While a hurricane ravages America’s east coast, sea levels rise around the globe, and the world’s largest ice shelves begin to destabilize, it’s hard to feel optimistic about the Earth’s future.
But on Thursday, September 13, as part of the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, leaders from 27 of the world’s largest cities announced their climate-harming carbon emissions have peaked and are now on a downward trajectory. The cities — which include some of the world’s largest — also pledged to cut them further.
To qualify, the cities had to have peaked at least six years ago, and the peak had to be at least 10% higher than the most recent emissions data.
Barcelona, Basel, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Montréal, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rome, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Warsaw and Washington, DC have all seen their emissions fall over the last five years.
These cities are home to over 54 million people.
“It is an incredible achievement for these 27 cities, including Paris, to have peaked their emissions,” C40 network chair and Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said. “As the greatest custodians of the Paris Agreement, mayors of the world’s great cities have once again shown that cities are getting the job done.”
According to C40 Cities, a coalition of local governments working to fulfill the goals of the Paris Climate agreement, the 27 cities are seeing emissions fall an average of 2% per year while their economies have grown at a rate of 3%.
The tremendous gains by these municipalities proves how emissions can be cut without having to sacrifice economic gains.
For example, San Francisco hit peak greenhouse emissions in 2000 and has reduced them by over 30% since 1990. During this time, the city’s population has grown by 20% and its economy by 111%.
The news comes as scientists warn that global emissions must peak by 2020 to avoid environmental catastrophe.
Reversing the rise in global emissions by the target date is important because it helps meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels”.
According to Real Climate, the Earth’s temperature has risen 1 °C since the late 19th century. If it were to rise another 1 °C, it would likely result in a massive destabilization of the planet’s ice sheets, causing sea levels to rise significantly throughout the planet.
American participation in the C40 network and the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) flies the face of President Donald Trump who has called climate change a "hoax" and pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
California Governor Jerry Brown was blunt about his opinion of the president at GCAS. When asked how Trump will be remembered, Brown replied, “I think he'll be remembered, on the path he's now? I don't know. Liar, criminal, fool,” the governor said according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
The work done by Governor Brown and other American lawmakers shows how local governments can work to solve a massive global issue without support from Washington DC.
Actor and activist Harrison Ford gave an impassioned speech at GCAS in which he warned people about supporting politicians who deny climate change science for their own political gain.
“Stop giving power to people who don't believe in science.” - Harrison Ford https://t.co/Ywja01Z7Qi— AJ+ (@AJ+)1536888085.0
“For God’s sake, stop electing leaders who don't believe in science,” Ford said. “Or even worse, pretend they don’t believe in science. Never forget who you’re fighting for.”
Ford also painted a dramatic picture of the consequences we face by choosing not to act.
“We are all, rich or poor, powerful or powerless, we will all suffer the effects of climate and ecosystem destruction,” Ford said. “And we are facing what is quickly becoming the greatest moral crisis of our time. Those least responsible will bear the greatest costs.”