California’s cap-and-trade market, which has generated $8 billion in revenue. The money is being used to finance climate protection strategies.

Opponents of carbon markets object to allowing polluters to pay for the pollution they generate, while those in struggling minority communities bear the brunt of the contamination.

Earlier, street protests in downtown San Francisco by indigenous and local groups delayed the start of the conference. They insisted that the health and welfare of communities must come before corporate profits and that fossil fuels need to be put to rest.

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, was interrupted for several minutes by protestors shouting, “Our Earth is not for sale. Our air is not for sale.” He neither talked over them nor tried to silence them.

After they left he remarked, “Only in America do we have environmentalists protesting an environmental conference.”

Bloomberg insisted that one-third of U.S. states, cities and businesses are advancing emission reductions as called for by the Paris Agreement in spite of President Trump pulling out of the accord.

The airing of opposing views marked a gulf in the climate protection message.

Sayers-Roods was not the only summit speaker given center stage expressing non-mainstream views. Attention also was given to speakers highlighting the inextricable link between climate change and poverty, and the need to protect communities dependent on fossil fuel industries that are being phased out.

“Climate change is a political issue, not a technical issue,” pointed out Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International executive director. Climate change, she added, is just one symptom of a broken economy “that trashes the environment and ordinary people, mainly women and children.”

Oxfam is calling for the end of coal, pushing to close existing plants and halt new construction. She said that each dollar invested in coal plants in Asia generates $10 of human and environmental damage.

The head of the AFL-CIO insisted that climate protection funds help coal miners and their families where mines and plants are being closed.

“Does your plan for fighting climate change ask more from a sick retired coal miner than from you or your family?” asked Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president, “If it does, then think again.” He said providing climate crisis funding to communities dependent on coal and other fossil fuels will enable a “broadly shared prosperity.”

Trumka noted that his labor organization struggled with climate protection actions. It, however, ultimately threw its support behind the Paris climate protection accord, which calls on nations to reduce their emissions to help stop the world’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. The AFL-CIO support was rooted in the realization that climate protection measures, from building renewable power plants to constructing low-carbon infrastructure, create jobs.

“California is showing the way,” Trumka said. He noted, for example, how clean energy projects in the San Joaquin Valley provide jobs with union wages and benefits.

A major theme Thursday also was green financing. It is estimated that a minimum of $1 trillion dollars will be needed every year until 2030 for signatory countries to meet the Paris emissions reduction mark. Since the 2015 summit, green financing—private and public—has grown, generating optimism.

The green bond market has “escalated dramatically,” said Laura Tuck, World Bank sustainable development vice president. She said an ongoing challenge is helping cities access green bonds to allow them to create needed low-carbon infrastructure.

“There’s more than enough financial assets to solve this problem,” said Oppenheimer Funds Head of Sustainable Investing Aniket Shah. Yet, he admitted that getting the needed funds won’t be easy.

Elizabeth McCarthy

Comments are closed.